British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

I am starting a new blog on my quest to find out which standard is the future of Home Automation... Zigbee or Z-wave (or neither). I have started off the blog with this initial post on my experience getting zigbee smart meters installed from British Gas. I thought it may be of interest over here at OpenEnergyMonitoy.org:

Following quite a bit of pestering and waiting I eventually managed to persuade British Gas to swap out my archaic Electricity and Gas meters for the latest 'Phase 3' Smart Meters.

This was certainly not an easy process and, despite constant bombardment of TV adverts on television from British Gas about how smart meters are the latest and greatest thing, you would not believe the hoops I had to jump through to get them installed, and, even after finally getting agreement to have them installed, it then took a number of months to get an installation date followed by another age between the Electricity and Gas meters due to a problem following the install of the Electricity Meter where there was an "issue with communication with the Head End" which meant the engineer was forced to abort progressing with the install of the Gas Meter and the remainder of the work had to be rescheduled to a later date... 4 months later! Leaving me for a while with one Smart (Electricity) Meter and one Dumb (Gas) Meter, (this was not an issue for the supply of either utility but just grated against my OCD / geeky / impatient nature).

To be fair to British Gas I think their initial reluctance to install Smart Meters was partly caused by a temporary stall [1] to the UK Smart Meter roll-out programme imposed partly by the Government changing their mind on the specifications for Smart Meters (or possibly British Gas, in an effort to be ahead of the game, had started rolling out Smart Meters too early [2] before the specifications had been fully finalised by UK Government?). I was also demanding British Gas install the latest 'Phase 3' smart meters which, as I understand it, are still really in teething stage, so, although annoying at the time, I do have to forgive them the delays. I also can not fault their friendly staff putting up with my constant pestering!

Anyhow, a number of months later I am now here with a shiny new pair of meters! The 'Phase 3' smart meter setup comprises of 4 components:

  1. Landis+Gyr E470 Electricity Meter

  2. Landis+Gyr G370 Gas Meter

  3. Landis+Gyr P450 ecoMeter In Home Display

  4. Trilliant SEAP-2000-V Hub

Landis+Gyr E470 Electricity Meter

Landis+Gyr E470 Electricity Meter & Trilliant Hub According to the Landis+Gyr website the E470 is aligned to the UK Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS). Of particular interest to me is its support for ZigBee Smart Energy Profile (SEP 1.1), it was my hope that I could buy a Zigbee gateway or USB receiever and I would then be able to start monitoring and logging my electricity usage on a computer. This I later found out was not going to be as easy as I thought.

Another feature the meter does have is a flashing LED which pulses a 1000 times for every kWh (or once for every Wh). This does allow me to hook a light sensor up to it to count pulses and therefore calculate Electricity usage but this, to me, seems a bit backwards when I have the state of the art Smart Meter with Zigbee!

The E470 supports both Import and Export electricity usage, so one day in the future I may be able to hook up some Solar PV Panels to it.

More information about the E470 can be found here: http://www.landisgyr.co.uk/product/landisgyr-e470-zigbee-smart-electricity-meter/

Landis+Gyr G370 Gas Meter

Landis+Gyr G370 Gas Meter Again aligned to the UK Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS) the G370 Ultrasonic Gas Meter also supports Zigbee (SEP 1.1). Apparently with no moving parts this new meter is certainly quieter than our old meter.

There is no flashing LED (I assume because it is running on a battery not connected to any electricity power supply and therefore an LED would over time drain its battery).

The G370 and E470 do both have an optical probe (IEC1107) interfaces. A round circle about an inch in diameter with a UV LED and light sensor in the center, I am not an expert but I believe these interfaces are serial ports which use light to exchange information and with the right monitoring equipment can be used to access the smart meters and their data. I think their design is such that these interfaces are non-contact in that no electrical contact is made between the meters and the monitoring device (i.e it is via light) making them safe for Gas [3].

More information about the G370 can be found here: http://www.landisgyr.co.uk/product/g370-zigbee-smart-ultrasonic-gas-meter/

Landis+Gyr P450 ecoMeter In Home Display

Landis+Gyr P450 In Home Display The P450 IHD, which appears to have been re-skinned with British Gas branding communicates with both the Electricity and Gas Meters and displays current Energy usage for both fuels as well as historic usage. The figures can be toggles between kWh, £s and CO2 values. The IHD can apparently also be used by British Gas to send me messages (there is a little Mail Envelope Icon) but as of yet I have not seen any messaged other than the initial "Welcome to Smart Metering" message.

