Meter deal charges concern
Privacy concerns have been raised in response to a ‘smart meter’ deal involving tech giant Amazon.
A partnership between New Zealand smart meter company Vector and Amazon Web Services (AWS) will see data from over a million meters shared with Amazon.
Smart meters record and deliver information about household power use, but it can be used to obtain a detailed picture about a household’s lives, routines and activities.
The partnership will see data from 1.6 million internet-connected smart meters in Australia and New Zealand - including information on consumers' consumption and network performance – handed over to AWS.
AWS will analyse the data, looking for ways that power companies can “develop tailored product and pricing solutions for their customers based on their energy consumption habits”, according to a release revealing the deal.
“The energy industry is really going through this digital transformation,” says Nick Walton, Amazon Web Service's managing director for commercial sector in New Zealand.
“We think that can really unlock a lot of the value from this data and start to provide solutions back to customers: with more choice and more visibility into their power consumption patterns.
“Then [consumers] can take action on choosing to, say, charge things off-peak, or just get greater visibility to make smarter decisions that suit themselves and their lifestyle.”
In Victoria, almost every home is connected to smart meters after a $2 billion upgrade program. When the upgrades were reviewed by the Auditor-General, the scheme was found to provide almost “no benefit”.
Vector says it new deal could lead to the first tangible benefits of the costly scheme.
“It's a really exciting opportunity to really unleash the power of data to make customers products and services and costs much more efficient,” said Vector Group chief executive Simon Mackenzie.
“No-one wants to sit and analyse every five minutes of their energy supply.
“This will ultimately evolve into solutions that — through machine learning or other types of technologies — enables customers to opt-in to products or services and have it managed in a smart way, privately behind the scenes, to have a better experience and (lower) cost.”
A power technology company called WePower was founded in Estonia – one of the only other parts of the world with such high smart meter uptake.
Kaspar Kaarlep, co-founder of WePower, says there are major privacy risks to manage. In fact, he says consumer protections in Europe would make this deal illegal there.
“I would compare it to, let's say, the City of Melbourne selling access to all of its CCTV cameras to Amazon … to develop new products and services,” Mr Kaarlep told the ABC
“This is our private lives. When do I come home? When do I leave? What do I have at my home? Who do I live with? When do you work? When do your individual appliances come online and when do they (stop)? How many people do you have there?
“This is all identifiable in the smart meter data — it has literally your entire the pattern of life and behaviour through just monitoring where you live and what you do in your home.
“There was a time where we didn't recognise that what posts you 'like' on Facebook is very private and identifiable — smart meters are the same way.”