Smart meters smart for security industry?


Smart meters are in the news because electric utilities around the nation are busy installing the devices on homes and businesses to enable better collection of power-use data and to save money.

And smart meters are also increasingly making news in the security industry—for a variety of reasons.

For example, smart meters just made headlines on the Security Systems News web site because APX Alarm recently acquired a company that installs smart meters for utilities. The acquisition of Meter Solutions, which APX announced Jan. 12,  is the first acquistion in APX’s 11-year history.

Alex Dunn, APX COO, explained why that Utah-based security company bought the smart meter installer, saying it would create a new channel to increase customers, leading with energy management and then upgrading them to other services such as security.

However, most of the news about smart meters in the industry is not so positive.

For instance, in the fall edition of the CSAA Dispatch, a publication of the Central Station Alarm Association, an article raises concerns about smart meters. It notes that news reports say that property owners have been experiencing problems with their other electronics, including security alarms.

Among questions the article says should be considered are: “What happens to home alarms when smart meters interfere? and “Are homes left vulnerable to break-ins?” Also, the article questions whether smart meters can lead to more false alarms, costing municipalities and property owners money (if alarm owners are fined for false alarms.)

In Maine, such concerns as smart meters interfering with security alarms has led Central Maine Power to allow customers to temporarily opt out from installation.

That option will continue until the state’s Public Utilities Commission decides whether CMP's policy of no opt-outs is reasonable or discriminatory. The utility opposes a permanent opt out, saying that if some customers don’t participate, it creates a void in the grid.

CMP has offered to install meters away from areas of concern in a home or business, but says individual customers would have to bear the cost, which could range from $750 to $5,000, according to a story today in the Portland Press Herald. A meeting between the PUC, the utility and intervenors is scheduled for next week, the paper said.

Communications with APX suggest there may be a way around such problems. APX said it hasn't encountered any interference issues between smart meters and that company's systems.

Dunn said in a statement: “An advantage of APX products is that our home security panel and smart meters use complimentary technologies that communicate with one another, eliminating concerns of possible interference."