Report forecasts almost 1 billion smart meters by 2020

Updated prediction almost doubles shipments anticipated over next fours; China is huge factor.

Well, here is one trend that seems to be immune from basic worldwide economic woes. Pike Research is calling for a surge in smart meter deployments over the next nine years to approximately 963 million by 2020.

What's more, all that growth isn't just in the long term. The report (which has the scintillating title "Smart Meter Market Forecasts") essentially doubles its previous predictions for the next four years. By 2015, for example, Pike Research believes there will be about 535 million units in place, compared with its more recent estimate of 251 million units.

It isn't the United States, though, that will drive this growth. The biggest factor that has come into play are all the smart meter deployments across the Asia Pacific region, particularly in China. The North America market will probably peak in terms of annual growth by 2012, Pike Rearch figures.

Said Pike Research Director Bob Gohn in the press release for the report:

"The industry has made significant headway during the past two years, and the growing installed base of smart meters will be an important precursor of more diverse energy management solutions in the years to come."

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