Design wise the P450 is a quite pleasing shape and size, black with curved corners. However I am not so enamored with the responsiveness of the screen and its menus. You have to prod the screen quite hard or use a sharp object as a stylus to get it to respond, reminiscent of first generation Smart Phones, in this day and age of iPhones and super sensitive touch screens it is, at times, difficult to use. I can't really grumble as it is better than what I had with the dumb meters but I am not sure how the older generation will get on with it if even I struggle.

On the back on the unit is a badge saying "Zigbee Certified Product" again giving me hope that Zigbee is becoming more mainstream.

There is also a Mini USB port on the back which is used to power the device (supplied with a 240V to USB power supply). I am curious what would happen if I plug the P450 into my computer? Would I be able to access it via USB? Or is this something which Landis+Gyr may later be able to enable?

More information about the P450 can be found on the Landis Website : http://www.landisgyr.co.uk/product/landisgyr-p450-ecometer/

A user guide from British Gas can also be found here: http://www.britishgas.co.uk/content/dam/british-gas/documents/ph3-QuickUserGuide_printversion.pdf

Trilliant SEAP-2000-V Hub

Tying the above 3 units together is the Trilliant Hub, acting as a Zibgee coordinator, the hub gathers meter reading (and other information?) from both the Gas and Electricity meters and transmits them to the British Gas mother ship (Head End?) via the mobile phone network (the installation engineer said it contained up to 4 mobile SIM cards, one for each of the 4 main UK mobile providers but I am not 100% sure this is true as I thought British Gas only used Vodafone [4]).

The hub certainly looks busy with 3 little flashing LEDs constantly flickering away. I think British Gas can also push updates and settings, messages and firmware updates downstream towards the meters and IHD via the Trilliant hub as well as initiating remote shut off of energy supply to the homes (where people do not pay their bills!).

More information can be found here: http://trilliantinc.com/library-files/datasheets/ds_Communications_Hub.pdf

I am not seeing a massive benefit yet to having smart meters yet, other than no-longer having to manually send meter readings to British Gas and a funky In Home Display in my dining room giving me real time usage. But over time I hope that more features and benefits may be unveiled.

What I really do not understand is the likes of http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/ claiming that utility companies (and the Government) are going to start using smart meters to spy on us and, even more extreme, that smart meters are frying our brains with radio waves.... everyone has a right to their own opinion! I am a data geek and love stats, I am therefore happy to have a digital device monitor my energy usage... as long as I am permitted access to said data!

 

From: http://www.smartofthehome.com/

jamesleesaunders's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Has anyone else had a bad (or good) experiences with British Gases Smart Meters?

TrystanLea's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hello James, thanks for sharing your blog post and sorry that I must have missed it the first time! its useful to have an overview like that, have you had any luck with getting data out of the system?

jamesleesaunders's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hello Trystan,

Unfortunately not! Following the above post, I subsequently wrote a second post about my experience after Smart Meter installation and my mission to get energy usage stats out of my smart meters:

http://www.smartofthehome.com/2013/09/british-gas-smart-meters-part-2/

It would seem that at (least for now) the new Smart Meters from British Gas are a bit of a closed system where only British Gas can access 'my' stats.

Access the the smart meters via Zigbee is blocked for "security reasons", all that is offered to the consumer is the In-home Display device (which to be honest is a 5 min wonder with no way of getting at the real data). There are promises of an iPhone app but even this will only get the stats from British Gas's servers (rather than directly from the meters in my house).

I don't know if the government should put more pressure on British Gas to allow consumers access to their own data.

Even though I have so called 'smart meters' I may have to revert back to older techniques (pulse counting, physically noting readings)  to monitor my Electricity and Gas usage (which defeats the point!).

Jim

Schism's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Jim,

Last night at the Open Source Awards I spoke to quite a few people who invariably assumed we were part of the Smart Meter Revolution TM ... I have to admit I used you as a case study contrasting the open and closed approaches to data!

jamesleesaunders's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Feel free to use me as a case in point! I think we need to put more pressure on British gas (and co) to open these so called smart meters up!

