Two of the largest meter makers, Itron and Landis+Gyr, will integrate their communication platforms into each other’s meters. The move is to appeal to utilities that are looking for multi-vendor solutions for smart grid projects.

The Itron Centron II meter will have the option of having the Landis+Gyr Gridstream communications module, and the Landis+Gyr Focus AX-SD meter will be enabled with Itron’s OpenWay systems. The products will be available later this year.

“Our customers have asked for multi-vendor systems. Working on these projects with Landis+Gyr demonstrates our dedication to offering best-of-breed solutions,” Russ Vanos, vice president and general manager sales and marketing, Itron North America, said in a statement. “By enabling system interoperability, we can help utilities of all sizes reduce both implementation and ongoing communications costs, as well as improve efficiencies and accelerate return on investment.”

The move comes less than a month after Toshiba purchased Landis+Gyr for $2.3 billion and as Itron’s stock price hovers around a 52-week low.

Despite the shift towards distribution automation and other projects to bring visibility and automation onto the grid itself, there are still tens of millions meters that will be installed in coming years across the globe. BC Hydro recently picked Itron for its meter deployment, and the State Grid Corporation of China, which controls the grid on 80 percent of mainland China, is using Landis+Gyr for a 10,000-meter pilot. If successful, the payoff could be a contract for tens of millions of meters in that country alone.

Utilities are becoming more sophisticated about their smart grid deployments, not only in terms of the scope of projects, but also in choosing flexible technologies that will allow for future-proof systems.

The partnership between the two meter giants comes on the heels of an announcement on Monday that the six largest meter manufacturers have formed a nonprofit organization to focus on smart meter advocacy and education.

The Smart Meter Manufacturers' Association of America includes Echelon, Elster, GE, Itron, Landis+Gyr and Sensus. The SMMAA claims it is seeking to “educate legislators, regulators, media and other stakeholders about the benefits of smart meters and to advocate for federal and state policies that support their deployment.”

The impetus to form the group seems to be a mix of damage control after serious smart meter backlashes in the past year, and lobbying to make sure that policy will still push for smart meters after the bulk of the smart grid stimulus funds (which largely went to AMI) has been doled out.

The organization welcomed the fact that the ball is already rolling on some policy issues. On Monday, the White House released a policy framework that calls for allowing every U.S. customer to have access to detailed information about his or her electricity bill. If that were to become legislation, it would make the case for more smart meters to collect that information. Let the lobbying begin.