Philip Mezey, President & CEO
‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.’ The wisdom within this quote of Van Gogh reflects best to humanity’s shared vision of ‘picturesque smart cities.’ As of now, things appear to fall in place with the emergence of IoT, electric vehicles and their ecosystem, and solar power implementations to name a few. Knitting through these promising facets will ultimately promise to endorse cities with the ‘smart’ tag. However, this paradigm shift, although for the greater good, comes with its fair share of hurdles such as rising security concerns, aging utility delivery infrastructure and the increasing need for efficient delivery of resources, and a lack of robust monitoring devices. In the case of utilities—the cornerstone of any smart city—the need to minimize wastage of resources has become the top priority, especially at a time when factors such as environmental pollution, ever-increasing demand, and rapid urbanization are adding pressure on cities to take the ‘smart’ way out.
In their transition from a centrally controlled product to a more distributed one, the present day utilities infrastructure will subject to an evolutionary shape-shifting en route to going smart. The grid will be an integral part of how electricity, gas, and water are going to be delivered. While the current scenario indicates three-seven percent loss in electricity distribution and one-three percent in gas loses, water distribution losses stand between 30-40 percent, which desperately calls for rectification. And given the fact that 40 percent of water is part of the power generation process, the energy and water cycle are heavily interrelated. It is thus a shared responsibility of the government and utility firms and all prominent players in the space to deliver abundant and clean power. And no other entity is better positioned than Itron, Inc. [NASDAQ:ITRI], the leading utility and resource management provider, to drive the ‘smart cities’ vision by imbibing efficiency in the way utilities are managed and delivered.
Philip Mezey, the president and CEO of Itron, opines that at a time when utilities are facing big challenges in revenue and questioning how they tackle infrastructure development to make themselves more efficient and enable new kinds of transactional businesses, there is a burning need for them to elevate their resource management strategies. “By putting more smarts into the meters, metering companies enable utility customers to be more successful and more innovative and to meet the really pressing challenges that the industry faces,” says Mezey.
Itron’s product and service portfolio include all crucial ingredients for the smarty city recipe
To realize its vision for the smart future, Itron reinvented meters—those idle, read-only devices that have been around for over 100 years. This transformation rendered them as IoT-friendly, data collection nodes with added capabilities, such as an interactive consumer centricity, one that is along the lines of personal gadgets.
Today, Itron’s product and service portfolio includes all crucial ingredients for the smart city recipe. Measurement and sensing units for all essential utilities such as electricity, gas, and water, network communication facilitators that include water network management, data collection, and meter data management, and cutting-edge software for analysis and distributed energy management are all within the scope of the company’s offerings. As a world leader in connecting infrastructure and managing data, Itron has installed over 150 million connected devices in cities throughout the globe. And among the company’s strategic partners are some of the world’s most leading names, such as Microsoft, IBMs, and Accenture to name a few.
Smart IoT Platform
Regarded as the only solution of its kind in the market, Itron’s OpenWay Riva IoT solution is designed to integrate smart utilities with cities, bringing interoperability into the open network of grid devices and sensors. The Itron Riva Developers community is an open ecosystem of partners for the OpenWay Riva Solution that allows providers to operate upon one unified network. With partners utilizing the interoperable platform, cities now have access to new applications much faster than in the past. As opposed to networks that were primarily built for smart metering, OpenWay Riva leverages a standards-compliant, IPv6 multiapplication network jointly developed by Itron and Cisco. This opens up endless possibilities for emerging smart city applications. Earlier this year, Itron, in partnership with BSQUARE Corporation [NASDQ:BSQR], a supplier of IoT software and integration services launched a first-of-its-kind grid edge app-store for OpenWay Reva.
When it comes to utility management and distribution, OpenWay Riva’s real-time electric power diversion detection can analyze changes in the current flows and voltage levels in the distribution network. Additionally, Itron’s smart meters can communicate directly with other meters at different levels of the network for detecting unsafe grid conditions or managing transformer loads.
By deploying methane and seismic sensors—paired with remote disconnect valves—the OpenWay Riva solution ensures safety throughout the gas distribution network. In case of water, the utility that is most prone to wastage, OpenWay Riva can proactively detect leaks with advanced sensing and remote disconnect capabilities. In a nutshell, OpenWay Riva, in tandem with Itron’s tangible products and expertise delivers smart resource management capability that is on a par with the efficiency and performance demands of the 21st century.
Rendering Smartness, Client by Client
The Kingdom of Tonga, located in the South Pacific, whose utility is run by Tonga Power Limited (TPL) deployed Itron’s OpenWay Riva technology on nearly 15,000 electricity meters on the island of Tongatapu. Today, the island is recognized as a ‘smart island’ that has installed a smart network for improved efficiency. This has resulted in Tonga Water Board leveraging the OpenWay Riva technology to manage its water resources more intelligently.
Similarly, Alabama Gas Corporation (Alagasco) chose to deploy Itron’s 100G Data Logging ERG modules to every meter in their territory. As a result, the utility provider was able to get a better picture of their customer’s gas usage. Itron’s offering was able to generate automated hourly readings as opposed to the ‘single monthly read’ offered by Alagasco’s traditional meters. They were thus able to enhance their network management and customer service by addressing their billing issues in real time.
"Itron has installed over 150 million connected devices in cities throughout the globe"
With many such satisfied clients all around the globe and with the company’s strategic innovations, Itron is regarded as the entity that holds the potential to make the utilities more consumer-facing while at the same time, being open to innovative inputs; pretty much similar to the app store ecosystem that caters to today’s smartphones.
Mezey has been at the helm of Itron, steering the company forward since 2013. Under his leadership, Itron has been enjoying a steadily increasing market value and has as well had a couple of noteworthy acquisitions, which have widened the scope of the company to what it is today. His leadership mantra is ‘to serve.’ “Leadership is about drawing people out of themselves and connecting them to something larger than themselves, whether that is a team, a company, or an industry. It’s the ability of the leader to draw people toward a vision. In Itron’s case, that means inspiring people to want to make our customers more successful, because I think that really is the essence of business—enrolling people in the quest to achieve customer success and helping them understand their role in serving the industry,” adds Mezey.