Hertog's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

In the Netherlands those smartmeters (electricity & gas)are going to be deployed nationwide (over a period of some 7 or 8 years I believe) starting next year. The gas meter in your pictures looks remarkably the same as the ones here. I opted in for an early placement. However, there seems to be one big difference between the UK and the NL and that is that 'our' smartmeters are mandatory equipped with a so called P1-port, which is customer readable. And quite easy so. It is fully documented , and I plan to rewrite my own hacked together perl-script to read it to something EmonCMS can handle.

 

Long URL to official documentation: ( http://www.netbeheernederland.nl/DecosDocument/Download/%3FfileName%3Da-... )

jamesleesaunders's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi Hertog,
It sounds like you are lucky in that in NL your smart meters have the manditory P1 port, unfortunately in the UK they have opted to remove this port :-( are your Gas meters also G470's or different model number?
Nevertheless, I would be very interested to see your perl script.
All the best,
Jim

jeremfg's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Interesting post... Nice to see the point of view from a commodity consumer!
I'm an engineer developing the smart metering system used at British gas. Indeed, there is a lot of security involved on the ZigBee network preventing you from reading the data... The ZigBee smart energy profile requires this because the data being exchanged is quite sensitive and private. You wouldn't want neighbors to tap on that data!

Only devices compliant with the standard could potentially have access to this, and they would need to be "added" to the network using a unique code on the Comma Hub sent down from a web service or something similar.
In other words, keep your fingers crossed for BG to one day provide a web portal allowing consumers to connect 3rd party appliances conforming to the ZigBee standard on the secured network you have at home!

Robert Wall's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

I can see the requirement for privacy, however given the generally increasing interest in monitoring and "empowering" the consumer, what do you think is the possibility of adding an inherently secure - probably implying short-range optical or inductive - interface that would enable the consumer to extract at least some of the data?

jtmoore's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

I am a BG electric and gas customer with the same smart meters listed in this article. Very similar installation experience, right down the many weeks of delay getting gas meter changed due to engineer being unable to register the gas meter at the same time as the electric on first attempt.

I too am disappointed that I can not access the raw data for my own purposes. I would like to combine the meter data with the individual appliance monitors (IAMs) that I have on various domestic appliances.  It looks like I will have to resort to a separate monitor attached to the meter to count pulses, or a less accurate current clamp. I don't know what my self monitoring options are for the gas meter -- I probably had more options with the old dumb meter.

I am also astounded that BG do not support the Feed In circuit capability. I have recently had solar PV installed (not with BG) but I have to *manually* provide BG a meter reading every quarter.  Despite the smart meter and the desktop display showing the feed in circuit option in the menu, it appears this will never be supported by BG. They claim this is because the Feed In Tariff (FIT) processing is a separate business unit from the domestic BG division. In fact my FIT payment will be received by cheque (how last century...?). 

Why did I bother getting a Smart Meter.....?

paul_tanner's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi all,

I have been testing a pre-production Zigbee SEP 1.1 gateway that purports to solve this problem, ie to give you access to your data.  If anyone has the Trilliant SEAP-2000-V Hub we might be able to include you in a trial.  If interested please respond here and I'll get in touch with you.

I agree with the point about shame no PV so I think we'll also need to do something about that.  For now we can continue to use OEM, OWL etc.  Later I think the aforementioned gateway may come out in a version that does PV too.

Final point.  The security around zigbee access is pretty tight so suppliers can still keep you out by pretending that they do not have the wherewith to permit the gateway to connect.  Some legal action may be needed if DECC does not intervene.

Best/ Paul

jun's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi there,

I'm really interested in the potential for OEM to connect to Smart Meters and was wondering if anyone on this thread had updates on the technical aspects, or succeeded in convincing their supplier to allow access to a third party gateway or new on the legal side?

Also since the smartofthehome website with the original post on this thread seems to be offline, here's the link to the second blog post on archive.org: https://web.archive.org/web/20131005030852/http://www.smartofthehome.com...

Cheers,

Jun

Gordont67's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi - I'm interested in the trial you mentioned. I have the standard BG Smart Meter setup as well as my PV meter. I share everyone's frustrations about sharing date as I also have Hive and BG's customer app which aren't connected to each other either!

