Entries by Dana Fennell

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Itron Intelis Gas Meter

At United Systems & Itron, everything we do is dedicated to ensuring the safe, reliable, resourceful delivery and use of natural gas to end customers. Itron pioneered gas meter automation and continues to be the premier provider of smart gas networks, delivering complete outcomes to the challenges gas utilities are facing.

As a result of advances in solid state metering and the integration of radio frequency, Itron is now able to offer an exceptionally compact and feature-rich ultrasonic residential gas meter with an internal shutoff valve in every meter.  The Intelis Gas Meter is a transformational solution that changes the value proposition for gas customers from metering and automation to one that extends intelligence to the edge of the network and moves the gas distribution network from a one-way gas delivery mechanism to an interactive energy network that can deliver gas more safely and efficiently!

The first of its kind Intelis ultrasonic gas meter weighs in at only 4 ½ pounds making it the lightest residential gas meter available in North America. Six-inch center-to-center hub connections make field retrofits quick & easy to accomplish. Intelis comes equipped and ready to operate in mobile mode or network mode, allowing flexible and migratable operation in AMR or AMI environments. Intelis comes standard with an internal shutoff valve on the outlet, providing the ability to self-monitor and shut off the flow of gas during a high-flow incident, independent of operator involvement or the RF reading topology.

Intelis Gas Meters enable utilities to automatically make intelligent decisions across their gas distribution network, delivering opportunities for operational savings and enhanced customer and employee safety by potentially preventing an explosion.

Key Features:

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Why Itron AMR?

Over the last year, the need for automation and remote work capabilities has become abundantly apparent. Many utilities have been forced to implement new policies and procedures for all facets of operation, including meter reading. These changes, consumer trends and desires, and a need to increase conservation and sustainability are putting more pressure than ever on utilities to streamline and improve their meter reading processes. Itron, Inc. Automated Meter Reading allows utilities to drive down operating costs, increase customer satisfaction, and improve employee safety.

Itron knows all about Automated Meter Reading (AMR) because well, they made it an industry standard. Itron AMR solutions allow utilities to leverage the unique expertise and leadership Itron offers. Utilities can rely on Itron’s automation metering system to remotely read usage data to improve service, protect against revenue loss, cut costs, and streamline field operations with a variety of deployment options.

Collect Meter Data Faster: 

Collect data through walk-by, drive-by, network or any combination of those methods.

Improve Data Accuracy:

Close service calls faster by pulling up granular usage data collected with 99% accuracy.

Protect Against Tampering:

Set usage thresholds, then be alerted to possible service theft or meter hacks.

Interoperable Standards:

Connect to Itron Temetra or 3rd party systems with modules using industry-wide communication protocols.

Collect Efficiently:

Collect via walk-by, drive-by, network, or any combination of these methods.

Made for Gas & Water:

Optimize gas and water operations with Itron’s multi-commodity solutions.

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Grow AMR with Temetra

If you’ve already begun implementing an Itron Automated Meter Reading system or have completed implementation of an Itron Automated Meter Reading system, Itron’s Grow Promotion is for you!

Itron can help you take the next step up in efficiency and effectiveness. Itron’s Grow Promotion is tailored for existing MV-RS and FCS customers with an upgrade to Itron’s next-generation, cloud-based  mobile meter data collection and management solution: Temetra. Temetra takes the place of both MV-RS and FCS offering utilities robust features and capabilities including:

  • Importing routes
  • Managing assignments
  • Providing reports
  • Delivering data to billing
  • Long-term data storage
  • Advanced search capabilities and integrated mapping
  • Intuitive user interface and dashboards
  • Ad hoc search-based reporting
  • Meter data collection & validation
  • Meter geolocation
  • Asset management
  • Meter/device photo storage
  • And more!

The Grow AMR promotion simplifies the upgrade process and makes it affordable by bundling Temetra setup fees, first year of the Temetra subscription and new walk-by or drive-by radios into a single, easy-to-deploy package.

MV-RS users can rest easy knowing that Temetra was developed with MV-RS in mind! Backwards compatibilities allow users to upgrade from MV-RS to Temetra and continue to use use their existing CIS/billing file interfaces, existing  code tables, and existing interfaces with other Itron systems including Itron ChoiceConnect Fixed Network and Itron Analytics. MV-RS users can also continue to utilize existing MC3 mobile collectors, existing meters, and existing ERTS.

