Utility meters represent what Bruno Latour and other sociologists of science and technology term an ‘obligatory passage point’ (Latour, 1992, p234). That is, domestic gas, electricity and water meters are the ‘gateway’ technology around which the most significant transactions between utilities and their customers are based. Energy and water resources pass through the meter, which records consumption, providing the information for the billing of utility services. Moreover, the meter acts as the referee of legitimate access to the infrastructure network, potentially signalling the application of the ultimate sanction for non-payment and indebtedness – disconnection from the network. As Madeleine Akrich (1992) suggests:

The way in which the individual/consumer relates to the network, and via the network to the electricity company, is codified and quantified by means of a basic technical tool, the electricity meter. This formulates the initial contact between the producer and consumer. If one or the other fails to meet its obligations, the meter becomes invalid or inactive. Meters have a symmetrical effect on the producer/consumer relationship. The agreement of both is required if they are to tick over. Accordingly, the set of meters is a powerful instrument of social control.