Water meters - Everyone has the option to say ‘no’

Recent correspondence in the debate about Southern Water’s new water meters has highlighted the need for clarification of the term ‘smart meter’.

What’s in a name? Well, for one thing, the assurance we all have from the government that we can choose to opt out of the smart metering of our water, gas and electricity.

For example, on the British Gas website, customers are told they do not have to have a new smart meter installed – if they don’t want one.

So, what makes a meter ‘smart’? An internet search suggests the defining factor is two-way communication between the supplier and the meter – a feature that, for many, raises concerns about security and privacy.

Are Southern Water AMR meters smart or not? In the ‘recent projects’ section of Aradtec.com, the website of Arad (the Israeli company supplying the devices to Southern Water) it states the AMR ‘Gladiator’ meters come equipped with a Dialog 3G system which, as the name suggests, provides a ‘two way system, enabling not only remote reading of the water meters, but also programming and controlling of the water meters remotely’.

Although Southern Water may collect automated meter readings only when a meter reader drives past, ‘the signal from the meters is transmitted constantly’.

The ‘remote reading’ capacity enables the meters to be read either by a person in a car fitted with a special receiver, or by the customer using a ‘key fob reader’ from approx 15m. The remote ‘programming and controlling’ capacity for the Southern Water meters is not explained in detail, but for the British Gas smart meters, for example, it means that (following the appropriate protocols, of course) energy supplies can be disconnected remotely.

No doubt there are degrees of ‘smartness’ of meters, but I remain to be convinced by assertions in previous letters that Southern Water’s new AMR meters are not smart meters.

In fact, in some quarters, the terms are used interchangeably.

I believe those customers who wish to opt out of having smart meters still have the option to say to Southern Water ‘No, thank you’.

Amanda Geary