Recently, I had the honor of speaking at the National Governors Association (NGA) winter meeting. For those who are unfamiliar with the NGA, it is a bipartisan organization representing our nation’s governors that identifies priority issues and deals with matters of public policy and governance at the state, national and global levels. I took part in a fireside chat that was moderated by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, along with Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert, about the future of smart city technologies and their deployment and applications. It was a tremendous opportunity, both professionally and personally, to speak on topics that I’m so passionate about.

One of the first topics that Governor Burgum brought up for discussion was about how to pinpoint where efficiency problems occur. As I shared during the panel, smart data is part of the solution since it can intelligently target acute problems and smart analytics can better target investments to proactively fix inefficiencies. Smart communities also need to close the gap of information between providers and their customers about the municipal services received and commodities consumed. Citizens are demanding more timely and accurate information, and Itron is working with our customers to help them deliver that. One way to achieve this is to embrace open standards that can unlock innovation and allow other players to come in and present new ways of doing things. It is imperative to create an environment that enables other people to develop ideas, as there is an incredible wealth of innovation that remains to be tapped.

During the panel, I also shared that smart city technology can really take off through early wins that have quick payback and serve as anchor tenants for other technologies. For instance, we have seen this with smart streetlights and re-lamping with LEDs, which are 70 percent more energy efficient. Starting here, cities can create a canopy where other smart technologies can be added that address air quality, traffic management or public safety. Addressing in this manner enables cities to better manage their economic risk by tackling a specific problem and then building outward with other technologies.

Smart communities need a greater focus on resiliency and modernization of systems to be more reliable and better handle disruption—whether natural or manmade. It was a sobering reality for the governors at NGA to learn that 5 to 7 percent of electricity is lost in the electrical distribution system. And 30 percent of water that is put into the water distribution system is lost before it even gets to the end consumer.

Looking ahead, there is much to be done. I applaud NGA for being open and receptive to the tech industry as a partner to help with these challenges, and Itron will continue to be a proud sponsor of NGA’s “Smarter States, Smarter Communities” initiative. I am incredibly enthusiastic about Itron’s role in this future and how we can help improve energy efficiency and create smarter cities and grids.

To watch the full recording on the panel, please visit:

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Philip Mezey
President and Chief Executive Officer - Itron
Philip Mezey was appointed president and chief executive officer and named to Itron's board of directors on January 1, 2013. Mezey has served the company in several capacities during his career at Itron, most recently as chief operating officer for Itron's global Energy segment, with responsibility for the operations of Itron's electricity and gas businesses around the world. He also previously served as senior vice president and chief operating officer — Itron North America, group vice president and general manager, as well as senior vice president for Software Solutions. Upon Itron's acquisition of Silicon Energy in 2003, Mezey joined the company as managing director of Software Development for Itron's Energy Management Solutions group.

Prior to joining Silicon Energy in 2000 as vice president, Software Development, Mezey was a founding member and served 12 years with Indus, a provider of integrated asset and customer management software. Mezey earned his BA degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley.