Innovation is always the hot word at CES, but smart cities and smart energy made their debut this year in a big way. Itron Idea Labs was there to contribute to the conversation and scout for start-ups and entrepreneurs with promising products and technologies to serve the future citizens of a smart city.

With a torrential downpour on day one of CES, followed by an unprecedented two-hour blackout in the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center on day two, it wasn’t easy to find time to leave our busy booth to see the rest of the show!

Fortunately, the lights stayed on at the Westgate and the Itron booth was busy with visitors from all dimensions, time zones and walks of life interested in our fresh perspective on smart cities.

Among the guided tours that Itron hosted throughout the week was a group from Minalogic, a technology incubator in the Auvernge-Rhone-Alpes region of France. Delighted to see a Grenoble-based start-up featured in the Itron booth, Minalogic invited me to a curated tour of the vast hall of Eureka Park the next day. Housed in the Sands Hotel, an excursion to and from the Westgate to Eureka Park takes no less than two hours during CES! With the luxury of a canny driver and walking at a quick pace, we had exactly one hour to visit a handful of the French start-ups that Minalogic believed most closely aligned with Itron’s smart city vision.

Our tour began with Lancey Energy Storage, a two-year-old start-up focused on demand response and building energy management. Their product, a stylish and portable electric heater coupled with a 10-year rechargeable battery targets residential and commercial applications and functions not only as a heater, but as an electricity storage device (kind of power wall).

The second start-up, PowerUp Technology, offers board design and consulting services, together with a cloud-based dashboard to monitor and regulate current charge in battery-operated IoT devices. The company claims to improve the battery life of IoT devices by two!

Next up, we were ushered across the hall to visit Arabella Technologies, a manufacturer of a handheld bio sensor that correctly identifies odors in a field environment.

While there were plenty of offerings that ranged from silly – like the dog food scooper that turns red when your dog has had enough – to the “so last year” VR headsets with haptic gloves, the shift in focus from gimmicky gadgets to innovation based on the real needs of society was evident in the products and technologies we visited at the packed Eureka Park.

My takeaways from this CES are that Itron is poised to enable an active and intelligent infrastructure to benefit citizens of the future, our smart city message is accessible and crisp, and start-ups from around the world are well underway in the development of products and services to complement Itron-enabled smart cities!

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Elena Vasconi
Elena Vasconi is an innovator and marketer for leading-edge technologies that are driving the digital transformation of cities and utilities. As an evangelist for Itron Idea Labs, a lean start-up style group, Vasconi is leveraging her vast experience in working with entrepreneurs and executives to discover and create the next big thing using the Internet of Things.
She began her career in San Diego at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Science as a research assistant tasked with developing software to simulate the performance of a novel telescope for extra solar planetary search. Moving from academia to the government contracting, she applied her digital image processing skills and abilities to sonar and satellite communications for military purposes.
Vasconi was recruited to Silicon Valley where she joined the ranks of companies like Apple Computer, Adobe, Palm and Paul Allen’s Interval Research before branching out on her own. Throughout her career, she has worked with entrepreneurs, start-ups and public companies, to help leadership teams identify their core competencies, strengths and weaknesses and, more importantly, refine or develop their own voice, both within their organization and to the broader marketplace in which they operate.
Vasconi volunteers with the San Jose Piano Competition, hosting international contestants in her home in summer. She received her Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of California, San Diego, loves to garden and is an avid home cook.