Silver Spring Networks spent 2012 adding capabilities to its smart grid offerings, from cellular and cloud-based services to faster deployment of distribution automation projects.

Just before ringing in 2013, Silver Spring announced that its smart energy platform would now support commercial and industrial natural gas users. The offering includes smart gas meters and an upgrade to its existing residential gas meter. Like electric meters, the smart gas meters have two-way communication and can be used for real-time alerts, leak monitoring and reducing meter tampering.

“Silver Spring’s IPv6 networking platform connects more than 13 million homes and businesses worldwide, so it’s a natural step for us to extend support to C&I natural gas customers and to broaden the communications options for residential gas users,” C.J. Boguszewski, head of AMI Solutions for Silver Spring Networks, said in a statement.

The market for smart gas meters and smart water meters -- and platforms that can increase efficiency -- is smaller than the electricity sector, but it's growing. In late 2011, Southern California Gas Company announced it would install more than six million smart meters in the next five years, the largest gas-only utility smart meter project in the U.S. 

For vendors that are already busy in the utility space, finding synergies is increasingly important. Silver Spring has been enhancing its platform to be far more than just a smart meter communications system, and adding in capabilities to support other areas of a utility’s business is a natural fit.

Meter data management companies, like Aclara and eMeter, have made an effort to expand into gas or water markets. Many municipal and cooperative utilities provide at least one other service with electricity, and those utilities are increasingly looking for value and flexibility in the platforms they chose. Burbank Water & Power, for example, was only looking for a meter data management platform that could serve both its water and electricity sectors.

The smart gas meter market is still relatively young in the U.S., but there is more action in Europe. The U.K. government has mandated dual gas and electric smart meters for every home and business by 2020. Italy will install smart meters for all of its commercial gas customers and most residents by 2016. The worldwide smart gas mater market is expected to grow from 22 million annually in 2012 to 33 million in 2020.

As of the first quarter of 2012, Silver Spring Networks was the North American leader in advanced metering infrastructure, with 23 percent market share.

Tags: natural gas, silver spring networks, smart gas meters, smart grid