Monday, April 8, 2013

Smart Meters: Now With More Data and Less FUD

Recently I read a news article about two mothers who were arrested on their property as a result of them blocking access to their utility meters in order to prevent the utility company from replacing their analogue utility meter with a digital "smart meter". The mothers are members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group (NSMA), and NSMA has a federal lawsuit pending against the City of Naperville regarding the installation of the smart meters in the city. NSMA is concerned that the smart meters will affect health, security and privacy.

NSMA also objects to the Naperville Department of Public Utilities referencing a document created by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) titled "Health Impacts of RadioFrequency from Smart Meters" as evidence that smart meters pose no threat to public health. They claim that the CCST document has numerous flaws and does not address whether the current FCC guidelines are sufficiently protective of health considering current levels of RF exposure (which includes ambient levels from other devices), and the cumulative effect over time. The NSMA group also cites nuclear physicist Daniel Hirsch's commentary on the CCST data as an indicator that the smart meter radiation levels could be 100 times more exposure than cell phones.

I began to do some research, starting with looking up the FCC ID of our smart meter [FCC ID: R7PER1R1S4]. The information I found states it is made by Landis+Gyr and is called the Focus-2. The data that I found on the L&G Focus-2 unit via the FCC testing data states the average RF output power is ~16dBm (which is equivalent to 40mW) when operating in the 902.1-927.9MHz frequencies. The L&G Focus-2 UtiliNet endpoint has an integrated loop antenna, located on the PCB surface layer on the reverse (non-component) side of the assembly. According to the FCC test report, the antenna has a typical gain of ~3dBi.
From the UtiliNet Endpoint User Guide:
UtiliNet is a comprehensive wireless data communications solution that utilizes spread-spectrum radios in the 902-928 MHz area of the radio spectrum to provide reliable network answers for remote telemetry or distributed control applications. UtiliNet radios combine three important technologies: a mesh architecture for peer-to-peer communications and true networking functionality, asynchronous spread spectrum frequency hopping for maximum use of bandwidth, and packet switching for guaranteed message transfer and automatic store-and-forward routing. 
The communication language/protocol used between the UtiliNet smart meters (mesh nodes) is the Device Control Word (DCW) language. Typical application information requests are radio configurations, radio queries, data collection, communication to end devices, protocol translation and peer-to-peer control.
I did my own research to verify the data for whole body SAR being used in these reports. Sometimes the SAR value was expressed in microwatts (μW/cm2), other times it was expressed in watts (W/cm2). Luckily there's a couple of handy websites that'll do the conversion for you. Microwatts to Watts and Watts to Microwatts.

The CCST report contains the following chart showing the values they've used to calculate the threat level of the smart meter radiation output:

The report by Daniel Hirsch commenting on the CCST report contains the following chart showing the numbers he's used to calculate the threat level of smart meter radiation output.

I have a few issues with the wording and the data used in Mr. Hirsch's report. These following two paragraphs precede the chart above in his report and the wording used strongly suggests his chart is not using definitive values.
It is strongly recommended that CCST revise its Draft Report and conduct actual measurements of cell phone, microwave oven, and SmartMeter RF cumulative whole body power densities. If measurements aren’t made, then rigorous calculations correcting for cell phone and microwave oven duty cycles and whole body exposures should be made. 
A summary figure below shows how rough estimates of the effect of those corrections suggest SmartMeters may produce cumulative whole body exposures far higher than that of cell phones or microwave ovens. 
His repeated use of qualifying words (summary, rough, suggest, may) gives the impression that he is not making a definitive conclusion with the data being displayed in the chart. The problem I have with this is that Mr. Hirsch's chart is being used as factual evidence to the risk of exposure to smart meters.

I took it upon myself to find neutral Internet sources documenting the radiation output for microwaves, the L&G Focus-2 smart meter (since this is the one installed outside my residence), the iPhone 5, Samsung GT-I9500 and the FCC limits for RF exposure. Below is the chart I've compiled presented on the left in microwatts and on the right in watts.

Here are the links to the sources I used for the data represented in my chart shown above:

iPhone 5 radiation testing 1.18W/cm2
Samsung GT-I9500 radiation testing 1.55W/cm2
L&G Focus-2 smart meter .000018W/cm2
Maximum microwave oven leakage data .0000005W/cm2
FCC limits for RF exposure (FCC 13-39 3/29/2013) .08W/cm- 1.6W/cm2

Mr. Hirsch also expressed concern that the duty cycle of the smart meters wasn't represented  accurately in the CCST report. His report assumes a 100% transmit duty cycle for the smart meter output (that is to say that the smart meter is transmitting/generating signal 100% of the time).

