UK: Residents slam Thames Water’s smart water meter installations

From Hamstead & Highgate

February 9, 2017
by Nathalie Raffray

Residents in Fortis Green are campaigning against smart water meters in or near their homes

Residents in Fortis Green are campaigning against smart water meters in or near their homes

Campaigners in Fortis Green have slammed Thames Water for installing controversial “smart” water meters without consulting residents.

Members of the Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association are accusing the water giant of bullying residents with false information as they “sweep through” the borough digging up pavements to fit them.

The group have been actively giving “Stop – Do Not Fit A Smart Water Meter” posters to residents to put in their windows and raise awareness.

Smart meters are replacing wired analogue meters which wirelessly monitor, measure and communicate customer’s water usage data to utility providers.

John Adrioni, from Stop Smart Meters Haringey, said: “The only consultation that occurred that we know of was with three streets in Tottenham last August. Since then there have been no consultation in the borough.

Thames Water are counting on people’s ignorance. There is no law that mandates the installation of this product and it requires exposure of material facts to customers. Smart meters are a data collection device which does more than measure the water. There are safer alternatives like analogue meters which are tried, tested and work.”

He said the risks associated with smart water meter use include higher bills for some households, privacy violations through the collection of customer data and “Big Brother” monitoring and security risks, with the smart grid being vulnerable to hacking.

Cathy Stastny, of Alexandra Park, said: “The bullying is particularly unpleasant. They come knocking on your door saying it’s compulsory and saying if you don’t comply you face fines.”

Sarah Purdy, who lives in Ringwood Avenue added: “They are telling people it’s mandatory and people are believing it. Thames Water started this in Tottenham and have been working through the borough, next they’ll be sweeping through Barnet and Hampstead and people are not aware of the risks.

“Want our stop signs respected and we want a choice as there are safer alternatives.”

A spokesman for Thames Water said a 16 week public consultation was held in 2008. “Talking to our customers about our what we’re doing and why is very important to us, and we’ve found face-to-face conversations to be most effective. In Haringey, we’ve so far managed to speak to 70 per cent of customers in this way, and we’ll keep trying to reach the rest.”

He said all consumption data collected from a customer’s meter will be transferred using “robust encryption” and held on a secure database.

He added: “Installing smart water meters is a big part of our long-term plan to address the water supply and demand gap forecasted for London. The biggest benefit to customers will be that it puts them more in control of their water-use, and we will help them to adjust over the next two years. It also means we can detect more leaks, which we fix for free, to also save water.”

Karen Gibbs, senior policy manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We expect Thames Water, and the other water companies in the region who are undertaking metering, to deal with customers’ concerns sensitively. Customers who feel the company has failed to do this should get in touch with us.”

A spokesman for the department of environment, food and rural affairs, said: “The type of water meter is a matter for the water company – so no laws there.”

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Is PG&E overbilling opt-out customers with “estimated” utility bills?

From EMF Safety Network

February 9, 2017

If you are a smart meter opt-out customer, you might want to call PG&E to find out if they’ve correctly billed you.

People are getting higher bills because PG&E is reading meters every other month. PG&E estimates one month’s bill “supposedly” based on your previous usage.  The next month they read your meter and true up the cost. If PG&E underestimated the previous month your usage will be substantially higher for the 2nd month.  This could be placing you in a higher tier, rather than spreading usage over the 2 months, and billing you in a lower tier.

I called PG&E (1-866-743-0335) and found out they underestimated our December bill by a third, so we were billed in a higher, more expensive tier in January.  The Supervisor asked me to read the meters and told me how to do it. Then she re-calculated our bill.  PG&E gave us a refund of about $90.

I asked if we could self read so we have more accurate bills in the future and was told no, the only recourse is to call PG&E every other month to have the bill recalculated!

Another PG&E customer said she called PG&E and found out her December bill was estimated from the summer months usage which caused a huge January bill.  PG&E told her they would submit a request for correction, but didn’t follow up. She writes, “PG&E has found a way to punish us opt-out customers by playing this little game and then making us call in, be on hold forever, make this request and then make sure they follow up.” 

Another customer has called PG&E about this for a year and she just received a $268 refund. She writes,

“How much money has PG&E taken and kept by their slick accounting methods?”

