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Your appliances have a signature signal on the power

Some people get all bothered trying to figure out their household electrical power usage. The power companies are starting to install smart meters that will allow you to go online to see how your greedy house is consuming electrical power. One of the problems in this scenario is that of figuring what it is in the house that is doing the dirty deed. It looks like Professor Shwetak Patel may have an answer, something most ARO’s (Amateur Radio Operators) hear when listening for a weak signal and some appliance turns on. Andrew Appel has the story at Freedom to Tinker.

Every appliance you own–your refrigerator, your flat-screen TV, your
toaster–has a different “electrical noise signature” that it draws from
the wires in your house. When you turn it on, this signal is
(inadvertently) sent through the electric wires to the circuit-breaker
box. It’s not necessary (as one commenter
suggested) to buy “smart appliances” that send purpose-designed on-off
signals; your “dumb” appliances already send their own noise signatures.

With the appropriate smarts, your household power can be monitored for noise which can be compared to a database to determine what caused it. The same trick can be applied to water pipes to see which toilet was flushing or determine if it was the washing machine or whatever. — gather a pile of data, run it through an AI analysis, and all is revealed.

There are existing products like this. SmartGauge Electronics – battery metering watches how voltage changes with loads on a lead acid battery to assess the condition of the battery this way. Face recognition and other machine video applications do a similar thing.

Just think, if that power company meter gets just a bit smarter and coordinates data with your water company, you can not only go online to find out how you are wasting electricity, you’ll also be able to see who gets up in the middle of the night to get a snack out of the fridge or whether the kids wash their hands after using the toilet.

worried, yet?

UPDATE: seems that some are indeed worried. Slashdot reports California County Bans SmartMeter Installations — looks like the ordinance also falls for the RF health FUD, too. Paranoia has many siblings …

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