LEAKAGE OF CUSTOMER PRIVACY IN ELECTRICAL SMART METERS AND SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM
The electrical power grid has been undergoing improvements to turn it into a more efficient system known as the Smart Grid. A key element in this upgrade is the Smart Meter. It provides two-way communication between an electrical utility company and its customers, with benefits to both parties. Utility companies obtain a better picture of what is happening on the ground to aid in planning power distribution as well as detection and correction of faults. More data is acquired with less reliance on manual collection. Customers receive better information on their power consumption and have options for controlling their power consumption, potentially lowering their electrical bill.
However, the enhanced communication that enable Smart meters to work as they do introduces problems of privacy. Smart meters collect and transmit more data fine-grained data than traditional electrical meters. This data can expose usage patterns of various electrical devices, which in turn reveals private habits of users. Privacy can be a somewhat subjective concept with tolerance varying from one user to another. However, massive leakage has far reaching effects affecting all users. Burglars can use the data to plan when to strike, knowing when the house is empty, which gadgets they can steal, if an alarm is installed and so forth. Overzealous marketers, spies and large scale surveillance can also exploit this data.
This paper looks at privacy problems introduced by Smart meters and a number of solutions available to help hide usage patterns. This can be done by employing algorithms which rely on batteries, solar panels, statistical methods or encryption. These problems and solutions are important to look at, because the benefits of Smart meters will not achieve its full potential unless major privacy leakage concerns are dealt with appropriately. Examining different solutions (with their pros and cons) provides a way of judging the best solution in various situations.