The weather in San Diego during the DistribuTECH 2017 conference did not disappoint with sunny skies, 70+ degrees and it’s always wonderful dining experiences. Companies from across the globe sent a few fortunate employees to enjoy not only what San Diego has to offer, but an opportunity to see the next wave of technology, focused on improving their work experiences.
The opening Keynote session, sponsored by Oracle, focused in emerging technologies with a “don’t get left behind” theme. Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor-at-Large of Fortune Magazine, gave an entertaining and insightful presentation on emerging technologies and how not keeping up has resulted in failure. Examples he cited are the Blackberry, once the mainstream business device; Taxis, now being replaced by the likes of Uber and Lyft; and Tesla, who instead of needing to bring cars back to the shop for a recall, was able to repair a major problem through a wireless software patch. Audry Zibelman, Chair, New York State Public Service Commission, presented on how emerging technologies outpace our government’s ability to keep up with regulating the market. Scott Drury, President of San Diego Gas & Electric presented on how his city embraced the Smart City concept and is a leader in Distributed Energy by embracing all forms of generation.
DistribuTECH was well attended this year with over 14,000 present. This made for a lively show floor and many opportunities for vendors to engage with their customer base and make new and interesting contacts. The emerging technologies being shown at the display booths created an energy of excitement for what is possible and what is coming in the future. Many vendors incorporated VR and Microsoft’s HoloLens to show how facilities can be designed, built and managed. The Cloud is becoming a reality for the industry, which at one point was reluctant to embrace it, but is now gaining in understanding and realizing the cost savings and efficiency being provided by organizations such as ourselves, GeoSpatial Innovations.
An interesting development occurred at the conference with regard to cloud technologies. Electric Light & Power reported on a study funded by Oracle highlighting the acceptance of cloud technology by utility regulators. The EL&P report states that 83 percent of U.S. utilities regulators surveyed believe the cloud to be an important technology trend and 67 percent agree that the cloud will be critical to utilities’ future success. This is an important development, as utilities are compensated based on investment in the plant (capital) rather than operating and maintenance expense. This could open the door for subscription based cloud services if regulators are seeing value and are open to new methods of recovery.
Another familiar technology theme was in the Geospatial track. A discussion panel perused the use of mobile devices by field technicians and how there was often a resistance to putting a laptop or tablet in a truck but now those same techs couldn’t live without their smart devices. GeoSpatial Innovations excels at putting user friendly software into the hands of field personnel; for instance, American Electric Power has over 600 people doing designs in the field using high accuracy Trimble GPS hand held devices. Most of these folks never take a map to the field; with GPS they are already in the map.
Once again technology was in the showcase; after all it’s in the name, Distributech.