Itron Customers Top Smart City Governments List

Itron delivers solutions that help cities become more efficient and sustainable. Recently, Eden Strategy Institute, a strategy consulting firm, put together a collection of the Top 50 Smart City Governments—and 12 cities on the list are Itron customers, including:

  • London
  • Singapore
  • New York
  • Melbourne
  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Charlotte
  • Copenhagen
  • Wellington
  • Dubai
  • Dublin
  • Paris

The Smart City Governments list details the development of smart cities from a city government’s perspective. Cities were ranked on a scale of one to three representing low to high based on the following 10 factors:

  1. Vision
  2. Leadership
  3. Budget
  4. Financial Incentives
  5. Support Programs
  6. Talent Readiness
  7. People Centricity
  8. Innovation Ecosystems
  9. Smart Policies
  10. Track Record

Lastly, interviews were conducted with city officials to validate facts, measure outcomes and learn about the unique challenges and pathways taken by each city.

To read the full report, click here.

Will the Solar Panel Tariff Kill Solar Adoption?

The recent U.S. administration’s 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells and modules has not been well received by the solar industry. Effective Jan. 1, the first 2.5 GW of imported cells each year are excluded from the tariff, while all additional imports are subject to a 30 percent tariff in 2018—the rate declines to 25 percent in 2019, 20 percent in 2020 and 15 percent in 2021. Currently, about 80 percent of PV systems use imported cells. The solar industry is up in arms, claiming the tariff will cost 23,000 solar jobs and result in lower solar adoption. But what does a 30 percent tariff on panels really mean in terms of overall costs?

The answer to that question depends on whether you are interested in large utility scale solar or small residential solar. Utility scale solar will likely be hardest hit, the reason being that panel costs represent as much as 34 percent of the total costs for utility scale solar compared to only 13 percent for residential solar, according to NREL’s (Nation Renewable Energy Laboratory) latest Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark study (see graph). This means that the total cost of a residential system would only increase by approximately 4 percent, compared to a 10 percent increase for utility solar.

What impact the tariff will have on solar adoption in your service territory will likely depend on whether your area is dominated by large scale solar projects or smaller residential solar. It will be interesting to see how this impact shakes out over the next few years.

US3 and Itron Win American Public Works Association Project of the Year

Congratulations to our partner, Utility Systems Science & Software (US3), who recently won the Texas Public Works Association Project of the Year Award for its Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Monitoring and Alerting System. The award-winning project took place in collaboration with Itron and the City of Houston.

The City of Houston Wastewater Collection System and Organization is responsible for the maintenance and operation of over 6,950 miles of sewer pipelines ranging in sizes from six inches to 144 inches in diameter and includes approximately 123,000 manholes. Identification and mitigation of sanitary sewer overflows is part of the city’s system-wide operation, maintenance and management plan.

In an effort to mitigate potential overflows in the sewer pipelines, as well as decrease the time it requires to resolve incidents involving sewer pipeline overflows, the Wastewater Organization, US3 and Itron developed a technology-based vision and strategy to address these critical issues. This technical solution focused on leveraging an existing wireless Itron communications network built by the City of Houston’s Public Works Department for remote monitoring and management of water meters, traffic signals and other Public Works equipment and assets.

The SSO Monitoring and Alerting System can quickly identify the source of overflows in the sewer pipelines as well as decrease the time it requires to resolve incidents involving sewer pipeline overflow. In addition to improved operations and responsiveness, the City of Houston will derive additional benefits from the system, including the ability to analyze the data collected. This data will provide insight into the health of the City of Houston’s sewer pipeline and determine ways in which it can be improved based on determining root causes of sewer pipeline overflows.

Itron is proud to be a part of a project that will improve the safety of Houston residents as well as the natural environment.

