The world's smart grid leader is ... Toshiba?

One of the smart grid technology players that you may have heard less about is smart meter maker Landis+Gyr. Which is surprising, because this is a big smart meter company -- with more than 8,000 utility customers -- and is apparently the North American leader in smart meter shipments (according to IDC Energy Insights).

One of the smart grid technology players that you may have heard less about is smart meter maker Landis+Gyr. Which is surprising, because this is a big smart meter company -- with more than 8,000 utility customers -- and is apparently the North American leader in smart meter shipments (according to IDC Energy Insights).

That's about to change: High-tech giant Toshiba has proposed plunking down roughly $2.3 billion in cash to buy Landis+Gyr in a bid to build "the world's smart grid leader." The Landis+Gyr brand (which has been around for more than 100 years) actually will remain. Only now, its smart grid message is much deeper, reaching back into the energy systems and infrastructure technologies that are at the heart of Toshiba's "Smart Community" strategy. What we're talking about is an integrated smart building and smart grid strategy, one that will put Toshiba in position to become a major end-to-end smart grid technology infrastructure supplier.

In a statement, Toshiba Corporate Executive Vice President Hideo Kitamura said:

"Our intent is to become a global leader in the Smart Community business by 2020. Together with Landis+Gyr, we will accelerate the development of our combined product and service portfolio to empower utilities and their end customers and to provide sophisticated Smart Community solutions in the global market."

So much for notebook computers. Seriously, watch out, Cisco and IBM, which are two other big high-tech companies making big players with "smart" technologies spanning everything from the smart grid to smart buildings to smart water systems.

Even if U.S. deployments of the smart grid stall along with the flagging recovery, Toshiba's is making a good bet on Landis+Gyr. Aside from its U.S. leadership position, the company was the third biggest player in EMEA during 2010 (according to IDC Energy Insights). Also consider that it is the company that won the bid to supply more than 10,000 smart meters in what will probably end up being the world's biggest smart grid deployment of them all, the one being built out across China.

The deal is subject to regulatory approvals, of course. Right now, it is expected to close in the third quarter of 2011.