Innovation in smart tech's security

temp_banners_tech (1).png

This piece is all about Phil Steele, an Octopus Energy boffin and all-round tech-spert, who's spent years working on some of the most exciting electrical home tech available.

You may have heard of the Octopus Home Mini or Octopus Fan Club…well that was Phil and his brill team of tech wizards. He also occasionally graces our TV screens to discuss the next exciting smart energy gadget, be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Phil tells us all about how he's now secured special funding from the government to put their new ultra-secure smart meter network to the test using Octopus smart products.

The government want to explore the technical feasibility of controlling smart devices through the Data Communication Centre’s Smart Meter System (DCC SMS), rather than always relying on everyone's (often ropey) home broadband, in hopes of making our energy system smarter and better. We’re one of five companies chosen to test this new system out.

Now, you may be thinking…controlling what, through the what, with the what?!

Simply put, the DCC SMS is a super secure alternative communications network and cloud service offering exceptionally high levels of security, availability and reliability - so much more so than the more traditional home wifi networks or private company’s cloud networks. We currently only use it to send us smart meter data.

Following so far?

In order to control these smart devices through the DCC SMS, each device in question must jump through a number of pre-set, tricky hoops in hopes of achieving Commercial Product Assurance (CPA). Now, I’m not going to give you a brain ache with the nitty gritty detail but the highlight reel is that it’s a group of rigorous engineering principles and practices that ensures companies can demonstrate the extreme security functions of their products.

Why bother?

Keeping the energy grid secure is critical.

If it was ever seriously compromised, parts of it could be switched off entirely, causing an imbalance of supply and demand - which can have catastrophic consequences.

For example, in 2019 a lightning bolt zapped a transmission line, causing a gas generator and offshore wind farm to disconnect completely from the grid. This caused a huge blackout, impacting over 1 million people and multiple train lines. So if we’re able to explore prevention methods to stop this from ever happening, of course we’re going to.

When Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers and other high consumption appliances become the norm, they will have a huge collective impact on the grid.

For example, if everyone suddenly plugged in their EV at the same time the huge demand on local parts of the grid could affect the frequency and voltage causing all sorts of knock-on effects.

We’re a tech-first, customer-first energy supplier, data and digital security is paramount. I’m sure you’re all very aware of companies who’ve had large data breaches, so I’m not going to name and shame so we’re being proactive in doing everything in our power to be as secure as possible.

Our super smart agile tariffs have been used for more than 4 years to manage home devices without any security incidents and now, having the opportunity to truly innovate and lead the research into an alternative security solution that could have the potential to revolutionise smart energy devices, is mind-blowing - and it’s just a minute sneak-peak into the fascinating world of our tech research guru’s, here at Octopus.

What’re we hoping to achieve?

We're honoured to be one of the very first companies testing this new network on smart devices.

We’re looking to prove our Octopus tech can communicate relevant energy data and receive control signals over the DCC SMS network securely and efficiently.

By proving our tech works great with this highly secure network, future customers can get the benefits of smart energy with even more security and privacy assurance.

BEIS have selected a set of five projects to complete Phase 1 and we’re hoping to progress to Phase 2 from April 2023. If we’re successful, we’ll develop the whole solution and complete the trial over 22 months.

Be sure to watch this space as we’ll be seeking trial participants mid-2023 if we’re successful. Read in more detail here.

Published on 23rd February 2023 by:

image of Phil Steele

Phil Steele

Future Technologies Evangelist

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!