The awards ceremony took place on June 28, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Simple Approach for Addressing Behind-the-Meter Solar Generation

I was recently asked to account for behind-the-meter (BTM) solar generation in a set of day-ahead hourly electric models. Fundamentally, the problem is that electricity consumption (from the perspective of the utility or the ISO) is lower on sunny days, when rooftop solar panels are generating lots of power, thereby reducing the electricity that customers pull from the grid. In many cases, we have little, if any, data on the capacity or generation of these rooftop panels. Further, we may not even have the necessary weather variables.

In this case, I did not have rooftop solar-generation capacity or solar irradiance (i.e., a measure of the solar energy striking a panel). I was not going to let a lack of data stop me!

I did have light intensity, measured in foot-candles. Although not identical to solar irradiance, light intensity is similar enough for our purposes.

The following figure shows the hourly light intensity for a one week period. The pattern is clear: light intensity increases in the morning hours; it typically reaches a peak during the middle of the day; and it declines in the afternoon. And, the height of the curve varies from day-to-day, partly as a function of cloud-cover.

The following figure shows a three-year period of light intensity at noon. My intuition suggests that the spikey values along the top are erroneous and should be excluded from the model. For instance, I doubt that the maximum value is roughly 5,000 in the summer, but occasionally jumps to 7,000.

To address these spikes, I built transforms to impose a maximum allowable value for each interval. The resulting series for noon appears below. It’s not perfect, but it does look more realistic. I used visual inspection for each interval to determine the appropriate maximum value.

Although I did not have data on solar capacity, my assumption for this area is that BTM capacity is increasing over time. To account for the increasing BTM capacity, I created an interaction variable, which multiplies the light-intensity variables by a linear time-trend variable. The result is a series that moves up and down from day-to-day, as the intensity of the light changes, but which also increases over time, as shown below.

When I drop this variable onto the right-hand side of a regression equation, the variable is highly significant with a negative sign, which is the correct theoretical relationship: more sunshine leads to lower loads.

The following is the BX tab from a MetrixND regression model. The figure shows the contribution of the trended solar variable (in red) and the model’s predicted value (in blue). As expected, the contribution to the total predicted value is negative and becomes larger in absolute terms (i.e., more negative), thus reducing the load by larger quantities over time.

While imperfect and admittedly simple, this approach lowers the in-sample MAPE during the middle of the day by roughly 0.3 percent Clearly, the improvement in the statistical models is not dramatic. Still, this technique allows us to incorporate, in a very basic way, an issue that is becoming an increasing concern.

Bringing Safety to the Edge

Safety is always top of mind for gas utilities, and new technology advancements, like the OpenWay® Riva Intelis gas meter, make it possible to reduce safety incidents and the associated costly damage. At the end of June, Itron showcased our new gas meter at the World Gas Conference in Washington D.C., demonstrating how smart meters on an active network equip utilities to analyze near real-time data to protect consumers and the utility workforce.

Harnessing the power of the active network, Itron’s OpenWay Riva Intelis ultrasonic gas meter is equipped to respond quickly. The meter has been thoughtfully developed to enhance safety by controlling excess flow at all service points.

The meter features a built-in high flow alarm and a temperature sensor that identifies potentially dangerous conditions, such as open fuel lines or fire, and can automatically trigger a safety shutoff device to control the flow of gas. Air detection identifies meter removal, with the option to limit gas flow, while also sending an alarm to utility personnel, helping prevent incidents before they arise. Utilities can use the meter to temporarily shutoff service for situations such as non-payment, move-outs or line maintenance until a more permanent disconnect can be completed. The Intelis transforms the gas distribution network from a one-way gas delivery mechanism to an interactive energy network offering numerous benefits to utilities.

With safety and control integrated into smart gas meters, utilities have access to high-resolution data in the field. Leveraging edge computing, every device in the network is a computing and application platform. With this innovative technology, gas utilities can identify vulnerabilities in the system with connected response to changes in the network. For example, utilities can proactively control gas flow to homes before flooding and other dangerous situations occur; events that could cause gas meters and appliances to become displaced and potentially cause free flowing gas at customer sites.

