Smart energy meters provide “gateway” to the home

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By 2020, there will be an estimated 1b smart meters in consumers’ homes around the world, able to give live feedback on energy use. These smart meters will “talk” directly to utility companies, providing them with a gateway to a wealth of valuable data.

At the recent CODE_n conference, EY’s Adlai Golberg and Alain Bollack debated what the implications of smart energy are for both industry and the consumer. “As a consumer, when you have live data on your energy consumption, you’ll be able to see how much you’re spending and change your habits or take steps such as insulating your house,” said Bollack, EY’s Global Smart Metering and Grid Leader. “Smart meters will also make it easier to switch provider.”

He said the home is the last space where there is a battle for control; once people get used to the smart meter, they will add more and more devices and want to control them remotely from their phone or tablet — generating a gold mine of data. “The question is who gets control of that gateway — will it be utility companies, telecoms companies or entertainment and games companies?” asked Goldberg, EY’s Global Social Media Analytics Hub Leader. “Will it be a large player or a new entrant to the market who comes up with a brilliant innovation?”

Smart meters are becoming widely accepted in many parts of the world. China already has 150m installed and Africa is starting to roll them out, bypassing traditional metering methods. The motivation is to collect cash from consumers because, at the moment, many individuals steal electricity by “hooking up” to power lines. “If you put pre-pay smart meters in place, energy companies can reassure investors that the end user is paying,” said Bollack. “This, in turn, helps secure investments that can be ploughed into large infrastructure projects such as building electricity generation and giving wider access to electricity.”

Smart metering creates enormous potential to transform utility businesses. Companies such as EY can help the industry design effective programs, with communications that are secure against hacking, and advise on the ever-changing and more stringent regulatory environment around privacy and data protection.

The consumer would be required to consent to data gathering — either by opting in or opting out. An incentive for them to opt in would be the lure of lower energy prices — plus the ability to finally understand and take responsibility for their energy consumption.

EY and CODE_n at CeBIT 2015

CeBIT is the world’s largest annual trade show covering issues relevant to IT in business, described as the “worldwide hotspot for innovation.” An important element of the CeBIT agenda is the CODE_n conference program and contest for 50 of the most promising digital start-ups from across the globe. This is an opportunity for pioneering young digital entrepreneurs, established businesses, investors and leading thinkers to discuss and showcase their ideas on how new technologies will transform the way we live.

“Into the Internet of Things” was the theme for the 2015 CODE_n contest, which was supported by EY. While contest finalists presented ideas based on four subthemes (smart city, industry 4.0, future mobility and digital life), panel discussions and keynote speakers deep dived into the issues. Topics ranged from the cybersecure city, smart factories, the future of automotive and living the digital life.

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