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Office Hours

Posts tagged: smart grid

Itron signs settlement and license agreement over patent infringement claim

Itron Inc. has signed a license and settlement agreement with a New York firm over a claim of patent infringement.

The settlement is with Endeavor MeshTech, Inc., a subsidiary of Endeavor IP, Inc, based in New York City. Its website says Endeavor IP is an intellectual property services company that acquires and licenses tech services and products protected by patents.

Terms were not disclosed. An Itron spokeswoman said Itron officials are not permitted to comment on litigation.

In 2013 Endeavor MeshTech filed a federal lawsuit asserting that components used in Itron's OpenWay smart grid system infringe on a wireless network patent owned by Endeavor.

The suit asked the court, if it ruled against the Liberty Lake company, to award damages and issue an injunction to stop the infringement.

Itron's OpenWay smart-grid system is sold to electric utilities around the world. It incorporates network components that connect customer meters to devices that send information about power consumption to other parts of the grid and to utility managers.

 

Itron’s next CEO offers management ideas online, via HBR.org

On Monday Itron Inc. announced that Philip Mezey, who's been at Itron since 2003, will step into the CEO and president's role at the end of the year. He's taking over for LeRoy Nosbaum, who is retiring for the second time in three years.

Nosbaum retired in 2009 and then came back in late 2011 to fill in as interim CEO. Nosbaum said at the time he would help until the next CEO of Itron was found.

Mezey, 52, joined Itron after being one of the principals at Silicon Energy, which Itron acquired in early 2003. He was VP of product development for the company, which developed apps and software tools for large customers and utilities.

Mezey said in an interview this week he knows the CEO job at Itron is demanding. The job he's held at Itron, COO of the energy group, has kept him busy traveling. “Traveling is pretty much my full-time job,” Mezey said. The CEO's job will be just as itinerant.

When he doesn't travel, those days he considers his happy breaks from the routine.

He's busy enough that Mezey doesn't have a home in the Spokane area, he said. He still maintains a home in Northern California, where Silicon Energy was based.

As a stroke of timing, Harvard Business Review's online site Monday ran an opinion piece today by Mezey, titled “A New CEO's Reinvention Road Map.” Mezey offers comments there on why he subscribes to the notion that a company has to balance maintaining its core assets while also committing to making big changes.

All I know is, if I worked at Itron, I'd go to the HBR site and post some serious apple-polishing comments. Seriously, guys, here's your new CEO offering some major thoughts and as of Tuesday, not one person has posted a response.

You can thank me later for the suggestion.

Itron selects from inside, choosing Philip Mezey to replace LeRoy Nosbaum

About 20 months ago Itron (based in Liberty Lake) announced Malcolm Unsworth would take over as CEO from longtime top guy LeRoy Nosbaum.

That didn't last too long. In September 2011 the company board brought back Nosbaum and asked him to right the ship. Nosbaum said at the time he'd only be aboard as long as it took to get results and help find a successor.

Monday the board chose the successor, Phillip Mezey, who has been with Itron since 2003 and has been 2003. president and chief operating officer for Itron’s Global Energy segment since March 2011.

The 2009 photo above is one of Unsworth on the left, Mezey on the right. Mezey was not yet head of Global Energy at Itron.  Does anyone know where Unsworth is today?

Itron is a maker of software, services and meters for electric, gas and electric utilities.

Nosbaum steps down agains on Dec. 31 but will remain a consultant with Itron and assist Mezey as he moves on with the job. Mezey will also become board president after Jan. 1.

Investors remain concerned and hopeful; in 2010 Itron shares lifted off into the high $70 range and then started a long retreat. In fall of 2011 the price per share dropped to around $34.

Since then, the share price is up, but only in the $40-41 range, and investors and customers are hoping to see Itron battle back and have Mezey work some magic with new deals and with existing customers.

