Smart metering networks can be leveraged to support a host of complimentary Industrial IoT applications to improve the performance, reliability and resilience of other critical infrastructure systems. On an average day, meters act as IoT sensors to provide utilities with high-resolution data from the edge of their network to precisely monitor energy usage, but when disaster strikes, they could truly save lives.

Increasingly, utilities are deploying multiple types of sensors on their networks such as methane detectors, pole tilt sensors, power line sensors and air quality devices. The data these sensors generate enables utilities to predict imminent danger, respond and recover quicker and more precisely, or, in some cases, even predict and prevent dangerous conditions all together. For example, by using methane detectors, utilities can sense the buildup of the dangerous gas at levels below the explosive limit, identify the location of potential risk of a gas explosion, turn off the gas and alert first responders to clear the area—all before an explosion occurs. When wildfires threaten regional air quality, utilities and communities can use distributed sensors to predict which areas will be most impacted and alert nearby populations.

What about less predictable disasters? Experts predict that a major earthquake is due to hit the state of California, but without knowledge of when or what its impact will be. IoT sensors such as pole tilt, electric distribution line, leak detection, air quality, and methane sensors among others enable a more resilient electric grid and can be leveraged to mitigate risk, minimize damage, and respond more effectively to save lives and speed recovery in the aftermath.

In a recent demonstration at IoT World created with our partner, RWI Synthetics, Itron showed the impact of an earthquake in Santa Clara, California. We were able to demonstrate how sensors working in tandem with predictive modeling were able to detect and impact outcomes during and after the quake, such as:

  • Detecting leaks and remotely shutting off gas and water lines;
  • Detecting if a pole is down to prevent safety risks and promote quicker recovery efforts;
  • Push out alerts to communicate quickly with citizens, providing the most up-to-date information to ensure their safety; and
  • Utilize intelligent evacuation planning to best direct traffic and get people out of harm’s way quickly.

Beyond how infrastructure might react, we were also able to demonstrate how people might react to disasters—and the still standing or crumbling infrastructure around them—through the creation of synthetic environments like those created by RWI Synthetics. RWI combines data analytics with extensive behavioral research to create details down to the stress levels and biometric responses of each synthetic individual.

By designing and trialing critical infrastructure systems, cities and utilities can use this information to help prepare for the unpredictable, improve system resilience and mitigate risk—while taking special consideration for citizen well-being. Doing so can effectively save countless lives and billions of dollars in avoided infrastructure repairs following a disaster.

Though these advances make a major impact on public safety, network resiliency and critical infrastructure for cities, big ideas and innovation are still needed to continue rapid improvement—and we at Itron are always looking to engage new great ideas and applications. To learn more, click here.

Learn more about our partner network here.

Todd Thayer
Director, Technology Enablement - Itron
Todd Thayer leads the development and enablement of Itron’s rapidly growing partner ecosystem in the utility, smart city and IOT markets. He joined Itron in 2018 through the acquisition of Silver Spring Networks, where he was the senior director of partner enablement.

Previously, Todd was the chief operating officer at Detectent, a company he helped start in 2004 to deliver customer intelligence solutions to utility’s meter-to-cash operations. Prior to Detectent, Todd spent over 15 years providing complex analytical software solutions to the utility industry. He was a vice president of operations with Invensys, where he ran the process simulation and optimization software businesses focusing on the electric utilities, pulp and paper, and oil and gas industries. Todd held various technical and management positions before becoming vice president of engineering of ESSCOR, where he supplied first principle processes simulators for engineering analysis and operator training to the power generation industry.

Todd holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University.