We only ever pay for the petrol that we use, so why not the gas and electricity? Estimated bills are a hassle; they’re often inaccurate, and they mean that we could be paying over the odds for the energy we use.

When Landis+Gyr approached Cambridge-based PA Consulting with the concept of a smart meter, they had just seven months to design and manufacture a working unit, to display at an upcoming exhibition - not an inconsiderable challenge given the meter’s scope.

British Gas Smart Meter

Seven months later, Landis+Gyr had a prototype, and just a few months after that, a fully functional product, ready to be delivered into homes.

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a small, portable device a little smaller than an iPhone. It gives real-time feedback on exactly how much gas and electricity you’re using, and sends that information directly to your supplier.

Why would you want to do that?

Smart meters put an end to estimated bills, which are often inaccurate, meaning you end up paying more than you should, or less than you should have (then you have to pay the difference.)

They allow customers to see how much energy is being used in real time, so that they can fine-tune their useage - turning off lights, turning the heating down a degree - to bring bills and their carbon footprint down. It’s about control and responsibility, and the smart meter gives customers both.

Smart meters put an end to estimated bills, which are often inaccurate, meaning you end up paying more than you should.


To develop the smart meter, PA Consulting had to assemble a team of engineers, software designers, mechanics and electricians, but also user experience designers and behavioural scientists. The smart meter is an interactive device, and whilst gamification of energy consumption might be a stretch, it was important to PA Consulting that customers understood how to use the smart meter right away, and that it was a pleasure to do so.

In the end, what PA Consulting created was a touchscreen energy monitor, which would display in pounds and pence, exactly how much energy a household had used in a day, week or month. The rollout continues, and with 16 million meters planned for British homes by 2020, the smart meter remains one of Cambridge’s cleverest and most useful inventions to date.

Explore further

PA Consulting on creating the Smart Meter

British Gas on the Smart Meter

Back to the top

Keep exploring

Gene sequencers

Show me