Toshiba buys Swiss meter maker to compete against Itron for grid spending

Landis+Gyr is a Swiss company that does what Itron does, except in Europe: it develops and sells advanced utility meters.

It's another company that is busy figuring out how to develop “grid” devices that can make the distribution and consumption of energy smarter and more efficient.

L+G is already a very large competitor in Europe to Itron, Spokane's own major producer of smart metering devices and other utility products and services.

A Wall Street Journal commentator noted that Toshiba has spent $2.3 billion to acquire the Swiss meter (maid?) company.  The story noted global power use will grow 60 percent by 2030. The utility industry has to make major investments to keep up with that demand, and that's why you hear so much about smart grid.

Only 10 percent of European Union households have smart electricity meters. Clearly, Toshiba sees great potential by acquiring L+G, and this poses a direct threat to Itron's role in taking a share of the future market.

The WSJ story also notes Toshiba paid a premium for the company, by spending 11 times historic earnings for L+G. The other main Euro electricity meter competitor is Germany's Elster Group.

The commentary noted Toshiba, with yearly revenue of $77 billion, sees this purchase as its way to catch up Elster and Itron.

Russ Vanos, who is Itron's vp for marketing, said Itron's reaction is a positive take-away.

“The bottom line is Toshiba is a large, deep-pocketed strategic investor who paid top dollar for L+G which should give some indication of the level of strategic interest in this space,” Vanos said.

The millionth Itron smart meter draws a big crowd in Southern California

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - (Business Wire) Southern California Edison (SCE), an Edison International company, today installed its one millionth smart meter at the home of a customer in Redondo Beach. SCE started installation of smart metersLiberty Lake-based Itron Inc. said this week that they’ve just helped install their millionth OpenWay smart meter at Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the nation’s largest electric utilities.

What is striking is that the media folks at Itron went out and even found who the lucky customer is.

And it is …. drumroll … an unidentified customer who lives in Redondo Beach. Several dignitaries were on hand to commemorate the event, including U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), 36th Congressional District; Theodore F. Craver Jr., president, chairman and CEO of Edison International; Lynda Ziegler, senior vice president of customer service for SCE; and Malcolm Unsworth, president and CEO of Itron. The photo above, with two dignitaries and an unindentified technician, came by way of Earthtimes.com.

Does it seem odd that we get the full list of the honchos who showed up, but not the name of the customer? (We have a feeling he or he is not running for office.)

Now you will want to ask, what is an OpenWay meter? One way to think of it is, it’s like an HTC Droid Incredible or iPhone 3GS meter compared with your grandma’s cell phone. The OpenWay is Itron’s answer for utilities needing lots of ways to deliver data down the grid to the homes and businesses and customers, and to eventually allow demand-response control of a customer’s energy use.

Installation of the one millionth meter took place July 12. Southern California Edison”s crews began installing the first bunch of OpenWay meters in September 2009, and installations will continue
through 2012.
 

Cisco starts getting serious about getting into home energy monitors

This goes into the Smart Grid file, in the subfolder on home monitors that track residential power consumption.

Cisco has unveiled a new home device. It’s the Cisco Home Energy Management Solution. Like other devices coming to the market, it provides a network hub to manage and track one’s home energy system and tracks consumption. The emphasis, over time, as more “smart” systems go into the home, will be on MANAGING energy, not just tracking use.

Cisco is such a giant that once it focuses on a business niche, it usually makes its presence known. 

The device pictured is supposed to become available this summer, and the official list price is $900 per home. List price, we hope, is way different from what it will cost consumers.

It’s unlikely anyone within 300 miles of Spokane or Coeur d’Alene will be able to use it.

Aside from Wi-Fi, the controller can communicate with smart meters and appliances via Zigbee and also via a proprietary protocol (Encoder Receiver Technology, or ERT) used by well-established home-automation player Itron, based in Liberty Lake.

It will also interact with so-called smart plugs — peripherals that you can plug your existing appliances into that will send data to the Home Energy Management device.

