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Smart meters SMETs1 or SMETs2?



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Good point @Peter bethania... and since I live in a rural area and don't yet have a Smart Meter, I'm taking particular interest in your comment!

I think this is a question we need to direct at DCC (Data Communications Company). They are a joint operation between several well-known companies, working under a Government directive to provide the links between Smart Meters and our chosen Energy Suppliers. Although they use the same GSM transmitters as mobile phones, the data protocols are different and designed to be more robust.

So it's possible that Smart Meters may still be able to operate in areas where mobile phone signals are poor or intermittent.

I don't know what changes to the software protocols might be invoked as part of the upgrade to SMETS2 towards the end of this year. It's quite likely that DCC will have learned much from the previous generations of ADM (incl SMETS1). However, I doubt we will hear much about such upgraded signal capability because it's obviously important that the communications systems are kept confidential.

DCC has a good record of getting things right. If you chose to write and ask them about the percentage coverage of their transmissions, I'm sure there's several of us here who'd be interested to learn more.
Yes, @pauljac,

It's important to realise that there is no direct link between your Smart Meter and your Energy Supplier. All data communications are handled by DCC who operate under a strict Ofgem licence. DCC is a separately-run organisation comprising telecoms specialists Arqiva and Telefónica, BT (infrastructure), Critical (software) and Capita (management).

Only DCC can talk to/fro your Smart Meter, and they use encryption known only to them. DCC pass meter readings to your Energy Supplier and can send instructions back to your SMETS meter on their behalf.

Yes, @pauljac,

It's important to realise that there is no direct link between your Smart Meter and your Energy Supplier. All data communications are handled by DCC who operate under a strict Ofgem licence. DCC is a separately-run organisation comprising telecoms specialists Arqiva and Telefónica, BT (infrastructure), Critical (software) and Capita (management).

Only DCC can talk to/fro your Smart Meter, and they use encryption known only to them. DCC pass meter readings to your Energy Supplier and can send instructions back to your SMETS meter on their behalf.


@Transparent
Many thanks for all your great input. Wondering if you can enlighten me on the following:

I transferred over in 2017 and had already had Secure Smart Meters fitted by the previous suppliers. These have worked OK and I have received my gas and electricity monthly invoices as expected. Recently I got a call asking to replace them and have warily agreed. I didn't understand why that was necessary, at first thinking it might be SMETS2, but, of course, no. I got informed that it would be a cost saving as the data collection exercise could be transferred to a different operator/brought in house and a significant expense saved. That didn't quite chime and on looking through some of your posts I'm wondering if changing a Smart Meter for the same model of Meter makes sense for that reason. If I understand correctly, there is one central collector of the meter data?
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Hmmm. Well @Blakeney, I think you have every right to be skeptical. In this age we need to remain on our guard against unsolicited incoming communications, however plausible they may seem.

I have personal experience of this:

Against all the odds, I have won the Nigerian Lottery. :)
In fact I've won it at least once a week for the past year...
... and I have the emails to prove it!
This winning streak not only defies all laws of probability,
but my luck seems no less diminished by my repeated failure to purchase a ticket. :P

So it is important that we verify who it is who contacts us.

A month ago I wrote a comprehensive answer on the Forum about how you might confirm the identity of a caller claiming to be from OVO.

In this case you have already "warily agreed", but I still recommend an abundance of caution.

Let's look at the technical facts:

1. If you have Smart Meters installed by a previous Supplier, and they can still be automatically read by OVO using that smart system, then that Energy Supplier must have been one of E.on, First Utility or Utilita. All three use meters manufactured by Secure, and communicate using the SMETS1 software protocols.

2. Just because a Smart Meter communicates using SMETS1 protocols doesn't mean that its data can be interpreted universally by all Energy Suppliers. It's rather like they all talk different European languages. Just because those languages all use the same 26 basic letters, doesn't equate to compatibility!

E.on, First Utility and Utilita just happen to all speak English. EDF speaks French and British Gas prefers Esperanto (not literally - that's just an illustration!).

3. The legal framework under which Smart Meters are deployed in the UK forbids any party other than DCC from communicating with them. It is not permitted for any Utility Supplier to "bring this operation in house". Nor is that feasible because no one apart from DCC has the necessary encryption keys.

This is system enshrined in law so that our national energy supply network cannot be hijacked or held to ransom by hostile third parties.

4. SMETS2 software protocols are not only more comprehensive. The opportunity has been taken to ensure that from thenceforth all Utility Suppliers speak the same language. But none is yet installing SMETS2 because it's still undergoing those all-important encryption security checks.

Hopefully we might start seeing SMETS2 rolled out before the end of 2018. But if it takes longer, then there are very good reasons why we should be glad of the delay!


So in a nutshell, I am even more wary of the call you received purporting to be from OVO.