With this approach, gas utilities can capitalize on the potential of connected devices, like the OpenWay Riva Intelis gas meter, that have the computing power to not only measure and communicate, but also solve problems on the network. These devices and sensors dynamically detect a gas leak, corrosion or low pressure and can notify the utility before they become a serious event – improving safety, reliability and profitability.

When it comes to delivering natural gas, safety is paramount. Advances in technology are giving utilities more visibility into their systems to prevent incidents before they happen. With the active network, utilities can help ensure the safety of their customers and their employees while also limiting waste and conserving natural gas.

America’s Finest 2018 ISO Forecasting Summit

San Diego’s slogan is “America’s Finest City” and being fortunate enough to call this place my home for the past seven years, I see why. It has a little something for everyone – natural beauty, mild weather, great beaches, tons of water sports, exceptional dining, cool shops, fun sights, cultural and historical institutions, plenty of breweries, heaps of kid-approved attractions, and the list goes on and on. I’m not trying to sell any readers on why San Diego is such a great place—I think it speaks for itself. But what made San Diego particularly special this past May 15 through 17 is that it was the destination for this year’s 12th annual ISO/RTO/TSO Forecasting Summit. Attendees from most of the North American and Australian ISO/RTO/TSO organizations gathered to discuss and share insights into the forecasting challenges facing today’s industry.

Mike Wu (CAISO), Hui Zheng (MISO), Andrew Gledhill (PJM), Victoria Rojo (ISO-NE), Molly Mooney (PJM), and Joe Mulhern (PJM) presented on the various modeling approaches they use to improve forecast accuracy of loads, embedded solar generation, renewable curtailments and energy efficiency. Jack Fox (AEMO) and Steve Disano (AEMO) gave everyone food for thought by sharing how they use Bayesian Belief Networks to better forecast required reserve levels. Frank Monforte (Itron) demystified machine learning by walking through a few examples, demonstrating to everyone that improved forecast accuracy isn’t accomplished through fancy algorithms, but rather through experience and a profound sense for what data and variables are relevant and useful in constructing forecast models.

While those presentations reminded us of the increasing pressure and expectation to have more accurate forecasts, Arthur Maniaci (NYISO) and Andrew Trachsell (IESO) discussed the load implications we might expect from increased cryptocurrency mining and recreational marijuana farming. Mark Taylor (NYISO) demonstrated the value in leveraging historical data to make better informed decisions when refining load forecasts in times of extreme weather, while Lars Renborg (AESO) and Grant Freudenthaler (AESO) educed discussions on challenges and best practices in defining a typical weather year and forecasting individual customer loads.

Finally, John Reynolds (PJM), Frank Monforte (Itron) and I offered insight into the direction the industry is heading. John illustrated the potential impacts of plug-in electric vehicles as they become more prevalent. Frank proposed a potential solution to forecasting loads in this age of increasing distributed generation and I presented recent energy trends in North America since the Great Recession.

From the presentations to the stimulating discussions to the good food and everything in between, San Diego truly was “America’s Finest City” that week. It’s undoubtedly going to be tough to top it next year, but I think everyone is up for the challenge.

Accepting Nominations: 2018 Excellence in Resourcefulness Best Practice Awards

Itron partner Frost and Sullivan is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Excellence in Resourcefulness Best Practices Awards. As a growth partnership company, Frost and Sullivan works with clients to develop growth strategies by leveraging innovation that addresses global challenges. Presented at Itron Utility Week on Oct. 1 in Scottsdale, Arizona, the awards will highlight electric, gas and water utility companies who are committed to the sustainable use of energy and water.