The Utility Reform Network (TURN) states, “TURN is hearing from consumers that high PG&E rates combined with cold temperatures are freezing them out.  Customers say their gas bills have doubled or tripled this winter!” 

In 2012 about a third of all smart meters were still being read by meter readers. PG&E stopped filing public reports on how their smart meter program is working so I can only guess there are still many smart meters being read by meter readers. Are they read bi-monthly too and therefore getting estimated bills?

People have paid for the right to keep the safer analog meter, and now they are at risk for higher bills because the California Public Utility Commission ordered the bi-monthly meter reading and PG&E has a faulty estimated and tiered billing system.

Here’s what you can do if you think you’ve been overcharged:

1. Call PG&E 1-866-743-0335 and ask them about your bill and what the previous month’s estimate was based on. Ask for a supervisor to re-calculate your bill for you.

2. You can also send a complaint to the CPUC:

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The Internet of Things sees all: Ohio authorities indict man through data from his pacemaker

From Engadget

The way to a man’s heart is actually through WiFi
Turns out the heart is deceitful above all things after all.

By Violet Blue
February 3, 2017

They say you can’t hide what’s in your heart, but the saying is doubly true for an Ohio man whose pacemaker data has been used to indict him on felony charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud.

Police investigating a fire at Ross Compton’s house said he gave statements that were “inconsistent” with the evidence. Compton didn’t reckon on authorities obtaining a search warrant for all electronic data stored in his cardiac pacing device, and now he’s going up the river for burning his own house down.

According to court documents obtained by press, the data from Compton’s pacemaker, examined by investigators, included his heart rate, pacer demand and cardiac rhythms prior to, during and after the September 2016 fire.

A cardiologist who reviewed that data concluded it was “improbable Mr. Compton would have been able to collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated, due to his medical conditions.”

Meaning, they looked at the time window of the fire and his tale of escape along with his heart rate, and decided that his story didn’t add up. That’s as far as we know, anyway. If we learned anything from the St. Jude stock debacle, it’s that implantable medical devices and their home monitorsprobably carry (and probably leak) data that could pin a person down more than a few heated beats at the wrong time. Like transmitting activity records, heart rate logs, and sensitive patient information.

Last September short-selling firm Muddy Waters and its business partner, security company MedSec Holdings, released a scathing and now-contested company report saying that pacemakers and heart devices made by St. Jude Medical had critical security flaws.

Effectively, it’s only thanks to hackers that the general public has learned that pacemakers have built-in functionality for wireless communication. This means a lot can be learned about our activities by what networks they connect to, and when. The interface is largely for remote monitoring purposes, where a device connects to a server at the vendor to transmit device logs and patient information.

This is the medical Internet of Things. And now it’s a tool for authorities and insurance investigators.

His heart wasn’t in it

Mr. Compton had originally told officers that when he realized there was a fire he packed a suitcase and some bags, then broke his bedroom window and threw everything out of the house before packing up his car. He claimed to have escaped with his belongings and his life. A neighbor told press that when he saw Compton carrying a computer tower, Mr. Compton asked him for help putting it into his car.

According to a search warrant obtained by media, fire investigators said there were multiple points of origin of the fire from the outside of the residence. Compton’s statements to 911 also conflicted with what he told police, and he was arrested just two days after the fire. It’s likely he never thought that in a million years his pacemaker would rat him out. And why would he?

It was just a matter of time until we started to find out if medical device data is protected by the Fifth Amendment’s safeguards for self-incrimination. Those following the fingerprint-password debates know that a Virginia Circuit Court judge ruled in October 2014 that giving biometric data is not the same as divulging knowledge.

Compton’s heart condition was well known by investigators from the get-go: He was briefly hospitalized after the fire with a related medical issue. So it’s not too much of a leap for someone to wonder if there was a way to track his movements after a fashion with the constant record being created by his pacemaker.

Sounds like a pretty damning avenue for investigation, using pacemakers to catch criminals with an ironclad dataset for prosecution. Except as one hacker found out when she had to be kitted out with a heart device, these internal trackers don’t always give off the correct data.