You should contact OVO Customer Care 0330 303 5063 or by email to hello@ovoenergy.com and ask whatever is necessary to check what is happening. If it was a genuine request from OVO, then they should be able to give you
  • the Job-reference number
  • the time & date you've agreed for the visit
  • the reason the meters need to be changed

If it wasn't OVO who called you, then under no circumstances should you allow anyone else to even look at your meters or enter your house.

You might decide to alert the Police. But unless you happen to be able to provide the phone number who called you, I'm not sure how they could proceed. Are incoming phone numbers listed on your bill or online telephone log?

Let us know here if you want any more clarification.
Hmmm. Well @Blakeney, I think you have every right to be skeptical.....................
Let us know here if you want any more clarification.

@Transparent
Thanks for that. I too am wary of scammers and take your point but this is definitely OVO. I made the subsequent checks and appointments direct with them.
My previous supplier was UW Club and I think they must have used a gas and electricity company providing Secure meters. On takeover by OVO I have received invoices in a seamless manner. In the early days I also checked the meter readings in accordance with their explanations to be happy the numbers were being relayed correctly.
That being so, and DCC being the only body that communicates with the meter, what would be the reason or benefit of a change to another SMETS1 meter?
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Well, @Blakeney, I'm pleasantly surprised to hear it's not a scam!

I can think of no reason why OVO would want to incur the expense of changing perfectly functional SMETS1 meters which they can already communicate with.

Others posting on this Forum are often reporting significant delays in getting engineers to install Smart Meters in the first place. I'm sure any of them would be delighted to have the slot now assigned to you!

I'm hoping others reading here might be able to shed more light on what's happening.
@Transparent
Sent them a note this morning recapping the situation and explaining that I didn't get why changing these meters for the same was necessary and asking what was the benefit. They have replied:

We would like to change your meters as this means that any updates or changes to the meters in the future are easier to carry out if they were not installed by a previous supplier.

Maybe I'm overthinking this but that appears to lack conviction. What is stopping them, or DCC, making changes to the current meters? They've already converted from the previous supplier. Have asked them just this; will advise further.
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This response from OVO is very interesting, @Blakeney.

For clarity, can I just point out that UW-Club is an energy comparison system. Although you might have paid the Utility Warehouse, I agree with you that the supplier was indeed one of E.on, First Utility or Utilita, all of whom use the same meters as OVO, made by Secure.

I had always assumed that minor software upgrades were being made to installed meters whenever the manufacturer issued a new release. I had never considered the possibility that such code upgrades might in some way be restricted/controlled by the company who had originally commissioned the installation of those meters.

This also raises intriguing questions about how/when SMETS1 meters could be upgraded to the forthcoming SMETS2 software. This would be major upgrade and no one has yet announced whether it would be practicable or safe to implement it without an engineer attending on site.

Is OVO possibly contemplating just such a remote upgrade, but limiting it to those meters which have some software identifier to show that it was they who installed that meter?

What about other customers, now with OVO, but whose SMETS1 meters had been installed by E.on, First Utility or Utilita?
@Transparent
First, I should say that the Customer Help people at OVO have been first-class and try very hard, although I have not managed to crack this, yet. I get the impression that they are working with a script that doesn't cover this issue and are struggling with one that lauds the installation of Smart Meters per se - I've even been sent a leaflet on Going Smart.

That's an interesting aspect you raise and makes sense as opposed to what I've been told so far. OVO have emailed me several times and also phoned in an attempt to clarify, but when I point out that that they have, self-evidently, already displayed the ability to make changes to the software in order to input their credentials and tariff on the transfer, they haven't been able to explain the benefits they are suggesting. I will email them again with your counsel to see if we get result.
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I like the Customer Service Team. They're well trained and highly motivated. But, @Blakeney, I think this subject is way beyond what they'd be able to handle from any script!

The best they could do is to bounce the enquiry to a relevant technical person. So I concur that email is the best communication method in the hope that it eventually gets to the right desk.

Of course, if this transpires to be an issue related to meter security, then no one will be wanting to give you a technically satisfactory answer, especially if they think you're going to post it on OVO's own public Forum!
@Transparent
Have received an answer that explains OVO would still be able to perform updates and changes but that these meters are 'rented' from the supplier that installed them, which means that during communications OVO have to go through a third party company who they pay for the service. Consequently OVO would prefer that their customers had the meters that they installed to avoid this, but it is not necessary.
So, even with the same equipment there are drawbacks to switching - surely this can and should be overcome. At the end of the day isn't it us, the customer, who is paying through our utility bills and not the supplier? I hope the existing meters get recycled and are not binned.
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Thanks for pursuing this @Blakeney.

At least we now understand the answer. It hadn't occurred to me that third parties might have taken the opportunity to earn long-term profit by renting out smart meters. I wonder what happens if there's a meter fault. Does the customer have to wait until the 3rd party (with whom they don't have a contract) gets the meter mended or replaced?!

