Multimedia Content Identification Through Smart Meter Power Usage Profiles

Ulrich Greveler, Dennis Löhr, Benjamin Justus


Advanced metering devices (smart meters) are being installed throughout electric networks in Germany (as well as in other parts of Europe and in the United States). Unfortunately, smart meters are able to become surveillance devices that monitor the behavior of the customers. This leads to unprecedented invasions of consumer privacy. The high-resolution energy consumption data which are transmitted to the utility company allow intrusive identification and monitoring of equipment within consumers' homes (e. g., TV set, refrigerator, toaster, and oven). Our research shows that the analysis of the household's electricity usage profile at a 0.5s² sample rate does reveal what channel the TV set in the household was displaying. It is also possible to identify (copyright-protected) audiovisual content in the power profile that is displayed on a CRT, a Plasma display TV or a LCD television set with dynamic backlighting. Our test results indicate that a 5 minutes-chunk of consecutive viewing without major interference by other appliances is sufficient to identify the content.

Our investigation also reveals that the data transmitted via the Internet by the smart meter are unsigned and unencrypted.

Our tests were performed on a sealed, operational smart meter used for electricity metering in a private home in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Parameters for other television sets were obtained with an identical smart meter deployed in a university lab.


Tags: Audiovisual Content, Data Privacy, Smart Grid, Smart Meter