RNIB have partnered to help bring smart meters to blind and partially sighted people

Post date: 
Monday, 21 November 2016
smart meter

In Connect magazine this month, we talked about how to choose a thermostat that helps you to stay in control of your energy when the weather starts getting cold.

As well as thermostats with tactile inputs and high contrast designs, there’s also soon to be the option to install a smart meter, something which the government aims to have present in 53 million homes by 2020. Because of the benefits, RNIB have partnered with Energy UK (the trade association for the UK energy industry) and geo (a developer of smarter energy products and services for consumers) to make sure that it’s optimised for blind and partially sighted people to use. 

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are often described as the next generation of meters because they work in a cleverer and more intuitive way than today's standard gas and electricity meters. It's a bit like the difference between an ordinary phone and a smart phone. The government have tasked energy companies with rolling out smart meters to all homes they provide energy to. The smart meters will then be able to feedback all sorts of useful information, such as your energy consumption, what money you’ve spent, and how that compares to your budget, if you choose to set this function. It also sends energy usage data to your chosen energy company, meaning an end to those pesky estimated bills that can incur so much extra cost in the long run. 

What does a smart meter cost? 

Installing a smart meter won’t have an upfront cost, but any software required to deliver data direct to your smart phone might require a small fee. It's also not clear at this stage the exact cost for the In-Home display, as it may be that this varies dependent on your service provider. Theoretically, the savings you will make through using the smart meter to monitor your bill should cover this, although any savings made do rely on you using less energy. 
For a blind or partially sighted person who may have difficulty adjusting their thermostat, providing accurate energy usage data or reading bills that are sent in inaccessible formats, a smart meter sounds like a great way to ensure you aren’t spending over the odds. 

How secure is a smart meter?

In the age of digital hackings and large-scale corporate breaches, it's normal and recommended to be wary of having your personal data stored in yet more places, especially if your sight condition leaves you more vulnerable to exploitation. The beauty of the smart meter is that is runs on a closed circuit, so it doesn't require the internet to operate or feedback data. This drastically reduces the risk to your personal information. 

But how accessible are smart meters for blind and partially sighted people? 

At the moment, smart meters are installed with something called In-Home Display, which you need sight to use. RNIB, geo and Energy UK have recognised that an alternative needs to be developed, and are working together to bring the advantages of smart meter technology to the homes of blind or partially sighted people. 
Patrick Caiger-Smith, CEO at geo, said:

“Currently the In-Home Displays that are installed with smart meters are not accessible to blind and partially sighted people, so we have been working with RNIB to develop a display designed with inclusion in mind. It will allow sighted, partially sighted and blind individuals to interact with the device, accessing and understanding their energy usage in real time without the need to rely on the visual display.” 

So although smart meters are currently not an ideal solution, rest assured RNIB are working hard to ensure that you have better control over your energy bills and can stay warm throughout the winter.
John Worsfold, RNIB Implementation Manager, said:

“With the government drive for smart meters to be in 53 million homes by 2020, it is necessary that blind and partially sighted customers are given equal access to the opportunity to monitor energy usage and potentially save energy and money.”

Still not sure about smart meters? u Switch has a great article about them, which goes into great detail about how exactly they work and can save you money. And you can find some really in-depth information about what a smart meter is on the Smart Energy website
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