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a smart meter generally refers to a meter that updates energy consumption at least once an hour, and provides that information to both the consumer and the utility at least once a day.
The technology is fairly new but smart meters are by no means unusual. As of last year, EIA counted 37,290,374 smart meter installations in the U.S, about 90 percent of which were for residential customers. A fair number of these, 5 million to be exact, were installed with federal Recovery Act funding to help modernize the national grid.