SMETS2 Smart Meter installation

SMETS2 Smart Meter installation

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Hi @chrisjw37 I can't directly answer your question because I know neither where you live, nor whether yours is a Secure Smart Meter, installed by OVO.

In most cases it will not be necessary to replace the meter itself. SMETS2 is a defined set of software protocols. So existing SMETS1 meters merely need to be upgraded. OVO have announced that they will be doing this across the Smart Meter Network without an engineer needing to attend on site.

It's likely that the upgrade route to SMETS2 software will coincide with the meter being migrated to DCC's Network. So little of this is actually within OVO's control. They are, however, the link to us customers, and are legally responsible for delivering electricity and/or gas as per our contracts

Both Telefonica and Arqiva have signed contracts which require their networks to support software upgrades and patches to the meters. However, this is quite a tricky operation to undertake. The engineers must be certain that a poor communications link isn't going to leave a meter in an inoperable state, whereby no electricity or gas can be delivered to the home.
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Smart Meter Communications Network.

A single Data Communications Company (DCC) has been set up to handle the commands and data flowing within the British Smart Meter Network. (Northern Ireland doesn't have Smart Meters governed by this legislation).

The first generation of SMETS1 meters were connected by using the existing mobile phone network. DCC then designed its own Smart Meter Network which would take over the data-flow when it was complete. The original projection was for 5.4 million SMETS1 meters to be installed by then.

Delays have meant that an additional 7.1 million SMETS1 meters were installed onto the pre-existing mobile phone network. The intention now is to migrate all of those 12.5 million onto DCC's Smart Network during 2019.

The Smart Network was put out to tender and contracts awarded in September 2013. Southern and Central England, together with Wales, was won by Telefonica (who own O2). The North and Scotland was awarded to Arqiva who are installing 700 new masts to support a long-range radio network... a contract worth £625m.

The territories are defined along the same geographical boundaries as those used for the electricity Distributed Network Operators (DNOs).

I have highlighted the Northern Territory (Arqiva) in red because, at the time of writing (March 2019) this part of the Smart Meter Network is not operational. That means no SMETS2 meters can be installed there beyond the 3000 which already exist.

In the South and Central Territories, Telefonica have enhanced their existing O2 GSM (mobile phone) network to provide SMETS2 coverage in areas of higher population density. This is supplemented by a Mesh Network serving regions more sparsely populated.

Whether you are in a territory served by Arqiva or Telefonica, your Smart Meter is connected to DCC using an encrypted protocol audited by GCHQ. There is no direct link between your Smart Meters and OVO or any other Energy Supplier.
So - when will my Mk1 meter be swapped with an industry compatible MkII meter?
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Bills and Statements

When Smart Meters get installed at a property for the first time, your account goes onto billing suspension until everything is validated behind the scenes.

Direct Debits will continue to be taken, and you won't be able to request that OVO refund any of the amount by which you are in credit until the next full Statement has been issued.

This process is only partly within OVO's control. They don't "own" either the new Smart Meters, nor the original ones which were replaced.

The UK's central meter databases are ECOES (electricity) and Xoserve (gas). It is they who receive the data regarding the meters which have been discontinued. They serve Notifications on OVO which include the final meter readings. Each Notification includes a delay period, during which an objection must be raised if the Meter Reference Number, house address or readings don't tally.

It isn't possible for OVO to issue any Bill or Statement during this process.
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One issue which might occur when you have a Smart Meter installed is poor WiFi performance. Sometimes it can fail altogether.

WiFi can operate in two frequency bands. The earlier standard, still most commonly used, is called IEEE 802.11b and runs at 2.4GHz. The same frequency is used for other wireless domestic products such as door-bells and some remote controls. However, the software protocols for all these devices is different, which is why there is little perceptible interference when two or more are operating simultaneously.

The Zigbee network which connects your Smart Meters and your IHD is another 2.4GHz standard, properly referred to as IEEE 802.15.4.

Unlike doorbells and remote control units, both WiFi and Zigbee are continuously live. Whether they clash or not depends on the channel number which each one uses.

In the UK, WiFi is assigned 11 overlapping channels. In order to avoid degradation of the signal, we normally employ one of channels 1, 6 or 11 because these have no overlap. You can select this manually by logging into your router.

Zigbee has 16 channels, which carry much less data and can therefore be non-overlapping.

In the USA there is a convention that any new Zigbee device will be configured to use either channel 15 or 20. These have frequencies which neatly sit in-between the commonly-used WiFi channels.

In the UK there is no such convention, and it's possible that a Zigbee device could use any of the allocated channels. So if your router happens to be sited close to your new SMETS Meter, there is the opportunity for interference to occur.

All is not lost however. Firstly, you could login to your WiFi router and change the channel it uses.

Failing that, Zigbee itself has an inbuilt Channel Agility. Once it recognises that its frequency has a sufficient level of interference that data is being lost or corrupted, then it will switch to an alternative channel.

This process isn't immediate. Both of your SMETS Meters and the IHD will all be using the Channel Agility protocol to find a common channel which suffers least interference. It might take an hour or so before everything gets sorted. In the meantime, don't switch off your WiFi router because this will halt the automatic Agility process. When the router is next re-powered, the interference will start all over again!

Note that there is nothing which OVO's Installation Engineer can do about such problems beyond noting on the job-sheet that WiFi was lost when the Smart Meters were powered up. Zigbee self-allocates channels (eventually) and the Installation App doesn't have a facility for manual channel selection.

Nor are Installers trained or permitted to start logging into your router and manually changing its channel. And you should have it password protected anyway!
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Once your new SMETS2 meters are physically installed, the commissioning process can start.

The Engineer will use a proprietary App to connect the electricity meter to DCC, the government-owned Data Communications Company. Theoretically this should simply involve taking a photo of the bar codes on the meter. However, the two installations I've seen thus far both involved entering the meter numbers into the App manually.

There are different serial numbers for the electricity Smart Meter and its communications system. And there is plenty of room for error, such as confusing an 8 with a B. The App is clearly not yet fit for purpose and needs additional features to be added.

Once the Engineer receives confirmation that the electricity meter and DCC are communicating correctly, the new SMETS2 Gas Meter is paired with it. This uses a wireless signal running at 2.4GHz called Zigbee.

The electricity meter is the master unit. It is the only item with a connection to the outside world, shown as a red wireless signal in the above diagram.

Finally, the In Home Device is unpacked and paired with the electricity meter. The Installer will run through the basic features, which are described more fully in a small instruction book.

OVO are currently installing an IHD called a Chameleon. It also uses the Zigbee wireless protocols. This local Zigbee system can in future be extended to control other smart devices such as washing machines or storage radiators. It's called the HAN (Home Area Network).

Initially, the IHD may not show any data at all.

You can be assured it is communicating with the electricity meter, however, because there is a white signal-strength meter at top-left of the display.

After three days, my IHD suddenly started displaying real data

... but the figures bore little resemblance to the actual energy used.

This is all quite normal. There is a lot of work which continues in the background once the on-site installation is complete.

Not only will DCC be testing and tuning the encrypted communication links, but OVO will be installing your actual tariff data. This is held in the master electricity meter and is only required for you to view readings on the IHD. The actual usage figures are calculated separately by OVO as part of their billing process.

It can take several weeks before the entire process is completed. Only then will your IHD reflect the same information visible on your My OVO page online.

If there are any discrepancies in billed usage in the meantime, these will get automatically corrected because the actual meter readings are cumulative.