IBM Tests Consumer Reaction To Smart Meters


Big Blue is testing consumer reaction to smart meters to see if they can change energy and water usage habits

IBM is conducting a project in the American heartland to discover if it can convince consumers to alter their energy and water usage habits.

Big Blue revealed that it had teamed up with the city of Dubuque in Iowa, which is a US town of 66,000 people located in America’s mid west.

The project involves 1,000 households, and will see IBM installing equipment that will allow these households to access real data about their energy usage and habits. They will also be able to share best practices through an electricity portal/website over a six-month period.

Smart Meters

It seems that IBM had actually begun working with the city of Dubuque previously when it installed smart water meters in volunteer homes. This apparently led to a 6.6 percent reduction in water use.

But now the Dubuque volunteer households are trialling 1,000 smart electrical meters, dubbed the ‘Smarter Electricity Pilot Study.’

IBM said that data will be collected and analysed over the next several months, so these volunteer households can see “information, insights, and actionable intelligence” on the IBM’s Smarter Energy Cloud website, so they can take action to  lower their energy costs.

“The study’s goal is to demonstrate how informed and engaged citizens can help themselves by saving money and conserving energy, making their community more sustainable,” said IBM. “By providing citizens and city officials with an integrated view of energy consumption, the project will encourage informed changes in usage resulting in conservation and cost reduction.”

Results of the study, which will be completed in November, will be made available by December 2011.

Usable Data

And it seems that the city, meanwhile, will be also able to monitor aggregate data on the information the smart meters send in every 15 minutes. This will help Dubuque monitor energy usage trends during events like major rainstorms.

Volunteers can only view their own consumption habits while city management will be provided with aggregate data.

“Based on the success of the Smarter Water Pilot Study completed earlier this year, we look forward to learning the insights the Smarter Electricity Study will offer our citizens and our city,” said Dubuque Mayor Roy D. Buol. “Dubuque is honoured to be IBM’s partner in this research to create a model for communities across the country and around the world.”

“One of many enhancements that automated meters provide is real-time data collection,” said Milind Naphade, IBM’s Program Director, Smarter City Services Research. “With help, consumers can understand their usage patterns and make informed decisions on how to adjust those habits to save money and conserve resources.”

“Our energy portal has these unique personalised decision support capabilities based on advanced analytics and social computing,” he added. “This portal can be used by any utility deploying smart meters.”

European Move

And it is not just in the United States that smart meters are being used.

In July analyst firm Berg Insight predicted that smart meter penetration in Europe will reach 52 percent by 2016. And last year a bigger project involving 14,000 smart meters was proposed in the North-East of England.

Meanwhile Pike Research warned earlier this month that utilities companies are preparing for a “data tsunami” with the rollout of smart power grids, creating a market for smart grid data anlytics that could bring in $11.3 billion (£7bn) in revenue over the next five years.

Yet despite these facts challenges remain, including health concerns over the radios used in the grids and worries about the security of the IT systems on which the grids are based.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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