I've recently seen some commotion online about "smart meters," electronic power consumption meters that are replacing the mechanical meters in some areas. My understanding is that these meters have radio transmitters that broadcast each household's power consumption (I'm not sure where these transmissions are received) once or several times per day (the effectiveness of this is discussed in this question).
One example of such commotion is this YouTube video, which claims that smart meters are an invasion of privacy, because:
- They can see when you turn appliances on and off. This seems to imply that smart meters transmit real-time data. I would think that they would transmit a running total at intervals, rather than the power consumption on a per-minute or per-hour basis.
- They can measure the power consumption of individual appliances. I'm extremely skeptical of this. Electricity just doesn't work that way. If the point above is true, then at best they could guess at what kind of appliance is on just after it was turned on, based on the increase of consumption. But that wouldn't be accurate at all.
- They record your personal living patterns. This follows from the other two, and is the ultimate conclusion that smart meters will be used as surveillance devices.
Is the breadth of information visible to a smart meter anywhere near this level of accuracy? It defies my understanding of how electricity works in a home, but that understanding is far from complete. From what I've seen, the people spreading this warning are unusually calm and well spoken, and it's causing me to second guess myself.