The digital revolution has changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined.

In 2016, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no hotels, the world’s largest taxi company owns no cars, and the world’s most popular media owner doesn’t create any content.

Can you imagine finding out what your friends are up to, buying clothes or services, or comparing one hotel with another without the help of smart technology?

Contrast this with how you think and act about your energy use.

The way householders buy their energy has barely changed in decades.

Most people rely on estimated bills, or have to peer into a dusty cupboard under the stairs to give an occasional reading – and that’s before we try to fathom out the foreign language of kilowatt hours and therms.

But change is finally coming. The energy sector is set to be revolutionised, as other markets have been through the impact of digital technology. A vital part of that transformation is the national roll-out of smart meters.

Smart meters are coming to every home and micro-business in Scotland by 2020, to replace old gas and electricity meters with digital technology. They’ll be installed at no additional cost by energy suppliers and they’ll allow customers to take control of their energy use by showing what is being spent on gas and electricity in pounds and pence, in near real-time. Smart meters mean accurate bills and no more estimates, as meter readings are sent directly to the provider via a secure, dedicated network.

In Scotland, in particular, the wider benefits will be significant. Smart meters are more than just a handy device; they will become essential enabling tools for tackling some of the biggest challenges that Scotland faces.

By bringing an end to the absurdity of estimated billing, it will help those in fuel poverty manage their bills. At the moment, even if you are efficient at sending in your meter readings, you have no way of knowing what’s going to be in the bill when it lands on the mat. This means a real fear of "bill-shock", causing people to go without to plan for a charge they can only guess about.

For people on pre-payment meters – half a million across Scotland – the impact of the current meter system is huge. Pre-payment meters are not just inconvenient and more expensive – but because they are often installed as a result of falling into debt, it means those who can afford it least end up with higher bills.

Smart meters will give people on low income far more control and choice. They can’t in themselves lift a family out of fuel poverty, but they can give those on low incomes the information they need to make the best choices for them about heating and eating their homes.

Crucially, smart meters will also allow for the introduction of smarter technology throughout our entire energy infrastructure as well as playing a part in Scotland’s ambitious climate plan to bring down its carbon footprint.

They will also provide a new digital platform for innovation in energy. In the future, household appliances will be smart and interactive – for example, a smart washing machine could turn on when energy is cheapest. Text alerts could be sent to a carer of an isolated or vulnerable person if the heating didn’t come on one day.

It could even one day be possible for a GP to "prescribe" a £20 top-up to a smart meter – at the click of button – to help a pensioner in the Highlands to make their house warmer to help alleviate a health condition. Consumers could choose to share their energy data if they felt these services would be valuable to them.

With smart meters, we can also better integrate low carbon technology into our energy mix and fully enable, for example, the take up of electric cars.

In addition, smart meters will herald new types of services from suppliers. Imagine being able to sign up to an energy provider who could "switch for you" and automatically search the market for the best deal, even hour by hour?

The future possibilities are limitless. This is only the beginning of what could be delivered – and we don’t know what, or who, the next Uber or airbnb will be for the energy sector.

More than three million smart meters have already been installed across Britain.

People with smart meters say they have greater confidence in the accuracy of their bills, more confidence in finding the best energy tariff and greater awareness of what they are spending.

The benefits of the smart meter roll out underlined the theme of our Smarter Scotland: Towards a Digital Nation event in which leading experts made a compelling case for Scotland’s transformation into a digital nation.

Smart meters are an opportunity and a challenge to tech innovators and the policy makers, as a catalyst to an even more dynamic Scotland - where rapidly advancing technology is harnessed to tackle the big challenges such as fuel poverty and climate change, as well as transforming people’s experiences as consumers of energy market and of public services.

Claire Maugham is Director of Policy and Communications at Smart Energy GB.