The Itron team kicked off DistribuTECH yesterday with a compelling welcoming address from Itron President and CEO Philip Mezey on shaping the future of energy. Mezey hit the stage energized as he discussed the industry’s drivers for change with tech as the foundation for increasing grid resiliency and reliability. He zeroed-in on how “the face of the grid as we know it is changing” as we move toward improving operational efficiency and addressing aging infrastructure to deliver more reliability and security.

Our CEO also discussed the integration of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs) to meet the challenges of modernizing the grid. Mezey noted that Itron is now working with customers to analyze information being connected to build a more reliable grid. He explained how gathering information from a wide variety of devices permits us to build more successful utilities and allows us to connect with customers in new ways, all the while advancing more sustainable cities.

Presenting after Mezey was Paul Hinnenkamp, executive vice president and COO at Energy, followed by ComEd’s president and COO Terence Donnely. A major theme between all three opening keynote speakers on day one of #DTECH2019 was customer experience. How can we better meet evolving customer expectations and connect with them in a way that wasn’t possible before?

Mezey, Hinnenkamp and Donnely all agree that the time has come to shift to a customer-focused mentality, and grid modernization will help get us there by allowing for faster response times, enhanced outage and detection, and improved customer outcomes.

Donnely drew a clear line of sight between what Mezey articulated by sharing real-world examples of how Itron is working with ComEd to optimize efficiencies with a smart streetlight program that will reduce costs and improve service and outage detection for ComEd’s Chicago and northern Illinois customers.

Building on the customer experience theme was yesterday’s knowledge hub with Raj Vaswani, strategic advisor at Itron (co-founder of Silver Spring Networks), Jim Ogle, senior manager of network engineering at Avista, and Jay Olearain, product director-IoT solutions at Verizon Global Products & Services.

The discussion was centered around understanding IoT connectivity options and use cases for utilities, cities and critical infrastructure. We heard about the energy and city landscape evolution, shifting beyond meter to cash (M2C) and understanding utilities’ roles in the communication network. The shift in customer engagement was mentioned yet again, noting that because customers have a choice in network connectivity, putting the customer experience first is crucial.

When asked where utilities are seeing IIoT as part of their vision, Ogle said there’s a combination of factors needed to react to shifting changes, which include:

  • Environmental pressures such as focusing on renewables
  • Market pressures such as other providers entering the space as a result of distributed resources
  • Energy evolution with tech moving in the direction we need to go, bringing greater situational awareness

Ogle went on to explain that an IIoT use case that’s favored by utilities right now is the transformation from a centralized grid to a more distributed grid, noting, “we have generation out behind the meter, grid scale generation, and renewables all over the energy networking, which is creating a much more dynamic grid and opening up the possibilities of new business models—and with that comes new supporting applications.”

Vaswani’s perspective is that a decade’s worth of proven applications are giving the utility industry confidence to move forward and move faster. New technologies are allowing utilities to think about how they can expand their general infrastructure in a couple of different ways. One is through more things that provide direct business value for their own business, and the other is to potentially provide additional revenue streams. To do that, Vaswani says you cannot be hung up on a particular transport, you do need some flexibility around the mesh architecture, and it better be standards based. “Standards ignite markets and move things forward because people know that they are covered and safe.”

The question was asked how utilities and cities are coming together to develop a long-term network strategy. Ogle answered in saying that the changing landscape with this notion of standards and a more open model is one that requires more collaboration and brings a new approach to the problems utilities have been dealing with. Utilities can no longer build siloed systems that are independent of each other. We can expect to see much more collaborative partnerships to deliver on customer service with a drive to do it more efficiently.

The rich insights shared yesterday are a good indicator that the rest of DistribuTECH will be packed with engaging keynotes and knowledge hubs! But #DTECH2019 is just getting started – stay tuned for more updates! In the meantime, you can keep up with the #DTECH2019 conversation in real-time on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Also, be sure to stop by our booth #10115 to check out the Itron Experience and enter to win a pair of Apple® Airpods® with the hashtag #ImItronExperienced.

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The Itron Team