Infosec professional Marie Moe got her pacemaker in an emergency procedure to save her life, but it wasn’t long before she realized the pitfalls of these deeply personal IOT devices. Soon, she was debugging her own heart, which sounds almost romantic, except it’s not. Because she was younger than the typical pacemaker user, hers required a lot of adjusting.

Moe experienced months of trial-and-error tweaking from doctors who couldn’t quite get her heart’s tuning right. She said: “This was complicated by a software bug in the programming device that they used to adjust the settings of the pacemaker. The bug caused the actual settings of my device to differ from the those displayed on the screen at the hospital that the pacemaker technician was seeing.”

The impact of this was significant, as Moe explained. “The consequence of this greatly affected my well being. If I tried to run after the bus or climb up stairs I would suddenly get out of breath. The pacemaker was detecting my pulse to be outside the upper heart rate limit, which was erroneously configured to 160 beats per minute. When I reached this heart rate, the pacemaker would suddenly cut my pulse in half to 80 beats per minute due to a safety mechanism.”

Not only could the device be performing improperly and sending incorrect information “home” to its servers, Moe discovered that she wasn’t allowed to access her own data. Along with other pacemaker users, she started fighting for her rights to get access to the data that their devices are collecting.

It feels very ominous and Big Brother-y, that authorities can just grab data from devices inside your body without your consent.

Of course, it’s not just implanted medical devices that monitor people’s heart rates, transmit device logs and bodily information — and snitch out anyone with something to hide. Fitness trackers like Fitbit, Garmin, and Jawbone are increasingly being used as admissible evidence in court cases. The difference here is, that you can’t just leave a pacemaker on the bedside table when you want.

If we were all living in a dystopian fiction novel, Mr. Compton’s crime getting foiled by Big Brother’s access to the actual inner workings of his heart would be somewhat chilling in its implications.

Good thing our current climate doesn’t feel dystopian or unreal at all right now.

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UK: Police officers sue force over ‘radio injuries’

From the Telegraph

By Nigel Bunyan
January 1, 2017

Police officers are preparing to sue their own force over a series of illnesses they claim were caused by the radio system they use while out on patrol.

The Lancashire Constabulary was the first in Britain to try out the Airwave network, designed specifically to hive longer range and more capacity to the emergency services and the military.

Nine years after its introduction scores of officers are claiming that radiation emissions from the system have caused them to suffer such ailments as nausea, headaches, stomach pains and skin rashes.

The local branch of the Police Federation has logged 176 individual complaints, and now senior officials at the police authority are seeking legal advice on how to deal with them.

They have already made budget changes to allow for “a contingent liability in respect of Airwave liability claims”.

Critics of the system say its suppliers – Motorola, who provide the handsets, and those who control the network – have made changes to prevent “audio anomalies”.

However, the Health and Safety Executive has investigated the controversy and declared that there is no link between the radio technology and the reported ailments.

Lancashire officers began to pilot the system in 2001. Since then the Government has spent £2.9 billion on introducing the system to all 53 forces in England, Scotland and Wales.

John O’Reilly, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, said: “When we first got it there were all sorts of problems, including breakdowns in communication and certain parts of the county being unreachable.

“But then most or all of the problems were ironed out over a period of time by improved technology.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police Authority said: “We have received a number of liability claims for injury allegedly resulting from the use of the Constabulary’s mobile communications equipment.

“This is an ongoing matter and the outcomes from the claims are not yet known.”

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PubMed: The fundamental reasons why laptop computers should not be used on your lap

From the Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering

2016 Dec 1;6(4):279-284. eCollection 2016.

The Fundamental Reasons Why Laptop Computers should not be Used on Your Lap.


As a tendency to use new technologies, gadgets such as laptop computers are becoming more popular among students, teachers, businessmen and office workers. Today laptops are a great tool for education and learning, work and personal multimedia. Millions of men, especially those in the reproductive age, are frequently using their laptop computers on the lap (thigh). Over the past several years, our lab has focused on the health effects of exposure to different sources of electromagnetic fields such as cellular phones, mobile base stations, mobile phone jammers, laptop computers, radars, dentistry cavitrons and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Our own studies as well as the studies performed by other researchers indicate that using laptop computers on the lap adversely affects the male reproductive health. When it is placed on the lap, not only the heat from a laptop computer can warm men’s scrotums, the electromagnetic fields generated by laptop’s internal electronic circuits as well as the Wi-Fi Radiofrequency radiation hazards (in a Wi-Fi connected laptop) may decrease sperm quality. Furthermore, due to poor working posture, laptops should not be used on the lap for long hours.

