Smart Meter Surveillance versus ‘Very Granular Insights’

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

24-Hour Smart Meter SurveillanceUtilities dispute that smart meters are surveillance devices.  For example, one well-known utility company clearly states in its so-called Privacy ‘Fact Sheet’ that,

“Just like standard meters, smart meters will measure the amount of electricity you use – not how you use it.  They are not surveillance devices.”

Let’s look at a simple definition of surveillance from, where it says:

“a watch kept over a person, group, etc., …” and

“continuous observation of a place, person, group, or ongoing activity in order to gather information”

Isn’t that exactly what a smart meter does by collecting granular data about a home’s energy usage, i.e., continuous observation to gather information about ongoing activities?  An important aspect here is that the vast majority of this data gathering is not needed for customer billing purposes.

Last week a company called ONZO issued statement to the media touting that it was expanding operations from Europe into the United States.  Quoting the statement:

“September 14, 2015, London and Denver — ONZO, a global provider of data science-based energy analytics solutions for the utility industry, today announced that it has opened a headquarters office in Denver, Colorado, to support its rapidly growing North American operations.

ONZO has been a industry leader since 2007, providing energy analytics solutions in the U.K. and European utility markets as well as a number of pilots with large U.S. utilities.  ‘Since our platform leverages meter data to provide very granular insights into customer energy behavior — and given that there are now more than 50 million smart meters installed in the U.S. — it just makes sense to broaden our reach more deeply into North America,’ commented ONZO CEO Spencer Rigler.”

ONZO’s platform leverages meter data to provide very granular insights into customer energy behavior.  Isn’t that just different terminology for continuous observation to gather information on a home’s occupants and their habits and behaviors, i.e., consistent with the definition of ‘surveillance’?

Still not convinced?  Let’s look at how the company further describes itself in the press release:

“ONZO is a global leader in consumer energy data and analytics. ONZO combines the science of energy analytics with load disaggregation, lifestyle behavior analysis and probabilistic forecasting to give utilities and their customers unprecedented insights into how, where and when energy is used.  Leveraging granular smart meter data, ONZO’s patented algorithms result in richer, highly accurate, customer-specific insights that help utilities improve customer engagement and energy efficiency, while reducing churn and creating new revenue opportunities.”

So through analyzing granular smart meter data along with “lifestyle behavior analysis” and other forecasting tools, this company can provide utilities “unprecedented insights” that are “highly accurate” regarding “how, where, and when” energy is used in the home.  This is marketed to provide “customer engagement and new revenue opportunities.”

Consumers really need to be able to cut through the semantics propaganda and recognize what smart meter ‘big data’ collection really represents; it represents unwanted constant surveillance and an invasion of privacy.

Primary Source Material for this Article

“ONZO Strengthens North American Focus,” press release, at or archived link at

Copyright Notice © SkyVision Solutions and Smart Grid Awareness, 2013 – 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of original material from this site without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SkyVision Solutions and Smart Grid Awareness with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About SkyVision Solutions

Raising public awareness and finding solutions for smart grid issues related to invasions of privacy, data security, cyber threats, health and societal impacts, as well as hazards related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation emissions from all wireless devices, including smart meters.
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