Nearly 1,200 attendees reconvened this morning ready to absorb all that they could during the last day of our Knowledge Conference at one of our largest Itron Utility Weeks (IUW) yet!

Our high-impact speakers, engaged attendees and innovative partners kept up Monday’s momentum throughout day two, which started with inspiration from David Graham, deputy COO for smart and sustainable communities at the City of San Diego.

Miss day 1? You can get the rundown on the kickoff to our annual event here.

Graham took the stage and touted his obsession with future-driven conversations before taking us for a quick trip back in time to revisit the predictions made by earlier generations of tech industry innovators. While he had us laughing at some of the more outlandish ones – including red flying robots taking over the world – we were equally impressed by a few hypotheses that align closely with some of today’s most promising innovations from the tech sector.

Graham, who led the City of San Diego’s strategic and successful installation of thousands of smart streetlights in 2014, went on to say, “who could have predicted that we’d have streetlights that could see, smell and hear?!”

And while his infectious enthusiasm had captured the attention of the whole room, he used his IUW platform to share an important message. He acknowledged that while out-of-the-box “Star Trek-esque” discussions are both inspiring and important, it’s critical that utilities and municipalities lock arms and focus on actionable discussions that allow them to explore the opportunities that matter here and now to their communities.

“These [smart street lighting solutions] are the technologies that are far more transformative than anything I showed a few minutes ago,” Graham proclaimed. “This kind of connectivity is what will change the ways we live and have lasting impacts on the way we exist. The future is happening and [utility companies] are making it happen.”

He referenced an app that was launched under his leadership, “Get It Done San Diego” to illustrate another way that the city is taking advantage of connectivity to improve the lives of citizens in the ways that matters most to them; while also eliminating the inefficiencies that had challenged the local government and utility companies.

“Technology is so cool, but if we forget about the people in the city and what’s most important to them, we’ve already forgotten what becoming a smart city is all about. We have to put people first.”

As Graham wrapped-up his presentation, Itron CEO Philip Mezey joined him on stage for a fireside chat focused on a few hot-button topics related to smart cities, including grid data and security as well as potential business models and driving smart city conversations for action.

Mezey asked Graham to explain how he addresses concerns about cyber threats in connectivity conversations. He responded by articulating the way he and his city have shifted their collective mindset on the topic:

“We talk about the importance of building resilient cities all of the time, and this is no different. Unfortunately, it’s not about whether you’ll get attacked; it’s about how quickly you can recover once it happens. We need to change the public perception and you do that by taking the appropriate measures to prepare in advance.”

Mezey pivoted the conversation to focus on measurable outcomes, asking how Graham and his team establish key performance indicators (KPIs). Graham underscored the importance of aligning KPIs with citizen pain points and explained how he is launching programs like The Free Ride, a shuttle service that uses electric vehicles to help people get around. He is directly addressing KPIs attached to citizen challenges, and – in this case – the results achieved also include greater sustainability, less traffic congestion and a direct solution to the “last-mile” struggle so many cities face.

For more on business models and driving conversations for action, stay tuned for Tuesday’s Big Picture session, where Graham elaborated on these topics during a panel discussion that also included some of our other progressive customers and partners.

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