 

By transitioning to Temetra from MV-RS or FCS utilities can now:

  • Choose Android, iOS, or Windows Devices for your field employees to use.
  • Optimize your operations and improve efficiency using Temetra’s unique GeoRouting and GeoSequencing route optimization capabilities.
  • Gain greater insight into customer usage patterns and potential issues with Temetra’s built-in graphing, analytics, and advanced search capabilities.
  • Improve customer satisfaction and reduce billing complaints with Temetra’s optional customer portal upgrade.
  • Lower your operational costs by moving to a completely cloud-based meter reading solution.

 

Take advantage of the Grow AMR promotion by December 31st, 2021, and save thousands!

TPM by United Systems: Cloud Definition

When you hear talk about the cloud, it can be a little overwhelming to understand this unique technology. Cloud architecture offers a huge number of solutions, and cloud technology’s rapid development has ensured that it is a field with huge potential. However, many people are not aware of what it is. 

As such, our team of IT consultants at TPM by United Systems are on hand to help you understand what the cloud is. In their most recent blog, TPM by United Systems discusses how people and companies are using the cloud to enhance modern data management systems. 

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Start AMR Promotion

Are you looking to transition to AMR from manual meter reading? Overwhelmed by the process?

With Itron’s Start AMR promotion, you can begin the transition to AMR and redefine meter reading for your organization at a pace that fits your organizational needs! 

Manual meter reading can be a slow, inaccurate and costly process. Itron’s advanced Automated Meter Reading solutions help utilities’ meter reading operations become safe, efficient, accurate and much faster than a manual process. Itron’s Start AMR promotion is centered on the Temetra Mobile App, Itron’s next-generation mobile meter data collection and management solution. The Temetra Mobile App allows meter readers to load meter reading assignments via any internet connection with a smartphone, tablet or laptop running Android, iOS or Windows 10. Once loaded, the meter reader can collect any combination of manual, probed or radio reads along with other valuable data and then send that data back to the host application over any internet connection.

The Temetra host application is a data management system deployed in the cloud. Cloud deployment allows managers and supervisors to securely work from home, the office or anywhere with an internet connection. The Temetra web application lets managers and supervisors assign work and view years of reading history, including daily and hourly usage.

The Start AMR promotion combines the Temetra Mobile app with Itron’s industry-leading AMR mobile radios that allow utilities to collect daily or hourly usage data from Itron’s advanced endpoints and meters.  By combining the Temetra Mobile app and Itron’s AMR mobile radio and endpoints, utilities have access to data previously unavailable. Equipped with this data, utilities can take action with both employees and customers to better manage resources, improve customer service and create safe, accurate, efficient meter reading operations!

The Start AMR promotion is a bundled solution with everything you need to start your journey, including Itron ERT modules, mobile hardware, and software.

Act before December 31, 2021 and save as much as $7,200!

Use the links below to learn more about this limited time promotion!

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TPM by United Systems: AI – What It Is and Isn’t

AI has been rapidly evolving in recent years with the IT industry placing demand on this innovative technology solution. It began life with humble origins compared to the immense potential that modern AI software can offer for business networks. In their most recent blog, TPM by United Systems looks at what AI is, how it originated and developed, and how your business can take advantage of this tool. 

A Brief Look at AI for Business Networks – What It Is (And Isn’t) 

It’s important that we know what AI actually is. Indeed, many businesses don’t entirely understand how AI can be beneficial for their tech problems and solutions.  

Let’s define what AI is and what it isn’t. When someone mentions the term “Artificial Intelligence,” you probably think of  automatic computers or machines, like robots. This belief was widely popularized by Alan Turing’s statement claiming that “one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” However, artificial intelligence IT solutions are actually a bit more complicated than this; the modern realm of AI certainly isn’t capable of self-awareness just yet, but it is still capable of offering a huge amount of potential for businesses. 

So, AI isn’t just an android; rather, it’s a program that is capable of completing tasks to a similar standard as a human or better.  AI systems can be categorized as: Narrow, General, or Super-Intelligent.  Narrow and general AI systems are already available for business networks to implement as an IT solution. These systems serve to do a small number of specialized tasks. Super intelligent AI is still in development though, and will likely not exist for a long period of time. 

