Last decade, the industry for metering electricity, natural gas and water was seen to have reached a point of stagnation, offering limited growth and little innovation. Today, what was widely considered a dormant industry has transformed into one of the world's most dynamic. With much of this momentum coming from the utilities industry itself, what we are now seeing is an immense global push towards the large-scale deployment of smart grids and meters to reduce operating expenses and improve service levels for customers.

Conventional utility service meters use electro-mechanical, or electronic, counters to measure consumption. These old school meters were designed to record only the most basic consumption information on a quarterly basis – charging the same amount regardless of the time of usage. Smart meters, on the other hand, automatically record and relay usage data at regular intervals to precisely measure energy and water use.

Because electricity cannot be stored, its cost fluctuates from minute-to-minute in line with demand. As energy costs continue to rise, utilities will seek to extend the complex pricing schemes currently incurred by large industry users onto the rest of us, exposing all users to higher prices in periods of heightened demand. The timely usage information provided by smart meters will help users offset this cost by shifting consumption to off peak times of the day.

The benefits don't end there. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and a central system to: reduce manual meter reading costs, enable remote connection and disconnection services to customer premises, manage outages with fault and failure alerts, provide consumption information, enable remote system repairs and maintenance and reduce the cost of load research. So it comes as no real surprise that smart grids and meters now comprise almost a quarter of the entire Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market, and that growth is set to continue.

Governments are the key driver for M2M connectivity in the utilities sector with many setting aggressive smart metering deployment targets, particularly in the EU where 80% of meters are set to become smart meters by 2020. The global need to reduce consumption and emissions is also pushing other countries to foster smart meter adoption through stimulus packages and the mandating of rollouts.

Over the next decade, smart grids, smart meters and the wireless technology used to create the critical connection will completely revolutionise the way the world manages energy. NetComm Wireless was selected to design, develop and manufacture Grid Net-enabled 3G wireless communications cards for the global smart grid market to ensure it plays a key role in the communications component of smart metre deployments both in Australia and throughout the world.

"This partnership with NetComm Wireless, truly the best-in-class developer of wireless data communication products, accelerates our ability to deliver innovative smart grid solutions worldwide. We are thrilled to have NetComm Wireless on our side,” said John W. Combs, CEO and Chairman of Grid Net.