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Smart Meters

Smart meters are typically electricity and gas meters that record energy consumption data, which is communicated remotely to the energy supplier. There is normally a display to show current and historical energy usage and cost; this display is usually connected to the sensors by a wireless link. Products vary in their level of functionality, but it is common to have a graphical representation of historical usage on the display.

The position of the display is up to the user but often it is self-standing (eg on a shelf) or wall-mounted (eg in the kitchen). The positioning of the display will determine the effect of ambient illumination on the visual contrast on the display. If the display is battery powered there will be implications for people with disabilities. Firstly the user should be able to change the batteries without having to ask someone else to do it for them. Secondly the desire to have a long battery life means that the visual contrast on the display may be restricted.

The user should be able to set up the display options, and change batteries if necessary, unaided. This means that they must be understand what they have to do, and the selection of options must be straightforward. For instance it would be useful to have an option for red/green colour blindness which automatically mapped the colours on the display to ones appropriate for their condition.

For users who want speech output, it is essential to provide an option just to display the basic information (eg current consumption of electricity and gas) since they may find more information confusing.

The instruction books should be written in simple terms in clear print, and bound such that the pages are flat (this makes it much easier for someone using a magnifier to read the text). Ideally the instructions should be available in alternative formats.

If there are physical buttons on the terminal, they should be fully accessible. Frequently used controls should normally be on the front surface of the terminal. If the user inadvertently presses the wrong button, there should be an easy way to correct their mistake.

If the terminal relies on a touchscreen display, the sensitive areas should be well spaced to allow for a user with a hand tremor.

The information displayed should be in an easily understood format; this is particularly important for older users living alone. There must be complete consistency in layout and format for all the various pages which can be displayed. Any icons must be simple and clear, and should be accompanied by concise text. The fonts used on the display should be chosen for their clarity.

Audio output should be offered as an option. The clarity of the speech is essential and the position of the loudspeaker will be a significant factor.

A facility for audio input would be desirable for some users, but there will be cost implications.

Checklist for smart meters

Further information



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