old hat I'm afraid.
Remote meter reading is very big in the States and has been for years.
One of the plans afoot was to use Zigbee networks for devices.
In the USA one major idea was to turn off Air Conditioning in empty houses/apartments at the hottest times of the day thus saving a lot of wasted energy.
With a full zigbee enabled household, using your remote control you could connect back to your house via the zigbee network and turn things off and on, naturally the power companies would have master access!
NuLab gets most of its ideas from the States but doesn't really understand them and therefore botches everything they touch.
My old company designed and built meter monitoring equipment, some of which could also turn off services, most useful in the water market where proper monitoring could shut down a pipe to a leak saving often scarce supplies. Naturally not taken up in the UK!
Unfortunately add ons to existing meters were ruled out for the UK market by this government ensuring that it is a very limited choice of supply as it has to be the complete Smart meter and all the old meters are obsolete.
The other major problem is the governments breakdown of our utility supply companies, Why should company A invest in better meters when the customer can immediately switch to company B, who are cheaper as they haven't invested in new meters, with no penalty etc.? Thus no incentive has put us back several years so it may be new to the UK market but it is already in place elsewhere.
Taking your meter reader as an example, in the UK it has to visit every house, climb in a cupboard, transcribe the reading into the handheld, whereas in the US, a meter reader gets in a car, fires up the laptop with a Sat Nav route plan, which is followed driving at up to 50 mph, reading every modified utility meter on the route. Problem meters or those showing signs of tamper are highlighted and can get personal attention. At the end of the route a quick file transfer and the meter readings are all in the Utilities database!
This is not in real time, hence the move towards zigbee networking etc.
With regards to Gas, I assume the idea is similar to our old water monitoring plan where usage was to be monitored and when it stepped outside certain parameters it raised alarms. Human beings would then investigate and if necessary disable the supply whilst further investigations were undertaken.
Unfortunately as with all these good ideas, it is a lot cheaper to miss out the human interaction aspect.... and the investigation.... so we all now how they will be implemented, however rest assured there will be need for management committees to review and administer the results so all will not be lost.