Darron Poulsen, a former utility worker and current senior business consultant with Itron, describes to Water Online Radio the benefits of advanced metering infrastructure, speaking from his real-world experience.
Todd Schnick: We are coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day one of AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I am your host Todd Schnick joined by my colleague Todd Youngblood. Todd we have survived day one.
Todd Youngblood: We have. We had two breaks today. This is the shortest day we have and we had two breaks.
Todd Schnick: Water Online never gives us breaks.
Todd Youngblood: I can’t believe it. This is has been two today. We have already had as much break as we are going to get all day today tomorrow. We should stop whining.
Todd Schnick: We are closing with a very strong guest, introducing to you Darron Poulsen, who is a Senior Business Consultant, Water Sales for Itron. Welcome to the show, Darron.
Darron: Thank you for having us here today.
Todd Schnick: It is our pleasure. Before we get into it take a second to tell us about you and your background.
Darron: My background, for the last 25 years I have primarily worked for water utility companies as a customer service manager, an operations manager, and in the last eight months I have joined Itron as a business consultant to help other utilities take on these advanced metering infrastructure projects and learn from my background of working in the utility world.
Todd Schnick: Darron, tell us about Itron.
Darron: Itron is a leading provider of energy and water resource management solutions for nearly 8,000 utilities in over 30 countries all over the world. Our water solutions empower utilities to responsibly and efficiently manage precious water resources using measurement and control technologies, communications systems, software, and professional services, which I provide.
Itron hardware, software, and service solutions measure, collect, and analyze meter data from electric, gas, and water meters, transforming it into valuable knowledge and information. Itron provides value to the clients by delivering knowledge that is essential for optimizing the delivery of the use of these vital resources.
Todd Schnick: Darron, your background does not sound like that of the typical sales guy. How did you get into this career change as it sounds to me? Why did you do that?
Darron: I was one of Itron’s original beta test sites for one of these network systems back in 2004 or 2005. I became very engaged with Itron and learning about the advanced metering infrastructure, the systems, the software and, together, we learned and helped my organization achieve a lot of the goals that we had set.
About eight months ago they asked me to come on board and help other utilities practice and utilize some of the skills that I had learned by working with a water utility. It has been exciting and engaging to go out there and help other utility companies with their goals and provide them with a lot of background on the information that I had learned from being a customer for such a long time.
Todd Schnick: From your perspective, which is really unique, what kind of things are driving folks to look at this AMI technology?
Darron: Today, if you look at most utility companies, most of them are struggling on an economic basis. Something financially is driving them to consider technology as a solution.
They are looking for a way to fill the void for their dwindling workforce; improving customer service; conservation tools – they are looking for AMI systems to provide the solutions that help them achieve goals that they have set – greater importance that they have put on their software; and they are even considering these new AMI systems to reach out even further beyond just providing meter reading data.
It is more than just a customer service tool. It has the ability now to connect to leak sensors, shutoff valves, and the software now can start working with hydraulic models and providing greater tools for utilities to use to utilize this interval data system to tie into helping them solve all kinds of problems in their organizations operationally as well as in customer service.
Todd Schnick: With regards to AMI, what are some of the other trends that you are seeing in the industry?
Darron: I think it is very important that when a utility company goes out there looking for a solution in AMI that they are out there looking for a solution that meets their needs uniquely, something that is flexible.
I think that is what is great about our solution, the fact that the module that you buy for our fixed network system, our most advanced metering infrastructure, the 100W, has the ability to go backwards compatible with even the most simplest solution – a simple walk-by system or a mobile system.
It allows the customer to build a system at their pace. I think it is important that these utilities, no matter how big or how small, find a solution that fits their needs and they find an organization that fits their needs and is willing to partner with them.
They need to understand that these solutions are long term and that it takes a lot of input from the customer and the vendor to be successful.
Todd Schnick: Darron, you just talked about partnering with the customers and understanding their requirements. Can you be a little more specific? Obviously, that is important for any vendor. What is different about Itron in that regard?
Darron: I think that is what really moved me towards selecting the Itron Company as a place for me to go to work. They really value that customer relation and really understood my needs. They worked very hard to work the solutions that they had in place around my need. They were always there for me. The support was always there 24/7/365.
I had a wealth of people that I could go to that provided me a wealth of information and helped me with a lot of different things. I was new to the industry with regards to using one of these systems, so it was nice to have a vendor like Itron who was there step-by-step and always helping me.
Todd Schnick: ACE 2012; what can we expect from Itron this year?
Darron: If you come by the booth I am sure you will find some of those engaging people that we talked about with regards to one who can help you reach your solutions.
I think that is the key. They want to be able to go out there, meet with you, and find out what you are looking for in a solution. We can provide that for you if you come by the booth.
We have staff members and a lot of different people that you can meet there today. There are project managers, software people, and sales people. You will get to see our highly flexible ChoiceConnect solution with the 100W that can be a handheld system, a walk-by system, or a fixed network advanced metering infrastructure system.
They can come by and talk to the leak sensor people and see the water loss management people and talk to them about everything that is going on there as to what they have with the leak sensors and all of the software applications. There are discussions with regard to how we can help with some of the water loss issues that you may have at your utility.
There is a lot going on in the booth. We welcome you all to come on by. We are at booth 2816. We look forward to seeing you.
Todd Youngblood: One of my favorite things, Darron, is saving money. I don’t think that plant operators are any different than me. What kind of things can I do to help save money for a plant operator?
Darron: When you talk about this interval data and these advanced metering infrastructure systems, what is different – that we really haven’t done in the past – is we can take that interval data, that regular hourly consumption, or maybe even a finer grain than that, we take that in conjunction with some of the information that you are getting back with regards to your SCADA systems and water model systems.
It will allow you to start seeing how you can effectively operate your system based on real data and not something that has been plugged into your water model with how you expect a regular customer to use water or when they use water.
It is actual consumption data that can be used to help you make significant decisions in your capital improvement projects, as well as how you operate your system efficiently. Some savings can definitely be seen on the energy side as well as your capital improvement planning.
Todd Schnick: Darron, we are out of time. Before we let you go, how people can get in touch with you and where can they learn more about Itron.
Darron: Definitely our booth 2816 and our website www.itron.com.
Todd Schnick: Darron Poulsen, Senior Business Consultant, Water Sales at Itron. It was great having you. Thank you for joining us today.
Darron: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Todd Schnick: That wraps this segment. On behalf of Darron Poulsen, my co-host Todd Youngblood, and all of us at Water Online, I am Todd Schnick. We will see you tomorrow morning for day two of ACE 2012