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Smart meters threaten weather forecasts


By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 16 Apr 2013 at 11:37

The introduction of smart meters in UK homes could play havoc with weather forecasts, according to the Met Office.

Ofcom is currently undertaking a consultation over removing restrictions on extending the frequencies home-networking hardware works on to help with the roll out of web-connected smart meters.

But according to Met Office officials, freeing up the spectrum could have disastrous consequences on its forecast modelling, with interference casting a cloud over results.

At risk are results from the Met Office's Doppler Wind Profiling Radars (WRPs) in the 915-917MHz sub-band of the broader 915-921MHz band, which could be used by smart meters to control central heating and other networked equipment in homes.

According to the Met Office, forecast accuracy could be compromised if Ofcom allowed unlicensed and uncontrolled spectrum use because interference would prevent observers from logging rain clouds.

"Met Office services underpin the protection of life and property through accurate prediction of severe weather," the Met Office said in a consultation response spotted by The Register.

"Whilst it is not possible to fully quantify the direct societal benefit of 915MHz WPRs in relation to its use of spectrum, these radars provide important information on the state of the atmosphere that is used to drive Numerical Weather Prediction models and inform weather forecasts and severe weather warnings to the public."

Without precaution and potentially licensing, the Met Office said meters and network equipment would generate an increased risk of unwanted interference to the WPRs, which "provide vertical wind profile data by measuring very small amounts of reflected signal that have been backscattered by atmospheric turbulence".

However, as The Register points out, the Met Office will face a battle as Ofcom has received significant backing for the proposals from companies such as energy firms, which would save significant money by not having to read meters.

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User comments

Shocking, if correct.

I'm amazed that smart meters are due to roll-out over the next [insert number dependent on level of cynicism] years, without this having been resolved.

I'm assuming that the Power companies have fixed on this bit of Spectrum for reasons of cheapnis.

If Mr Cameron & his pals could take 5mins off from blaming "the previous lot" for anything & everything, perhaps they could actually do something useful & resolve this.....
Oh and no, its not the job of the various "Regulators" they set up when they privatised all this, its down to THEM.

By wittgenfrog on 16 Apr 2013

I'd just like to point out that the image associated with this story is misleading. It is a Nest smart thermostat - different from the smart *meters* the article is about.

By ph3062 on 16 Apr 2013

Why do the smart meters have to use 915 MHz? Shouldn't they be using an appropriate licence exempt band such as 868 MHz or 2.4 GHz? Sounds like it is equipment designed for USA market being using in the EU but not being redesigned to meet the ETSI european standards.

By martincowen100 on 16 Apr 2013

I need a smart meter

I need a smart meter, I can always tell when it`s raining, I get wet :-)

By dexy222 on 16 Apr 2013

I need a smart meter

I need a smart meter, I can always tell when it`s raining, I get wet :-)

By dexy222 on 16 Apr 2013

Lazy energy firms

915 MHz is an open band used in America. 868 MHz is used in Europe and 433 MHz is used everywhere.

Presumably these energy companies are trying to re-use equipment meant for the American market.

By peterm2k on 16 Apr 2013

Fair point ph3062, we've changed it to some nicer weather instead.

Nicole Kobie
News Editor

By Nicole_Kobie on 16 Apr 2013

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