Connectivity Week, Day 1 - Smart Meter Consumer Symposium

The Day 1 focus to this point at Connectivity Week has been smart meters. It's one of my favorite topics in this space, and I'll be moderating a panel about it later in the week. This day-long session is a consumer symposium exploring various facets around smart meters.

This symposium is really covering the gamut with speakers/experts from across the whole spectrum, including utilities and the press. It's a great way to explore a pretty touchy topic, especially here in California, where the biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric has come under a lot of fire for how they've handled their smart meter rollout.

Lots to explore here - issues of privacy, data security, consumer perceptions, health concerns, pricing issues, etc. Bottom line, consumers really don't understand what smart meters are and why they're being installed without much input from them. Can you blame them? Utilities are not customer-centric by nature, and there's a real disconnect between their motives for deploying smart grids, and why consumers should welcome them. The more you talk about this, the more issues come up, and it's quickly apparent that a lot of things need to go right for this to be a win-win.

In short, it's a trust issue. Consumers haven't had much reason to trust utilities, and so far, smart meter roll outs haven't done much to change that. On the other hand, when you have intelligent discussion happening - as we're having here - consumers definitely get it, and if you make them equal partners, the odds of success go way up. Privacy is definitely a bedrock issue, but it's confounding when you look at how readily people share private information when using social media. As such, there isn't a straight line path here - am sure it will be a lot of zigs and zags, but I think we will get there.

Enough for now - back to work...