I’ve been attending DistribuTECH for the last 10 years, and the only constant thing has been change. Maybe not rapid and fast-paced change like we see at perhaps Consumer Electronics Show (CES)or B2B conferences, but change none the less.

This year was no different. Not only vendors, but also utilities, are accepting and gradually embracing cutting edge and next-generation technology.

No Longer Just AMI and Smart Grid

As mentioned in this Greentech Media article, vendors like Itron are looking at business  models and technologies that provide value beyond Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), like smart cities, streetlights, machine learning AI and a whole lot more.

At DistribuTECH for the First Time

Some unusual vendors were present this year. Mercedes Benz ­– yes, a car company – was showcasing their energy storage solutions along with Tesla. Tesla was also showcasing their solar roof. It was pretty sweet, and I would replace my roof with that any time.  And of course, Itron has a solar gateway to go with that.

Drones Are Everywhere
Yes, this was year of the drones. Lockheed Martin and Intel had some of the coolest ones to show. Many utilities are already using drones for inspecting transmission lines for damage from storms as well as distribution lines for normal wear and tear. So don’t be surprised to see a drone nearby to repair a transmission wire.

AR for the Mobile Worker

Using augmented reality for service repairs is not the future, but the present. Intel had the Intel Falcon JetPro on display and it was pretty neat. I tried it and I could definitely see its usefulness for utility field workers!

DIY Energy Disaggregation

We’ve seen load disaggregation companies like Bidgely and Powerly enabling utilities to inform consumers about what appliance is using how much energy. Whisker Labs actually has a simple DIY energy disaggregation gadget much like the Nest from Google that lets the consumer monitor and control their appliances’ loads. That’s pretty cool!

Country Pavilions

This is the first time there were pavilions by countries. These pavilions were showcasing technologies used to move electricity from the power plant through the transmission and distribution systems to the meter and inside the home with more than 11,300 individuals from 78 countries – China having the largest pavilion.

Electric Bike for Me and a Tesla for My Son

I could not let this pass. An electric dirt bike and a Tesla car EV for kids.

The industry is on the move and evolving fast. Everything from internet of things, to smart cities, street lights, distributed energy sources like solar, electric transportation, storage, augmented reality, drones and more, are on the table. Vendors like Itron are responding, and utilities are embracing new technologies and business models. Who knows what we will see a year from now. But one thing is certain, a decade from now this will be a totally different show.


MK Khan
Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Itron Idea Labs - Itron Idea Labs
Musaddeq Khan (MK) is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Itron Idea Labs and a serial tech entrepreneur in Atlanta. He was also the founder of Verdeeco, Inc., dubbed iTunes of Smart Grid by Greentech Media.
MK has worked with startups like Bractlet and 1Efficiency and is adviser and mentor to startups and tech entrepreneurs.