Artificial Intelligence Techniques and the Smart Grid: Towards Smart Meter Convenience While Maintaining Privacy

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademic


Smart meters are physically within the private sphere of the home. These meters are smart in that consumers can moderate their energy consumption based on generated electricity information. This information can be very detailed, both in terms of time intervals and the number of measuring points. As a consequence, the meter information can reveal presence, sleeping habits, use of particular devices, etc. This information also can leave the home, even without consumers noticing, because smart meters have the option to be read at a distance by, e.g., the energy provider.

The possible options of the smart meter begs the question how technology should be developed to respect the privacy of the home. The European Union is strongly pushing the introduction of smart meters and the smart grid. Smart meters should within the next five years replace most existing electricity monitoring systems. Smart meters might become more than a metering system, and turn into a crucial building block of future Internet: The Internet of Things.

This article sticks to the private sphere of the home. The home is playing an important role in the future Internet of Things, at least this is how the European Union envisions it. Conventional energy meters are replaced by smart meters, and smart meters are part of the smart grid. In the 2009 EU Action plan for the Internet of Things smart meters are mentioned as one of the "early bird" components of the Internet of Things.

These smart meters process granular information that can be related to a person, hence be privacy sensitive. Ramchurn et al. characterize the future electricity grid, usually referred to a as the smart grid, as a system "where the bidirectional flow of both electricity and information allows demand to be actively managed in real time, such that electricity can be generated at scale from intermittent renewable sources."

This makes it possible to communicate with objects, even without human intervention. When systems start acting autonomously, the concept of intelligent agents directly springs to mind. It seems that what merely was theoretical work on agent technology in the 1990s and early 2000s, is now becoming part of our lives. Real time information processing asks for further study, from a privacy perspective. This article does not, however, offer a privacy impact assessment for the future smart grid. The aim, based on what has been proposed in the literature so far, is to discuss AI techniques for billing, consumption, prediction, and negotiation in the smart grid.

The aim of this article is to integrate privacy into the smart grid by applying Artificial Intelligence techniques, neural networks, and agent technology. The focus is on the concept privacy, but data protection also is discussed. The latter often is seen as a means to guarantee privacy, which it can accomplish. However, a necessary condition for data protection is that data are available. From a privacy perspective the question can be whether the data should be created or made available in the first place.

The smart grid resembles in many aspects the Internet, and might even lead to a genuine global energy market. At this moment it is not clear in what direction the smart grid is going to develop. That the smart grid will become a central part of our society seems inevitable. We believe the smart grid can be developed technically sound, while respecting privacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-27
JournalJournal of Internet Law
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Artificial Intelligence Techniques and the Smart Grid: Towards Smart Meter Convenience While Maintaining Privacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this