Electric meters have experienced a period of rapid evolution in recent years as one-way and two-way network connectivity have become increasingly common. Even within the smart meter category, also known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), technological capabilities continue to expand.

According to a recent report from Pike Research, one key hallmark of this evolution lies in the growing penetration of home-area networking (HAN) connectivity in smart meters. The cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that HAN capabilities will be included in 49% of all smart meters shipped worldwide by 2013, and the North American HAN-enabled meter penetration rate will be even higher at 81% by the same year.

“HAN connectivity is a key enabler of a whole host of new consumer smart grid applications,” said senior analyst Bob Gohn. “Over the next few years, the technology will be in place for widespread adoption of smart thermostats, energy information displays, smart appliances, and other key tools for home energy management.”

Gohn adds that, while ZigBee is expected to lead the HAN technology race with approximately 87% market share, other radio frequency (RF) and power line communications (PLC) technologies will also have a role, particularly in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Pike Research segments the smart meter market into two primary categories: Basic meters, which transmit energy usage data over two-way communications networks, and Advanced meters, which include basic functionality in addition to remote disconnect and HAN capabilities. The firm forecasts that, while Advanced meters with HAN connectivity will become increasingly common, 51% of all worldwide smart meters will still be Basic AMI meters without this functionality for the foreseeable future.

Pike Research’s report, Smart Meters, examines global and regional Smart Meter trends, explores neighborhood-area and home-area communications technologies and standards, defines “Basic” versus “Advanced” meter capabilities, and provides detailed market forecasts by technology and world region. Key vendors, standards, and deployments are profiled, offering a comprehensive window into the dynamic market for smart metering.