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Tennessee: Memphis city council members compare utility company to Gestapo

MLGW is Memphis Light, Gas & Water

From WMC Action News 5

By Kendall Downing
February 7, 2017

Video at link below

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – Tempers flared among Memphis City Council members toward MLGW over Smart Meters, even comparing MLGW to the Gestapo.

Some council members said the utility company is not listening to its customers.

A handful of council members said they’re strong arming people into getting a smart meter.

Councilman Joe Brown compared MLGW to the Gestapo in the way they were handling the rollout.

One of those blasting MLGW President Jerry Collins on Tuesday morning was Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.

“You are showing blatant disrespect to this council,” Fullilove said.

She, and other members, said their phones were ringing off the hook with citizens upset with MLGW over smart meters that the customers did not want.

“We are being bombarded with calls from unhappy customers,” council member Jamita Swearengen said.

Fullilove said it has a large impact on customers, especially elderly customers.

“Many of these elderly people don’t know what to do when they say, ‘I don’t want them,’ and they put them on anyway,” Fullilove said.

In fact, arguments between councilman Joe Brown and Collins got to the point where committee chairperson Patrice Robinson had to call for order.

But, the sparring didn’t end there as council members Worth Morgan and Fullilove went at it.

Controversy continues to swirl over the smart meter rollout, which started last May and is expected to last until 2020. The meters eliminate the estimation of bills, as well as the meter reader job.

MLGW said 300,000 smart meters have been installed and 10,000 people have successfully opted out.

Collins said he only knows of 5-6 cases where smart meters were inadvertently installed. But, some council members insist that number is much higher.

“Anybody who says that MLGW doesn’t care about the customer is either making a really bad mistake, or they’re not telling the truth,” Collins said.

In December WMC Action News 5 investigators looked into problems with late bills that were related to the smart meter rollout. Collins said that happened because of a shortage of meter readers, and so more bills had to be estimated. He said billing will be back to normal this month.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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Michigan: State representative seeking support for bill to ban opt-out fees

From WILX, News 10

February 7, 2017

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There's a move in the state legislature to get rid
of fees that utilities charge to customers who want to keep their "old

On Friday, News 10 reported Consumers Energy charges its customers a
one-time fee of $69.39 to opt-out of having an advanced meter installed on
their home.

There is a monthly fee of $9.72 after that to have a meter-reader come out.

This bill hasn't been formally introduced just yet and Representative Gary
Glenn (R-Midland) is working to get support for it.

In addition to waiving the opt-out fees, the legislation would allow home
owners to self-read their meter by just taking a picture of it and sending
it in.

The utility could check the meter quarterly to confirm they're not being

Rep. Glenn tells News 10 the choice should be up to the home owner. 

"As long as those utilities are a state privilege monopoly given the right
exclusively to deliver electricity, then we are going to protect homeowners
from that kind of monopoly policy," said Rep. Glenn. "Trying to force
certain technology on homeowners against their will or if they refuse to
have it installed, charge them.

Consumers Energy sent this written statement to News 10 Tuesday afternoon.

"Consumers Energy believes the present advanced meter technology program and
oversight by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) have led to an
important and safe technology change for energy customers across Michigan.
We provide the option of a non-communicating meter to those customers who
choose not to take the upgraded meter technology. However, the upgraded
meter technology - which follows national testing for accuracy and safety -
provides customers with benefits including: accurate bills; insights into
their energy usage; billing and rate options and ways to help manage their
overall energy use. In 2015, according to the U.S. energy information
administration, there were about 64.7 million advanced meter installations
in the U.S.

Once the legislation is formally introduced the Michigan Energy Policy
Committee, which Rep. Glenn is the chair of, will hold a public hearing to
listen to your concerns.

Last year Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a legal opinion that
utilities don't have the authority to charge "opt-out" fees.

It was dismissed by the state Public Service Commission which oversees

News 10 will let you know what happens with the bill.
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