The award categories include:

  • Excellence in Resourcefulness-Energy: This award recognizes an IOU or municipal’s ability to conduct successful technology implementation and behavioral change, resulting in reducing significant waste of electricity and/or natural gas.
  • Excellence in Resourcefulness-Water: This award recognizes a utility’s method for addressing resourcefulness through successful technology implementation and behavioral change that results in significant reduction of water usage and water waste.

Conducted by Frost and Sullivan, the selection process will include in-depth research interviews and assess utilities against industry best practices. For each category, decision criteria are comprised of societal and business impact.

Considerations for societal impact include improving customer awareness and participation, creating changes to reduce waste through technology and consumer engagement and waste reduction outcomes that benefit the community. Business impact factors include a clear vision to reduce waste through technology implementation, achieving operational effectiveness as the result of a successful sustainability strategy and positioning a utility’s brand’s image as a leader in sustainability.

Nominations can be submitted here until Friday, July 20, 2018 at 5 p.m. PDT.

New Intelis Water Meter Debuts at ACE18

Itron recently attended American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) 137th Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE), and for the first time, showcased our new Intelis ultrasonic water meter. On average, more than 30 percent of the fresh water that is pumped daily across the globe is wasted due to leaks and theft—and according to research, 80 percent of utilities are looking to combat that threat by investing in smart water infrastructure, with a clear and increasing trend toward choosing meters with two-way communication capabilities. As our first ultrasonic water metering solution for North America, the Intelis water meter allows utilities to take advantage of the power of data by providing the information necessary to better manage the delivery and use of water—and helps ensure our customers can be as efficient and resourceful as possible.

This latest addition to our North American smart water suite, which will be made available later this year, will help utilities minimize leaks and theft thanks to intelligent, two-way communication. While our Intelis water meter is Itron’s first intelligent, ultrasonic metering solution made specifically for the North American market, the R&D that went into creating it was based on the global expertise we’ve gained as a result of providing ultrasonic meters to utilities around the world for more than 15 years.

This new meter completes our suite of end-to-end smart water management solutions for North America, enabling utilities to take full advantage of their existing smart water investments. What’s more, the Intelis water meter allows utilities to harness the power of data and apply it to better manage the use and delivery of water. When coupled with Itron’s multi-purpose networks, OpenWay Riva or Gen5, the Intelis water meter offers AMI and additional water management capabilities.

Intelis boasts unique key features aimed at helping improve utilities’ resourceful usage of water, including:

  • No hardware maintenance, high-value: With no moving parts, the meter will maintain the same accuracy throughout its lifetime, requiring no hardware maintenance while effectively meeting AWWA standards for residential meters.
  • Real-time intelligence: Real-time alarms and flow data from the meter, coupled with an OpenWay Riva water module, will enable utilities to respond quickly to backflow, leaks or theft.
  • High-quality hardware: The high-quality, robust polyphthalamide polymer exceeds the durability demands of the industry’s traditional metal-based meter bodies.

You can learn more about the meter and request a sample here.

IoT World Continued: Partner Engagement Demonstrated During IoT Live! Tour

In last week’s blog post, we highlighted what we said on stage during IoT World. This week, we’re going to discuss how our partners helped us showcase the technology that has made Itron a leading provider of IoT technology.

During the IoT Live! tour at our booth, we showcased significant, real products and services that were developed in collaboration with our partners. Ten different Itron partners exhibited how they use our technology to integrate third-party devices and software applications to drive innovations within energy, water and smart cities. We also demonstrated our smart grid and smart city management technology.

Here’s what was exhibited on the tour:

Operational Technology Solutions (OTS), an Australian-based utility solution provider, demonstrated power monitoring on an electricity distribution network. This solution monitors voltage, current and temperature to detect outages and alert operators to a fault location. This works with other OTS sensors such as the transformer monitor and the demand management controller for air conditioners and pool pumps.

Databuoy, a sensor network system developer, exhibited acoustic gunshot detection. This solution sends automated notifications about gunfire in less than one second as well as reports the exact time and location of the shot. This impactful technology resolves bullet trajectory and caliber, as well as multiple shooters. Itron’s Itai Dadon, director of IoT product management, demonstrated how this works during our CEO Philip Mezey’s keynote presentation.