I can quite see why OVO don't like having customers with rented meters. It seems the worst of all possibilities.

A sensible answer would be for OVO to buy the (used) meter from the 3rd Party. That would mean no engineer would have to attend site merely to swap one fully functional meter for another of the same type. But that denies the rental company their opportunity to take a fee each month.

I wonder if the 3rd party rental company operates within the Ofcom regulations, or whether these were drawn up without anyone considering another party involving themselves in owning part of the UK energy network?
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Do we have any idea when SMETS 2 smart meters are going to be rolled out?
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Do we have any idea when SMETS 2 smart meters are going to be rolled out?

Hey @Absolute Zero,

Join the discussion abouts SMETS2 on this thread! I've moved your comment over.

Cheers,
Nancy
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The roll out date for SMETS2 which I heard latest as "around November".

It was widely reported around March this year that GCHQ was going to investigate the security & encryption. Whatever proposals that ensue would have to be written into the code by each meter manufacturer, and then tested.

So November sounds about right to me.

No one has yet announced how/when the existing (SMETS1) meters will be upgraded. That's a separate security concern of course.
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November sounds about right to me.

No one has yet announced how/when the existing (SMETS1) meters will be upgraded. That's a separate security concern of course.
I thought the latest SMETS 1 meters were "upgradeable" to at least be able to swap suppliers without any bother?
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We are currently assuming that all existing SMETS1 meters are indeed upgradeable. No one has said anything to the contrary.

However, there are potential security concerns, whichever way you attempt this.

a. If upgrades are to be attempted by remote download, then this is a considerably larger data transmission than the commands which the telecoms system currently transfers. There needs to be consideration as to what happens if the new software gets only partially installed.

b. If upgrades are to be effected by an on-site visit, then how does this get policed?

What should happen if an engineer unexpectedly arrives at the home of an elderly/vulnerable customer and says he's come to do an upgrade?

Even if the meters are outside (and entry to the building isn't requested), how does anyone know what he's installed?

Smart Meters are similar in complexity to Cash-Point Terminals outside banks. Criminals have found all sorts of ingenious ways to misuse them. Could similar technological attacks be made to Smart Meters?

I'm obviously not going to post here ways in which this could be done, nor how there can be any benefits in doing so... but I can think of several without too much difficulty!


And that's why we want GCHQ to be involved, isn't it?

No Energy Supplier will want to be upgrading meters to SMETS2 unless/until they are satisfied that the process cannot be thwarted in a way which threatens their customers' energy supply.
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@TransparentYou raise interesting points that a technomoron like me has no idea of what you're talking about. Apart from the criminal/unauthorised problems.
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Precisely, @Absolute Zero -
You've hit the nail on the head!

However technically complex these SMETS2 meters are, it's important that they can be implemented in such a way that the technically-impoverished portions of our population have confidence that they aren't going to be left without power or held to ransom.

The true mark of good design is that most of us should never need to understand what engineering has gone into making it happen :)

And that's why it's worthwhile waiting until the end of the year for the roll-out to commence.
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Precisely, [user=5429]And that's why it's worthwhile waiting until the end of the year for the roll-out to commence.Kudos to me for insisting on full METS2 before I have a smart meter fitted then!

As an aside, the solar system and Tesla Powerwall 2 provided 94% of our electricity yesterday. I am sure it is the 9kW shower that requires the mains electricity making that 6% demand. The 600W od added solar was commissioned yesterday so we'll hopefully use even less from the grid.
Hi are the smart meters that are now being fitted the 52 ones? that can be used by all suppliers?
Hi are the smart meters that are now being fitted the 52 ones? that can be used by all suppliers?

Hey @jblenky

I've moved your comment over so you can join the discussion abouts SMETS2 on this thread.

Thanks,
Emma
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Hi @jblenky,

I just spotted you've joined this thread. It's quite a long one by now!

By all means read through it because we have already discussed the very point you've raised, and with some quite lengthy explanations.

However, if you prefer the "potted summary" of the current situation, here it is: :)

1. The Smart Meters currently being installed in the UK are still SMETS1

2. It's not the meters themselves which are incompatible between suppliers, but rather the commands being sent to them. It's rather like each Energy Supplier speaks a different language.

3. Since the issue is a software matter, it can be resolved by changing that software. We don't expect to see entire meters being swapped out once SMETS2 gets released, which isn't expected to be until the end of this year.

Please ask here if you want clarification, or to ask a related question. We'll try to help.
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Heard today on Moneybox that the experts still haven't agreed any standard for the nationwide smart meter network - does that mean that when they do Ovo's smart meter's will have to be ripped out and replaced because they do not comply? Could be a big waste of time and money and not that smart...
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And people ask me why I don't want a smart meter, of any description, still a no brainer to me, and will I think stay that way!

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