3 smart city lessons from Washington and Idaho (who would have thought?)

Thu, 2016-05-05 10:31 -- Jesse Berst

Don't think that smart city innovations come only from big cities. Consider, for instance, what is taking place in eastern Washington and parts of Idaho. As you will read below, the regional utility is modernizing its electric and gas infrastructure with the help of Itron. This press release speaks to at least three important smart city trends:

1. Multi-service communications networks. Thanks to Itron's pace-setting OpenWay Riva technology, the utility is gaining a communications network that can handle many things beyond just smart meters. Such as smart city applications.

2. Utilities as smart city partners. It's almost impossible to become a smart, sustainable city without the cooperation and collaboration of your electric power utility.

3. "Edge" or "distributed" computing. It's not practical to send every signal from every sensor to central computers, then wait for those computers to respond. Instead, pioneers such as Itron are embedding intelligence in their edge devices. That way, some of the processing can be done locally, greatly improving response time. Meanwhile, only the summaries, exceptions and alerts are sent along.

Why is this mostly rural area leading the way? For one thing, Avista Utilities is one of North America's most progressive, future-oriented utilities. For another, Itron is a smart city thought leader from way back (and one of the founding members of the Smart Cities Council). And for a third, even small cities such as Spokane and Pullman are eager to bring the benefits of smart technologies to their citizens. — Jesse Berst

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — May 3, 2016 — Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ: ITRI), a world-leading technology and services company dedicated to the resourceful use of energy and water, announced today that Avista has selected Itron to modernize its electric and gas network in Washington state and lay the foundation for smart city applications. Contract negotiations are now underway. Avista provides energy services and electricity to 375,000 customers and natural gas to 335,000 customers in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and parts of southern and eastern Oregon. Avista will deploy Itron’s OpenWay Riva® IoT solution, which delivers true interoperability and distributed intelligence over an Itron and Cisco® network. The utility plans to use the next-generation solution to improve electric and gas operational efficiencies, enhance reliability, reduce energy losses, and enhance customer service and engagement.

 Itron’s OpenWay Riva solution is the only utility and smart cities IoT solution available that delivers both Adaptive Communications Technology and distributed intelligence to meters, grid devices and sensors at the edge of the network. The platform’s computing power will enable utilities like Avista to run multiple applications in edge devices and make near real-time decisions in the field, instead of solely collecting data for billing and back office analysis. In addition to smart metering, the utility can push various applications to edge devices, including revenue assurance and theft detection; high impedance detection and other safety diagnostics; outage detection and analysis; transformer load management; demand response; and management of distributed generation at the sub-transformer level. The new solution will also enable Avista to provide more timely information to its customers so they can better manage their energy usage. Additionally, with open standards, the IoT multipurpose network can be the foundation to run smart city applications, such as smart street lighting or electric vehicle charging.

The solution’s Adaptive Communications Technology combines radio frequency, powerline carrier and Wi-Fi on the same chipset to deliver high communications performance with connectivity. The technology intelligently utilizes the most reliable and fastest communication path, and most efficient data rates based on its location, network operating conditions and the type of grid application or data.

“Itron is honored to be working alongside Avista as it takes the next step in modernizing its electric and gas network with Itron’s OpenWay Riva IoT solution,” said Mark de Vere White, president of Itron’s Electricity business line. “The OpenWay Riva solution features entirely new capabilities in communications and distributed intelligence, and has the power to transform utility operations, delivering new value in distribution system efficiency, reliability and safety. We look forward to bringing these capabilities to Avista.”

“Avista continually invests in modernizing our electric grid, gas network and other systems as we plan for the utility of the future to support technologies of tomorrow. We selected Itron for our multi-year Advanced Metering project because its OpenWay Riva solution can deliver the capabilities we need today and provide the flexibility and foundation for additional applications in the future to meet the evolving expectations and needs of our customers,” said Heather Rosentrater, Avista vice president of Energy Delivery. “We are fortunate to have a global leader that can help us realize our vision for a modernized grid and gas network. We look forward to working with Itron to make this vision a reality.”

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