SWIM.AI, an edge computing company, demonstrated how it collaborates with Itron’s sensors to provide real-time insights to traffic flows using edge analytics. This technology analyzes streaming data at the edge, minimizing costly backhaul communications and reducing communications to critical events. It also utilizes machine learning to predict future behavior.

D-tect Systems, a radiation and chemical detection company, exhibited how it uses Itron’s sensors to detect radiation levels at facilities such as nuclear power plants and hospitals and provides immediate alerts via SMS.

eLichens, an air quality sensing startup, showed how it enables high-resolution monitoring and forecasting of CH4 and CO2 with a miniaturized NDIR gas sensor. This can detect gas leaks in 30 to 90 seconds and accurately senses air pollution within 10 meters.
Communithings, an IoT company pioneering smart parking, exhibited how it uses Itron’s intelligent edge devices to improve city parking. The smart parking solution improves the enforcement of citations, accurately detects vehicles and integrates with any camera.

Citilog, a video-based automatic detection system, displayed how its smart streetlighting gathers traffic analytics to monitor roadways and retail locations while providing real-time data to traffic management and transportation systems. This technology saves energy and improves safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Omron, a global leader in automation-based technology, displayed how it obtains earthquake-related information from its sensor by communicating with external devices to alert utility companies when to shutdown services during seismic activity.

Aeroqual, an air-quality monitoring company, demonstrated how it uses our sensors to identify pollution trends and historical patterns using air quality sensors and SLV, our smart city management platform, for real-time data visualization.

Utility Systems Science & Software, a Utility monitoring and control company, demonstrated monitoring wastewater, storm and flood water, integrating the information to the City SCADA and GIS systems using OpenWay Riva.

We also featured our Developer Program, as well as available hardware development kits, APIs and reference applications. Our Developer Program helps solution providers accelerate time-to-market by providing developers with the tools they need to integrate smart devices, sensors and applications with the Itron network.

Thank you to everyone to stopped by our IoT Live! Tour during IoT World this year! Missed IoT World? Be sure to check out our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds to learn more about our role in the future of IoT.

Load Forecasting Using Machine Learning: Does the Hype Meet Reality?

It is easy to stub your toe on the voluminous literature available on machine learning when the question of how to improve your operational forecast is raised by management. A Google search on the topic, “machine learning applied to electricity forecasting” returns over one million hits.

With this much written on the subject, the clear path to improved forecast performance must be to invest in machine learning tools. Before we buy one of these shiny new cars, let’s look under the hood to see what we are buying. Download our latest white paper to learn more.

EEI Convention: Looking Toward the Future

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Annual Convention in San Diego. This annual event brings together energy executives, government officials, energy and smart grid providers and others from across the U.S. to address the important topics currently impacting the industry.

During the convention, I was able to speak on a panel focusing on mapping the technology industry’s vision for the future. Sitting alongside industry executives from Siemens, Oracle and Qualcomm Technologies, this panel—moderated by Quentin Hardy of Google Cloud—focused on how U.S. electric companies, with the assistance of key technology partners, are driving the transformation of the nation’s energy grid into an interactive digital network that is powering a new wave of customer offerings while also bolstering system reliability and resiliency. During a time where climate change, infrastructure and access to resources—both nationally and internationally—are hot topics, it is encouraging to see utilities and energy partners focusing on ways to conserve resources while getting the most out of their systems.

Another key theme and topic of conversation at this year’s event was moving beyond the meter—and how data and intelligence at the edge is transforming the way utilities and cities utilize resources, interact with consumers and overall, run their business. Itron is truly in a unique position as we are helping lead the charge in this space. When pushing intelligence out to the edge, we open additional possibilities for our customers and allow utilities to react quickly to issues—like outages, leaks and grid overload.

