Advanced metering at the tipping point: A market overview


Conference: Smart Metering West Coast 2006
Location: San Fransisco
Presenter: Matt Lecar
Abstract: Presented by Matt Lecar at Smart Metering West Coast 2006.


Advanced metering markets reached a tipping point in 2005, with prices of two-way solutions coming down and functionality improving rapidly.  New utility deployments are yielding tangible proof of the business case for enhanced features and applications.  California and Ontario have charged ahead with broad public policy driven initiatives.  Meanwhile, the vendor landscape has clarified significantly after several years of turmoil and ownership changes.  With hardware and communications standards expected to firm up over the next few years, advanced metering is poised for a breakthrough into the mainstream. 

The speaker will present highlights of a recent comprehensive opportunity map of the advanced metering marketplace, detailing the most important emerging technology trends and spotlighting the vendors that are likely to emerge as winners and losers as the competition heats up.


Meter hardware is going through a three part transition. 
• Electromechanical to digital
• Modular to integrated
• Custom-tailored to commodity

At the same time, communications systems are evolving from:
• Mobile to fixed wireless
• One-way to two-way

Due to differences in terrain, customer density and budgets, there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach before the end of the decade. Makers of meters and AMR modules will need to build in multiple communications ports to allow for flexibility.  We believe that the Zigbee mesh networking standard will emerge as a wireless leader.


There are 8 Top Tier vendors with established sales (CellNet, DCSI, Elster, General Electric, Hunt, Itron, Landis + Gyr, and Sensus), each offering a combination of Meters, AMR, and Meter Data Management.  Below this level are several dozen mid-sized companies, specializing in a particular business model or technology niche, only one or two of which will ultimately be successful breaking out of the pack.  Our bet is on SmartSynch.  Finally, among emerging companies with strong IP positions, are upstarts such as Carina, Silver Spring, Tantalus, Trilliant and Wellspring.  We expect to see one or two IPOs from this bunch, as well as strategic acquisitions by the likes of GE, Itron, and DCSI, and perhaps electrical equipment manufacturers ABB, Siemens, or Areva T&D.