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TPM by United Systems: Cloud Workforce Security

When it comes to working remotely, making use of the most up-to-date and high-quality cloud infrastructure and cloud computing services is very important. Cloud computing offers a number of options for business profitability, and a huge improvement for the ability to work remotely. However, you must have the right cybersecurity protocols and software in place to keep your network secure from hackers.

In their most recent blog, the TPM by United Systems team discusses cloud security measures you should know!

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TPM BY United Systems: Computing In The Cloud

Keeping your business network safe and secure is essential. Virtual offices and cloud services can be smart ways to keep your data safe. However, many people do not understand the benefits that investing in virtual offices can have. Today we will be looking at what confidential computing is and how investing in the right computing strategies – with help from your managed service provider – can help your business network achieve safe cybersecurity thanks to cloud solutions.

WHY CONFIDENTIAL COMPUTING IS SO IMPORTANT

When it comes to protecting your business network from hackers, you must have the right cybersecurity software in place. Information technology is an integral part of our lives these days. Still, a few businesses operate without some influence from IT service providers. That can put them at risk of getting hacked.

Confidential computing helps to prevent this from happening. In turn, this can help your business protect your, and your customer’s valuable data. Currently, more and more people are turning to managed IT services and cloud infrastructure and their solutions. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of migrating to the cloud

Check out the full blog from the TPM by United Systems team to learn the benefits of cloud infrastructure!

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Florida Water Treatment Plant Hacked

Over the last several years, we’ve seen utilities increasingly become a target for cybercrime. On Friday, February 5th, an unidentified assailant remotely accessed a computer that is a part of the SCADA system at the City of Oldsmar’s water treatment plant. In an attempt to poison the city’s water supply, the assailant briefly increased the amount of sodium hydroxide by a factor of more than 100. Thankfully, a supervisor noticed this increase and immediately reversed it, causing no harm to the water supply.

While beneficial to utilities, SCADA systems open the operation up to many cyber threats when the proper protocols and security are not in place. In 2019, we wrote the following article for the Tennessee Association of Utility District’s publication, Tennessee Utility News, outlining benefits, threats, and best practices for protecting SCADA systems.

Have questions?   Need help securing your system?

That’s what we’re here for! Reach out, and we’ll be happy to help!

Making Data Work for You:

SCADA for Utilities

Throughout the utility sector, SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems are becoming more and more prevalent. SCADA systems are a type of industrial control system that enables utilities to easily collect useful data, monitor operations, and automate many processes. For the utility industry, SCADA systems can have many different applications. SCADA systems can give operators and administrators instant access to information that was previously unavailable or difficult to obtain. SCADA systems can be used to monitor and control pump stations, monitor water in tanks and reservoirs, perform remote shut-offs and turn-ons, collect data for regulatory and financial reporting, among many other useful applications. These networks are not a one size fits all solution, however. They may be small or complex, only address one small portion of operations or encompass them all.  SCADA systems are becoming essential to water and wastewater system operations, monitoring, maintenance, and planning.

The heart of SCADA is the data it generates.

SCADA systems are typically made up of field equipment, data collection equipment, communication networks, and software.  Field equipment such as sensors or relays allow the utility to monitor and automate their system through the creation or consumption of data. This data is communicated via fixed or wireless communication networks through the use of Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) that are connected to the sensors or relays in the field. In most cases, these RTUs or PLCs perform real-time, continuous data collection, giving the utility easy access to data that enables operators to create and maintain a high level of control.

We’ve established that SCADA systems communicate data, but where is this data going? How is it being turned into action? The final piece of any SCADA system is a host platform. The host platform is comprised of hardware such as servers or a cloud solution as well as software. It is here where the actual benefit of a SCADA system comes to fruition. It is here where data is received, integrated, analyzed, and turned into actionable items. The large amounts of data that are generated by SCADA systems can be onerous and overwhelming. Having software and solutions that ensure that this data is processed properly, organized, and stored is essential to the performance of the SCADA system.

Protecting SCADA data and connected systems.

Just as SCADA continues to increase in popularity, so does the threat posed by outside sources. Over the years, we’ve heard mention of the threat posed by terrorists, hackers, and less than satisfied customers and employees. How do you protect your system from these outside threats and ensure that you avoid any loss of service?