It was truly an honor to represent our company at this event and discuss the innovative ways in which we are driving the industry forward. I look forward to joining the conversation next year at EEI and seeing the progress we have made as an industry as we continue to set our sights on the future.

IoT World 2018: Itron Leaders Share IoT Insights During Industry Event

The IoT industry is evolving quickly, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. GSMA Intelligence projects that the IoT market will be worth $1.1 trillion in revenue by 2025 as market value pivots from connectivity and applications to platforms and services.

Itron recently participated in IoT World 2018 where we shared some of the insights we’ve gained while deploying more than 190 million intelligent devices around the globe. We had two keynotes and four speaking sessions and panel engagements during the four-day event, which drew 12,000 industry leaders ready to transform the world through IoT.

Here are some highlights:

In his keynote presentation, Philip Mezey, Itron president and CEO, shared how the utility industry has been at the forefront of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connecting millions of devices over the last several decades. He also delved into the importance of having an IIoT network based on standards because interoperability between many vendors and many applications essential to maximizing the value of the IIoT.

Philip and Itron’s director of IoT product management, Itai Dadon, showed attendees how IIoT really works in a live demo of a gunshot detection solution that utilizes Itron’s network technology integrated with acoustic sensors from Itron’s partner Databuoy. This solution sends automated notifications about gunfire in less than one second while automatically reporting the exact time and location of the shot. Itai simulated a gunshot by clapping his hands loudly near an Itron-connected smart streetlight on stage, which sent a text message alert about the “gunshot” to Philip in real-time.

During her keynote talk on driving IIoT innovation, Sharelynn Moore, Itron’s senior vice president of networked solutions, shared how Itron works with utility companies across the globe to modernize electric, gas and water systems to ensure these resources are delivered safely, securely and efficiently. She also shared an example of the smart grid in action during Hurricane Harvey last year. Houston’s CenterPoint Energy—which services 5 million metered customers across six states—was able to use smart grid technology to identify outages and restore power to residents quicker during the hurricane. With the help of Itron’s network, CenterPoint Energy avoided an estimated 45 million outage minutes for its customers by remotely locating and isolating faults and rerouting power.

Dan Evans, director of product management at Itron, joined a panel of industry experts to discuss engaging in the smart cities journey. He shared how our Partner Ecosystem program has helped us develop partnerships needed to build successful and scalable smart cities. He also shared views on the importance of collaborating to support diverse pilot projects, which are critical in achieving Itron’s smart city vision.

Todd Thayer, director of technical enablement at Itron, and Mark Anderson, CTO at Operational Technology Solutions (OTS), presented on considerations of bringing an IoT product to life from ideation to commercialization. OTS is an Australian-based utility solution provider that develops innovative smart grid devices that improve situational awareness and system uptime. They discussed the process of working within Itron’s Developer Program to deliver an IoT-connected line monitor that automatically detects faults in a utility’s electricity distribution network to accelerate outage response. Todd discussed how unlocking the value of IoT requires collaboration and how the market is too vast for one company to tackle it alone. Mark talked about how the Itron Developer Program provides OTS with developer tools and support to help them deliver new product from concept to field trials in less than 8-weeks.

During “Multi-Service Networks as a Shared and Marketable Asset,” Ty Roberts, Itron’s vice president of product marketing, talked about new ways to make the most of utility infrastructure investments. He focused on the considerations of opening utility communication networks to other entities in shared business models for increased grid reliability, safety and lower cost of ownership. Ty also discussed the evolving role of utilities as essential service providers and new opportunities to leverage multi-tenant networks to support additional revenue streams such as smart streetlights, water and gas metering, and other smart city applications.

Thank you to all who attended our speaking sessions at IoT World! Don’t miss our IoT World 2018 Recap, part 2, where we will dive into how we worked with our partners to showcase how together, we’re creating a more resourceful world.

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