'Smart metering' technology that communicates electricity, gas or water use data over a network to a utility firm is making inroads in some markets, but analysts expect a further evolution of such offerings.
ABI Research believes that home area networks (Hans) will allow utility firms greater management efficiencies while providing customers with increased choice about consumption.
The report noted that several technologies are already vying for a place at the Han table.
"We believe that in an era of rising energy costs the Han model, and its most sophisticated outgrowth, the energy management system, will eventually see wide deployment," said ABI Research senior analyst Sam Lucero.
Hans are an extension of smart metering intelligence into the home itself, connecting the meter to 'load centres' such as 'smart thermostats', air conditioners and washer/dryers.
While a few utility firms manage peak demand by directly capping load centre use, a Han system would allow the homeowner to specify a mix of consumption and efficiency across a range of devices.
ABI identified four potential technologies for the market: wireless standards ZigBee, Z-Wave and 6loWPAN, along with HomePlug Command and Control (HPCC) which communicates data over existing electrical wiring.
"ZigBee is seen as the most likely candidate for Han success," said Lucero. "It enjoys wide support from utilities, and the ZigBee Alliance has been very focused on smart metering."
Z-Wave also has support in the home automation market, especially in North America and Europe.
6loWPAN remains the "dark horse", according to Lucero. Technically 6loWPAN has much to recommend it, but it is quite new and relatively untried.
HPCC offers the advantage of using the same power lines that feed the load centres themselves, but is thus restricted to serving wired devices only.
"Hans are deployed in only small numbers today, but most utilities have plans in this direction and we expect a large incremental ramp-up," said Lucero.
"First smart meters with Han capabilities, then the addition of one or more load centres, and finally the energy management system."
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