11 Dec 2008
Remotely Controlled Thermostats

Speaking of cold weather, here’s an interesting idea: let the government control your home’s thermostat.

Next year in California, state regulators are likely to have the emergency power to control individual thermostats, sending temperatures up or down through a radio-controlled device that will be required in new or substantially modified houses and buildings to manage electricity shortages. Felicity Barringer, California Seeks Thermostat Control, The New York Times

Note that “required”. Personally, I think this is a bad idea for several reasons, general principles not least among them. My first thought is that it would be trivially easy to defeat — so will “tampering” with your home environment now become a criminal offense?

There’s also the possibility of someone hacking into the control system — say, bringing down the power grid by setting everyone’s thermostat to 90 in winter, or 60 in the summer. According to the article: ‘That is not possible, said Nicole Tam, a spokeswoman for P.G.& E. who works with the pilot program in Stockton. Radio pages “are encrypted and encoded,” Ms. Tam said.’

Hmm. Encrypted and encoded. Wow. Some of the security aspects are discussed at Schneier on Security: Remote-Controlled Thermostats.

Category: Life-Society, Sci-Tech
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