The technology that smart meters use
Smart meters measure your consumption in the same way that any other modern digital meter does. They then send this information to ESB Networks using radiofrequency transmissions – basically, the identical technology as a 2G mobile phone. So you can think of the information as being sent in a text message. The FAQs below give more detail on the technology used and how it affects the transmissions that the meter sends.
How does it communicate with the electricity company?
Across the world, different countries have
chosen different technologies to communicate data on consumption from the meter
to the electricity company, but the vast majority use some form or other of
radio communication – sending the information using wireless, or radiofrequency,
In Ireland, the meters will use
mobile-phone technology, specifically the older and more basic 2G system. Each smart meter has within it the equivalent
of the transmitter and antenna of a mobile phone, and it uses these to send
data over a 2G network to ESB Networks. Each time the meter sends data it is very much like sending a text
message or a single short email from a mobile phone.
How often does it communicate?
In the first instance, smart meters will
send one message per day containing that day’s consumption to ESB Networks. This would usually be during the night and
would take only a fraction of a second to send – as noted above, in terms of
the transmission, it is basically just a text message.
The technology allows the meter and ESB
Networks to communicate for other reasons, e.g. to check status or to perform
updates. We don’t plan to use that
facility very often if ever, but the technology allows for it. They would still be very short transmissions,
very widely spaced.
In the future, smart meters will allow the
electricity supply companies to offer you new products and services. For example, you could choose to switch to a
tariff that varied through the day (more expensive in peak hours than off-peak
or at night). More options will emerge as we all explore what smart technology
can offer. These options might involve
more frequent transmissions between meter and ESB Networks, though each
separate transmission would still be a very short package of data, just like a
text message. And in all those examples,
it would be your choice whether to take up the option offered.
Does it communicate within the home?
Part of the longer-term vision for smart
meters does involve the meter communicating within the home. For instance, you could have a display in the
home to tell you about your current consumption, and that would receive data by
communicating with the smart meter. Those
communications would usually also be by radiofrequencies, although, as the
range required (just within the home, not outside it) would be smaller, the
power level of the communications would be very low.
That lies in the future, however. In the first instance, the smart meters
installed by ESB Networks will not have that functionality, they are simply
replacements for your existing meter. And it would be your choice whether to adopt some of those functions and
capabilities in future.
One other development is that, in future,
smart gas meters send their consumption data to the smart electricity meter, so
that the electricity meter can then send both sets of consumption to ESB
Networks. Again, that link between the
gas meter and the electricity meter would be short range and therefore low