 

Gordon

rogerhoward's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Paul; Yes I would also be very interested in your trial, for the same reasons.

Roger

niallel's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

I have exactly the same problem with the smart meter that ovo supplied for me.

I can understand the user experience of people pairing zigby devices to the meter might be a support pain as well as a security one, so I could see the companies not wanting to go down this path.

However all we really want is access to the data, and that doesn't have to come by zigby. The smart meters send it to the electric companies servers over a 3G connection. Once its there they could provide access to consumers via an online account (or API using the same details). They already do this for the bill, so why not the data that makes the bill up.

To me this would make it even easier for me to get hold of as I wouldn't need any other devices in the home to connect to the meter.

Maybe the focus should be on pressuring the companies to provide web access to the data?

Scrappy Steve's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi JLS,

Having this last week had British Gas perform the install of all four identical units as described I was concerned why BG couldn't register my own G370 Gas smartmeter with their HeadEnd so I did a quick Google and found your excellent article.  At least I know I am not the only person to eperience the Gas meter registration failure..  BG sent a second engineer to tried again, dongle into and out of his smartpad, deregistered, re-registered, tried a new Gas G370 meter he had with him but just the same problem so the put the origial item back in, then they tried again and again and then finally . . . . . . THEY LEFT :-(

I am curious JLS if you can tell me what they actually did do for you after four months to et the G370 to work with their HeadEnd ? What did they do different ?

I will let you know the outcome to my fiasco when the nightmare ends.

Great article.

Sunshine's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi All, I had the exact same system installed - Electric fitted August 2013, Gas December 2013. The electricity one works perfectly sending all my data onto the little monitor and submitting meter readings no problem. Unfortunately the gas one hasn't managed to connect and provide me with the information I wanted hence why I agreed to have them installed in the first place. I'm very interested in hearing how you got yours sorted! Maybe then I could tell British Gas how to fix their own equipment! 13months down the line does seem a bit crazy!!

simonn194's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

I had smart meters fitted yesterday and it actually went quite smoothly apart from the installer had a bit of a problem registering the gas meter. He got it sorted after about 20 minutes but it make you wonder if there is some sort of inherent problem with the G370's.

SianiAnni's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

I had gas and electricity 'smart' meters fitted by Lowri Beck on behalf of Ovo in January. The installation went smoothly, but I too am completely underwhelmed by the IHD. I can get electricity and gas usage in kwh for the previous day from it, but otherwise it's just bar charts.

It took several weeks for Ovo to sync up to the smart meters, and I now see that only one meter reading a month is logged against my account! 

It looks as if we all need to keep campaigning for access to our data, but I'm not holding my breath...

I've just emailed [email protected], the Data Communications Company to ask how soon I will also be able to get at my data:

The role of the DCC is to provide communication services between smart meters and the business systems of energy suppliers, network operators and other authorised service users.  To achieve this, the DCC will put in place the shared data and communications infrastructure necessary for smart meters to:

Operate consistently for all consumers regardless of their energy supplier

Provide smart metering data to network operators in support of smart grids

Permit authorised third parties to provide services to consumers once they have granted permission to use their data, offering new routes for consumers to receive energy services and advice on how to reduce their energy usage.

 

 

jamesleesaunders's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi Paul,

Apologies this is a bit late but are you still looking for trialists? Since writing the article above over a year ago I am still waiting patiently for British Gas to 'open their smart meters'.

I would be more than happy to do whatever homework is required for a trial and also willing to write a review article on my website http://www.smartofthehome.com/ about any of your products.

I would love to hear more about this gateway,

All the best,

Jim

jamesleesaunders's picture

Re: British Gas Smart Meters - Part 1

Hi Steve,

I am afraid I have no idea what the engineer did to get the Gas Meter working. 

However, sadly, a few months after I wrote the article above the pair of them stopped working again. Many months have now passed and BG have has to revert my meters back to standard meters (same physical meters just in 'dumb' mode) as they can't get the Trilliant hub working.

I have just posted a third instalment blog post about my further troubles here: http://www.smartofthehome.com/2015/03/british-gas-smart-meters-part-3/ 

British Gas seem to have given up!

Jim

 

 

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