Friday, 5 May 2017

Smart meter day #1

I celebrated the Eucharist at St John's Canton yesterday morning for a congregation that we half the usual size, as many regulars were attending a funeral elsewhere. Then, after lunch I walked along the Taff on my usual route around Pontcanna Fields, this time accompanied by the Sony Alpha 55 DSLR that I haven't used for a while. Although the zoom lens I use isn't as long as that of the HX300, the cropped photos resulting can be just as good, although it's more challenging to use, being heavier to hold.

The trouble with using almost full zoom length is that camera shake intrudes, even when the lens and camera are equipped with optical image stabilisation. High shutter speeds compensate to some extent. It's something of a gamble to shoot the camera at just the right moment. I could use the facility all good digital cameras have to set the shutter for multiple shots, much loved by news and sports reporters, and then select the best one when editing later, but trying my luck, and being surprised (or disappointed) by the result still has its appeal for me.

This morning, I wrote a sermon for Sunday while waiting for the arrival of the installation team from SSE our energy suppliers, who are going to fit new 'smart' electricity meters. They came a hour earlier than expected due to a cancellation, and left half an hour earlier than anticipated, as they were only able to fit a new electricity meter. There wasn't room in the gas meter enclosure in the hall to fit the extra monitoring device, because of legacy redundant lead piping which had been left in place decades ago. It will involve a further visit by a specialist to get rid of this and re-position the meter atop the monitoring device. 

I had an interesting conversation with one of the engineers about how the new meter monitoring system works. It makes a 4G wireless connection to the suppliers' data network using frequency extensions to phone band-width made available by the government ending the lease of the broadcast frequencies used by secure radio systems like Cardiff RadioNet, the Prison Service and other public bodies, until this time last year. All now have a different set of frequencies leased to them, and the old ones will provide secure encrypted data channels to the entire country. In theory they are un-hackable, and won't overload in the way phone networks do, as the volume of digital monitoring data over a year is a minute fraction of the digital data stream of any ordinary voice call. 

SSE's network service providor, Vodaphone, gave sufficient coverage for the workers to use their mobile phones inside our hours, where with EE cover this isn't possible without a signal booster, and this meant the monitoring box could remain always in contact with the area network. Clever, as long as there's power enough to run every component of the system. SSE also provides a dedicated device that feeds the monitoring data to a smart display which tells you how much electricity you've used and how much it cost you. It's a re-chargeable device, not as powerful as normal wi-fi, with much smaller data requirements. But it only works within a short range of the smart meter cupboard, and if moved away, it starts bleeping a distress signal. Not such a good idea. Do we really need or want it?

After lunch, I drove Ashley to Chepstow for another trip to CBS equipment suppliers. Traffic was very heavy and we arrived too near the end of the working day for more than the basic business we'd come for. Still, it was a pleasant drive, with plenty to talk about, and it helps to keep things running smoothly. After that, another quiet evening, this time watching a French crimmie on the 'All Four' tablet app. A nice change to listen to good clear spoken French, and understand most of it.

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