As I began to read about the L&G Focus-2 smart meter installed where I live, I realized I could use the Metageek WiSpy 900x to view the frequencies the smart meter operates (902-928 MHz). I made a few recordings indoors and outdoors in hopes of picking up the transmissions from the smart meter. I wanted to see if I could ascertain how often the smart meter was transmitting, and for how long. In this video clip, I start off with the outdoors recording. I was positioned at a distance of 6 inches from the plastic cover to the smart meter. There were intermittent bursts of RF energy detected, but there did not seem to be a predictable, repeatable pattern to the transmissions. The second half of the video is the recording that was taken indoors, approximately 10 feet from the wall where the smart meter is installed. The RF energy detected indoors was not as strong as the signals picked up when positioned closer to the smart meter.

The RF energy bursts detected by the Metageek Wi-Spy 900x were very brief and did not use up a large portion of the available spectrum. Duty cycle utilization was minimal, given the short transmission windows. It is clear that the L&G Focus-2 is continually powered on with electricity, but that the smart meter is not transmitting continuously, nor is it utilizing a 100% duty cycle.

The videos page of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness website features an Infowars segment where one of the ladies who was arrested for attempting to prevent the installation of the smart meter on her home is interviewed.

There are a lot of statements made in this video that I take issue with, but I'll keep this post focused on smart meters. This Infowars video segment references this article from Watchdog News Daily titled "Health Hazards Linked To Utility Meters". Personally, I'm dubious of any news site with pop-under advertisements, but I'll let it slide this time for sake of research. 
Joe Esposito from Owasso, Okla., had a smart meter installed on his home in 2011 as part of a pilot program developed by the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Even though he asked that a meter not be installed on his home, Esposito found one mounted on the side of his house when he came home from work. 
It was then his health problems started. Esposito started experiencing dental problems, from aching teeth to a constant tingling sensation. He also started to experience aches in his leg which only got worse at night. 
After watching a video titled “Smart Meters & EMR: The Health Crisis of Our Time” by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, Esposito followed the advice in the video and installed some lead sheeting around the meter on the outside of his house. The results were dramatic. He had the first good night’s sleep in months and the pain in his leg was gone. Additional protection inside the home added later gave relief from many of his other symptoms. As an experiment, he would sometimes sleep without the protection and his pains would return.
This article features a correlation/causation between smart meters and health effects which references a video by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, but there is no link to the video in the article. I found a link to the video on under the title "Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt – Smart Meters & EMR: The Health Crisis Of Our Time"

Dr. Klinghard makes the case that the increase in chronic medical conditions is related to the increasing electromagnetic radiation exposure (at the 6 minute mark in the video), he then takes his correlation to using the estimated number of wireless subscribers and comparing those numbers to the rise in Autism statistics. Correlation does not indicate causation, and I caution everyone to dig a little deeper when absolute statements are made with little regard for documenting information sources. It would appear that Dr. Klinghard has a vested interest in finding EMF exposure as the cause for multiple health symptoms as his personal website sells products that claim to reduce your exposure to EMF radiation.

Alice / 
At this point I'm stopping my research into the FUD that is out there about smart meters. I could go down this rabbit hole for untold iterations and still get back to the same conclusion I made several paragraphs ago.

The data I gathered clearly indicates that the RF output of smart meters (at least the L&G Focus-2 meter) is well below the FCC limitations and does not use 100% of the duty cycle when the smart meter is transmitting. I saw nothing in the spectrum analysis capture I performed that caused me to be concerned about the RF energy being transmitted by the smart meter installed at my residence. If you're wondering what your smart meter is or isn't doing, you can see it for yourself with a Metageek Wi-Spy 900x.

P.S.     I wish that Dr. Klinghard would say how much data I could store on his Computer Harmonizer K. Dwell Stick. For just a few dollars more, I can get a Kingston 128GB USB 3.0 Data Traveler on Amazon. The Kingston might even work as a noise filter or a protective pendant, but I'm sure of one thing it'll do - store a lot of data.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This was a really nice write-up. Thumbs up to the use of the MetaGeek dongle. I've been arguing against smart meter FUD recently, and it seems the fear mongers could take notes from you and try applying some honest scientific method to their process like you did.

  3. Jennifer,

    I have some concerns about RF exposure in general and welcome more scholarly research into the subject. But, overall I am with you on the FUD!

    That said, I have much higher exposure to RF than the average person ever will. I worked on the Hawk missile system radars in the U.S. Army. We had five very powerful radars on site. I spent eight years in the army.

    After the Army, I have worked on public safety radio for well over 34 years.

    I have health problems, none of which can be traced to RF. My dad, mother, or grandparents suffered from the same things.

    Sun and extreme cold exposure have had much more of a direct impact on me than RF.

    In 47 yrs as an electronics technician, there are very few times I have suspected RF as a cause of anyones health problems. And, the RF equipment was not being used correctly in those cases.

    Just a bit more support.

    Jerry Hubbard