Privacy vs. NILM: Obfuscating your Power Consumption with Load Hiding

With the development and introduction of smart metering, the energy information from costumers changes from infrequent manual meter readings to fine-grained energy consumption data. On the one hand, these measurements will lead to an improvement in costumers’ energy habits, but on the other hand, the fine-grained data produces information about a household and households’ inhabitants, which give rise to privacy issues because these monitoring results disclose user behavior which could be extracted by smart algorithms and techniques. The loss of privacy by load disaggregation and data mining is a huge upcoming smart grid and social issue which enforces the need for privacy-preserving techniques, which can be divided into the following three possibilities:

  1. Anonymization of metering data: The metering data and customer identity are separated by a third-party id
  2. Privacy-preserving metering data aggregation: Metering data is geographically encapsulated by aggregating the metering data of co-located consumers 
  3. Masking and obfuscation of metering data: Masking the power demand by adding or withdrawing the to the meter visible energy demand with the help of rechargeable batteries or controllable loads.
Load-based load hiding approach

In the paper

D. Egarter, C. Prokop, and W. Elmenreich. Load hiding of household’s power demand. In Proc. IEEE International Conference on Smart Grid Communications (SmartGridComm’14), Venice, Italy, 2014.

a state-of-the-art battery-based load hiding (BLH) technique, which uses a controllable battery to disguise the power consumption and a novel load hiding technique called load-based load hiding (LLH) are presented and compared. A load-based load hiding system controls appliances in a specific way to obfuscate a household’s power demand. For example, an electric water boiler could be instrumented to consume energy in a way that masks the power consumption of smaller household devices like coffee machines or a TV. There is no comfort loss expected for the customer: Overall, the boiler will consume a typical amount of energy and produce the expected amount of hot water.
Using this approach, however, reduces the predictability of your energy consumption, which is good for privacy, but a disadvantage for grid operators.