How much data do we give away?

Before we installed the Loxone kit in the house our power monitoring was done by the Scottish Power Unifi, it wasn’t a product without its faults, and had me swearing many times at it when first installed. It consisted of 3 devices, a battery powered clamp/transmitter, a network bridge and desktop display all connecting over its proprietary wireless system. The devices would constantly lose connection to each other, the whole kit was sent backward and forward to Scottish Power several times, then all of a sudden it just started working, I have no idea why.

Admittedly i couldn’t really complain as it came as part of our utility bundle, so in effect was free, and for the first time i could call up a historic graph of when we used excessive amounts of power, and when we were being most efficient.

I have to admit it saved us a lot of money, reducing our bills down from around the £160 a month to closer to £110, unfortunately i became a socket ogre, unplugging devices as soon as either of us had finished using them, my wife was an angel to put up with me over that time.

One of the first IOT (Internet Of Things) products i bought into was the British Gas Hive, I was excited but the ability to turn on your heating from a phone, but more excited with the ability to call up the heating and hot water schedule from a web browser, to be able to view a whole week’s worth of timings.

I have to admit its one of the slickest little setups i’ve seen yet, and the price was just right at £200 installed.

As soon as the Loxone project was started one of the key functions i wanted installed were power monitors, currently we have hard wired monitors at the fusebox, so monitoring everything used by the house, and another monitor watching most of the core IT functions in the house (server, network equipment, and everything in the office). I can download the statistics from the mini server and process the data myself, or get a more general overview from the loxone app, the choice is mine.

Now to the point of this post, i keep hearing the phrase “if the product is free, then you are the product” what does this mean?

Well, no-one does anything for free, and clearly there is a lot of information being generated, that data has to be stored and storage isn’t free. I’m not into the whole big brother is watching thing (though “they” probably are), but the data both of these devices create doesn’t go to any of my machines, someone else is storing that, and probably analysing it. What use will they put to it? one would hope it would help the energy companies to plan for when demand is greatest (the old kettle being used during Coronation Street advert breaks for instance), and configure their infra-structure to accommodate this.

I don’t really know where i am going with this, but we’re all giving out data every day, our location via our mobile phones, which are constantly tracking our locations, our social lives on Facebook, our interests on say twitter, imagine being able to combine all these data sources, what amazing new products could someone sell us? Money drives us all, we already hear how the DVLA sells our data to external companies, we see customised adverts on our Facebook streams. Data is power.

I’m starting to feel a little conscious of the amount of data I generate at the moment, so am cutting back on my Facebook postings, and gradually moving functions to the mini-server, now I and I alone have access to my power consumption, and soon when we move the heating over, i’ll be the only one knowing when my house is being heated. Its a start is all i can say!