Industry News

Big Brother to Turn off UK Smart Appliances

The UK’s National Grid is looking into implementing sensor chips in new white goods such as freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and air-conditioners and electric ovens, to shut them down “Big brother-style” to balance spikes in the national energy demand.

UK home appliances could be remotely switched off if British power generators can’t meet electricity demand. The intervention wouldn’t need the owners’ approval, as reported by RT.

 “One of the proposed requirements is for a limited number of [future] temperature controlled devices such as fridges and freezers to have the capability to assist the real time balancing of electricity supply and demand by automatically switching off devices for  short durations.” a spokesman for National Grid said. “This will have no material impact on the operation of fridges and freezers switching will be for a few seconds and only occasionally.”

The National Grid, a UK private company, supplies power to British homes at 240V and a frequency of 50 hertz (HZ). The sensors would help reduce the risk of frequency fluctuations and balance the power supply by switching off appliances in homes when they sense drops to 47 HZ or less, risking blackouts.

Apparently the initiative has already received the blessing of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), a European Union energy regulator that favors controlling traditional power stations over green wind farms.

The cost of all new home appliances should include an extra £40 per unit. The National Grid is supposed to compensate industrial business in case shut downs impact their production, but there is no indication that consumers will be paid for the inconvenience of having their devices switched off without warning.

Controversy rose around the idea that energy plants would win a great deal from the measure by sparing their back-up generators. Plus the UK’s Big Brother civil liberties group sees this initiative as intrusive, giving household device owners no chance to opt in or out.

About the author


A blend of teacher and technical journalist with a pinch of e-threat analysis, Loredana Botezatu writes mostly about malware and spam. She believes that most errors happen between the keyboard and the chair. Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years and has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.