By Tracey-Lee Zurcher

Smart grid, intelligent network, AMI – whichever catch phrase you would like to adopt, the swiftly advancing technology for utility metering and communication presents a digital cocktail of opportunity, flavoured with a dash of excitement and a squeeze of trepidation. Opportunity, you say? Or simply a twilight zone resonating with murmurings of what is to happen, an airport transit lounge at 03:00 where everyone waits but the Boeing never seems to arrive.

The truth is, some things are happening but many more things will be happening in the near future for the dream of the smart grid to become a reality. So how can smart metering solution providers ensure that their products stay ahead of the crowd by being a valuable component of the smart grid when so many changes are happening and when the cutting edge of technology is being sharpened every day?

Governments across the globe are mandating the use of smart meters and two-way communication for a number of reasons. Whether it is following the “green” brick road so that generations to come may have the good fortune of living in a carbon-reduced environment or simply to eliminate the need to build more power stations, an effective communication system to understand how, when and where energy is used is becoming a necessity.

The rollout of millions of meters is imminent but one contentious issue stands in the way of this happening smoothly – standards. The utility metering arena has become something of a battlefield around standardising communication protocols and the possibility of another VHS/Betamax war looms. While the argument about meter standards is perhaps not as controversial as the issue of adult entertainment, they certainly are hotly debated. When the industry is standing on the threshold of momentous change and development, conformity to an industry standard becomes a necessity and those who are not in it, may not win it.

With utilities having to respond to these government and regulatory requirements in the stipulated time frame, the proverbial race is certainly on for meter manufacturers and smart grid solutions providers to create the most functional, longest lasting metering solutions at the lowest cost to themselves and the utilities.

With technology developing at such an astounding rate, how can smart metering and smart grid solutions providers ensure that their products will be able to connect the plethora of communication technology options – now and those to come? How can they be certain that their smart meter design will not become obsolete once new meters with racier designs, heightened functionality and lower price tags hit the shelves? What is necessary for the meter to incorporate to work as an efficient constituent of a home area network for effective demand response management? With everyone trying to get in on the action, what is the secret to making your meter and systems stand way ahead of the rest?

If you’re thinking, “That’s exactly what I was thinking!,” it is because months of research performed at Metering International’s HQ have led us to believe that the main challenges facing meter and communications systems designers are: how to respond to government regulations, communications means, standards and protocols – and how to integrate the technology into the meters in the home area network and from consumer to utility, building security into the core of your system and, of course, how to keep costs down when designing the best metering system possible.

For these reasons, Metering International looks forward to hosting the 3rd annual World Meter Design Congress in 2010. It is here that the crème de la crème of international metering professionals will unpack and resolve these issues and unite in paving the way forward together through thought leadership and active contribution. It is here that we would like to welcome you to participate as one of the pioneers of next generation metering technology.

For more information about this exciting opportunity, visit www.metering.com/wmdc and register at discounted rates by using the code WMDM1.