HOW DO YOU SPELL IOT? Digital Dreams of Connected IoT Ecosystems for New Energy Challenges

HOW DO YOU SPELL IOT? Digital Dreams of Connected IoT Ecosystems for New Energy Challenges

By Itai Dadon, Itron

Coming back home from ETS18, I couldn’t help but keep on thinking about the panel discussion I participated in. I felt we touched on many extremely important topics that are driving the adoption of IoT technologies to solve some of the biggest challenges of utilities and smart cities around the world.

The Value of What We Don’t Know

The panel discussion showed me, once again, that in our industry, people are fueled by a profound sense of mission. We are here to serve the citizens around the world to live in a safer, cleaner and better world. The challenges that we face come at very large scale! They are driven by a need to better manage our world’s resources, provide more resilient and advanced services, reduce our energy consumption, make our environment cleaner and enhance our safety and security wherever we are.

These challenges are complex and each one can be translated into a specific problem with a monetary cost behind it, indicating the value that a potential solution may create. That value typically represents the framework within which we work to define our solution. But—and yes, there is a very big but here—any IoT solution that is created today connects some kind of sensor or data-generating device.

We typically look first only at the very specific aspects of the data that help us solve the originally defined challenge. Think of electric meters for a second; only a decade ago, they were used with an operational challenge in mind: Remove the need for a technician to go house by house and individually read each meter. Those reads would occur at a frequency of once every month or even every two months. Today, not only do we get reads every 15 minutes, but we can also use meters to perform remote-disconnects, dozens of sensing functions, smart-home connectivity and advanced distributed intelligence.

At Itron, we believe that it is critical to create solutions that are flexible, scalable and upgradable over time, as it is sometimes impossible to predict how IoT applications will evolve as we progress in our ability to deliver value for our customers using the data that is generated.

As we unlock the power of analytics and are able to process data in faster and more accurate ways, it is clear that the need to efficiently “mine” data is going to be an interesting challenge.

Edge or Cloud?

Everybody agrees that the perfect storm is going on right now in the IoT industry. On one hand, the cellular industry and smartphone revolution with its fierce competition is driving the development of high-performance platforms that feature compute, graphics, sensing, video and audio processing at lower and lower cost. On the other hand, connectivity technologies have started to proliferate into more and more industries and verticals, which is creating new market opportunities with a size and scale that triggered a new wave of innovations dedicated to IoT.

Enter – the Edge. A seemingly elegant way of not flooding your network with data and responding to situations faster and safer. This key is to get as close to the source as you can.

The edge definitely opens the doors to many new applications and creates a lot of value for our customers. We are pushing the envelope and driving development of advanced distributed intelligence in our smart grid solutions and introduced last year the IoT Edge Router for edge computing, on which partners are creating inspiring solutions for utilities and cities, such as radiation detection, air quality monitoring, smart-parking and gunshot detection. However, we all seemed to agree at the panel today that the edge is another tool that we can use and not necessarily the one-ring-to-rule-them-all.

At Itron, we always look at each of the challenges that our customers face and ask ourselves at each point of the way:

  • What is the best technology to solve this problem?
  • What is the right business model for this solution?
  • What should the complete end-to-end system look like?

Those questions are critical, especially as we engage with our ecosystem partners to bring even more innovation. We must not lose sight of the complete picture. Our strength at Itron remains to provide complete, cohesive solutions that are reliable, secure and scalable – from soup to nuts.

So, What Next?

We are at the beginning of this journey. As we strive to move faster and faster, we must not forget to work on how we transform our technological innovations and services into a deployed solution in the field. Bringing in more open ways to consume the data and extract value, engaging in creative business models that will help with financing and go-to-market, and removing all friction from the adoption of these advanced technologies and services is the key to the last lock.

Working on all these things today is really inspiring and why we at Itron believe that we are truly making an impact that touches the lives of millions of people around the world!

About Itai Dadon

Itai Dadon is director of IoT product management at Itron. He brings more than 15 years of experience in corporate leadership, new business development and product strategy in the telecom sector to Itron. Prior, Itai worked at Silver Spring Networks and Broadcom in several capacities, including leading the software product team in the wireless connectivity division and business development activities across multiple industries. Earlier in his career, he held product, development and sales roles for ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments and e-SIM Ltd.