Itron could use more visits with Obama

Did it make any difference when Itron Inc. CEO and President Malcolm Unsworth met with President Barack Obama in a Rose Garden ceremony last week?

The Itron stock symbol seems to tell the story.On Friday morning, April 30, Itron shares opened at $80.45. That morning Unsworth, with two Itron manufacturing workers, met Obama and listened as the president praised efforts by U.S. firms like Itron in helping meet the pressing needs of a more efficient electric grid.

At 11:40 a.m., shortly after the White House event, shares of Itron hit their recent high point, at $81.75. That’s the high price point over the past two years.

Since then the Itron share price has slid southward. As of today, it’s trading at $75 and change. To see the earlier Office Hours blog entry on the Rose Garden event, it’s here.

Deloris Duquette, who is vice president for sales development and operations at Liberty Lake-based Itron, said the real reason for the spike was the April 28 Q1 financial results.

“We released earnings after the market closed on the 28th and beat expectations by quite a bit and saw a (roughly) $5 uptick in the price on the 29th on very heavy volume.”

Right after the earnings report, the Thursday and Friday total volumes of shares traded also soared to more than one million shares, Duquette pointed out.

Itron CEO and workers meet with Obama in White House ceremony


President Obama on 2010 GDP Numbers






Itron CEO Malcolm Unsworth, along with other representatives of U.S. energy companies, met with President Barack Obama today (April 30) at the White House. (Associated Press photo found on www.whitehouse.gov)

Unsworth, who became CEO last year of metering-system powerhouse Itron last year, stands to the left of the president in this shot from a meeting in the Rose Garden. With Unsworth were two Itron manufacturing workers at the event, James Morris and Carla Reysack (far left).

The event saluted companies using federal stimulus money to help improve the country’s energy infrastructure.  A transcript of the proceedings is here.

McKinstry buys Itron’s enterprise energy management software group

Seattle-based McKinstry, a major company in the design, build and management of energy efficient facilities, said it’s purchased the Enterprise Energy Management Suite of software services from Spokane’s Itron Inc.

The goal is using the technology to help integrate smart-grid planning into the other services McKinstry offers, the company CEO, Dean Allen, said in a release.

The Web-based EEM Suite is described as an integrating software platform that collects utility-related data (billing, energy use, times of highest consumption) so that owners and managers can better plan water and energy use. No sales price was disclosed.

McKinstry has an office in Spokane.

WSU to get smart grid training money

Washington State University will get $2.5 million to teach students about green engineering and smart grid technology, Sen. Maria Cantwell announced on Thursday.

WSU along with two other state groups will share more than $11 million going to smart-grid related training, Cantwell’s office said in a media release.

The $11 million is part of $100 million in grid funding announced by the Department of Energy, for 54 projects nationwide. The federal money is to be combined with $95 million provided by the institutions and partnering companies and manufacturers.

Centralia College will get $5 million for training utility workers in the Pacific Northwest.

And Incremental Systems Corp., in Issaquah, will get $3.6 million to train operators, engineers and military veterans.

Avista selects open-standards wireless system for smart grid communications in Spokane

California communications company Tropos Networks has signed a $1.7 million contract to provide wireless services for Avista Utilities’ smart grid energy network.

A press release today said Avista selected Tropos’ “GridCom” mesh network system for full, two-way communications from substations to “smart” devices being installed across the Spokane electrical system grid.

Spokesman Hugh Imhof said the contract with Tropos allows Avista to install the network equipment and has Tropos providing ongoing support. The same network, not included in this contract, will be used in the Avista pilot Smart Grid project for Pullman.

Avista made the selection after reviewing a range of other industry options, the press release said.

The Spokane area upgrade to the smart grid system will run about $42 million. Of that, $20 million will come from federal stimulus money, said Imhof.

So, what’s in it for Avista’s roughly 365,000 power customers?

 

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