The threat of cyber-attacks and cyber warfare is growing each day, and we see every day that utilities are not taking the necessary steps to protect their network. This topic is one that is constantly being discussed, but many times, no changes are being implemented. The two most common reasons are that many utilities do not grasp the reality that it could happen to them or the cost seems prohibitive to protect and monitor their system.

Threats to SCADA systems include but are not limited to:

Employee Error: Employees are a common cause of network security issues. While it is possible to suffer the wrath of a disgruntled employee, most commonly, network security issues caused by employees are unintentional and can many times be attributed to poor training, carelessness, or a combination of both. With proper training for employees and an active culture of vigilance, you can help your organization reduce issues caused by employee error.

Malware: Malware includes viruses, spyware, and an array of other malicious programs. These programs may not necessarily target SCADA, but because the SCADA network is not separated or protected, they are able to traverse over the entire network, thusly affecting the SCADA system.

Hackers: Intentional, malicious individuals or groups that are intent on gaining access to the network. These hackers could also use this data against you. By manipulating data or gaining complete control of your SCADA systems, serious harm can be caused to services, customers, and the entire operation.

"Using a combination of security policies and controls to adequately secure today’s systems is critical to your organization’s operation"

So what can you do:

The first step utilities need to take is documentation of your network connections to the internet. Any and all internal networks must be properly documented. All hardware, software, firmware, and applications need to be part of that documentation. All users, including outside vendors that have access to these systems, should also be documented. It is vital that utilities create and maintain accurate and thorough documentation of all connections to, pieces of, and access to their network.

In most cases, SCADA systems lack adequate monitoring and detection systems, making them vulnerable to attacks from external and internal sources. Setting up monitoring and detection controls is the next step in protecting your SCADA system. There are many different types of monitoring and detection software on the market. Selecting the software that is best for your particular operation can be a difficult task. We suggest that you work closely with network professionals to evaluate your specific network needs.

Once you have documented and set up adequate monitoring and detection systems, you can then begin to segment the network. Segmenting the network should be used to separate other business systems that are running on the same network as the SCADA system. Due to the fact that attacks are increasingly exploiting both physical and cyber vulnerabilities, it is important to align physical security and cybersecurity processes. Application whitelisting, firewalls, and gateways are all ways to build a defensive perimeter around your SCADA systems.

Security is also something that is in continual motion. Rules, security checks, report monitoring, and standardized processes must be instituted and utilized by everyone who has access to the SCADA system and all other connected networks. Regular evaluations must also be performed for vulnerability, risk, and all assets in general.  These assessments should be conducted on a regular basis to verify that security measures are adapting to the changing threats on the IT landscape.

Using a combination of security policies and controls to adequately secure today’s systems is critical to your organization’s operation. Understanding common weaknesses, creating and implementing an action plan to bring security to an acceptable level, and employing standardized processes will minimize the risk posed by an increasingly hostile Internet environment.

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Itron Utility Week 2020

Over the last two weeks, our Sales & Marketing has had the privilege of participating in Itron Utility Week and the Itron Partner Conference in a virtual format. While these conferences looked different this year, we could connect with utilities, industry leaders, and partners from across the country with innovation at the center of many conversations.

We heard from Itron, Inc. President & CEO, Tom Deitrich on the importance of innovation in our industry and how Itron Inc. solutions and ideas can be harnessed to meet the challenges that the utility industry is facing today as consumer expectations change, cities become more interconnected, and sustainability needs increase.

“We can empower innovation by sharing fresh ideas with endless possibilities, and together, create a more resilient, more reliable, safer and more resourceful world.” – Tom Deitrich

Throughout the last two weeks, we had the opportunity to witness how Itron, Inc. solutions can allow utilities and cities to address these changing needs and create a better future for the industry. The use of intelligence and analytics offered by these solutions will enable utilities to increase customer engagement, reduce water loss, better manage energy, and respond to changing real-time conditions. With the ever-increasing amount of data at utility’s fingertips, it’s more important than ever that we turn that data into actionable items. Having information is the first step; turning this data into progress is the second. Many utilities struggle with managing and acting upon data. Many solutions and ideals discussed over the last two weeks give utilities the tools needed to ride into the future, better prepared, and ready to ensure long term sustainability.

We want to thank Itron, Inc., for the ability to participate in these thought-provoking and informational sessions. We look forward to sharing the valuable insights gained with our customers!