“Smart” metering – the remote management of utility meters by means of two-way communication with the utility – is on the cusp of some fairly significant growth, according to a new study from ABI Research. Although world markets for electric, water and gas meters are increasing at a compound annual growth rate of only 2%, the smart metering subset – also called AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) or AMM (Advanced Meter Management) – is expected to show a much healthier 24% CAGR through 2013. By that year, 28% of electric meters are expected to be “smart.”

North America has seen the evolution of a reasonably large and heterogeneous market for smart metering. However, Europe – which prior to 2000 had seen few smart metering projects – is currently far ahead of North America in the total number of smart meter deployments. The recent traction enjoyed by AMI in Europe stems largely from a 5-year deployment carried out by the Italian electric utility ENEL, which has become the model emulated by other utilities in the region. Europe presents a more homogenous deployment environment, backed by regulatory initiatives both by the EU and at national levels.

“The original intent of an earlier generation of advanced metering technology, called AMR (Advanced Meter Reading), was to save on the cost of manual meter reading,” says senior analyst Sam Lucero. “Today’s AMI, however, is increasingly seen as an effective way to increase the efficiency of energy use and reduce a region’s carbon footprint.”

In North America and Europe a handful of meter vendors command the lion’s share of the market. Many smaller firms, however, develop the communications technologies needed to enable smart metering. ABI Research notes a recent trend for the few large meter vendors to buy up these smaller supporting technology firms, aiming to offer their customers – the utility companies – end-to-end solutions.