With commercial and residential customers now able to choose their electricity provider, utilities endeavouring to compete effectively must provide new services designed to ensure the loyalty of these customers.

It's not that simple, however. To provide such services, vast amounts of data must be gathered, stored and shared with the appropriate market participants. The introduction of Service Level Agreements demands that workforces be despatched with greater efficiency than ever before. And utilities must be able to predict with ever-increasing precision how much energy is going to be consumed, when and by whom. None of this is possible without advanced technology and services. That's where Itron comes in.

Itron is a leading technology provider and critical source of knowledge to the global energy and water industries, providing a comprehensive suite of proven software and business solutions to meet the energy data collection and management needs of all participants in the new energy marketplace, along with the workforce management and energy load forecasting expertise to make deregulation-driven initiatives truly successful.

The first part of the equation, and one that utilities often overlook at their peril, is data management. In order to participate in the contestable market and provide your large commercial and industrial (C&I) customers with new services, such as load forecasting, load and financial settlements, complex billing, and Internet access, you must have software that can handle the volumes of data necessary to make these things happen in timely fashion. 

Itron's data management software (known as MV-STAR) has proven itself in some of the most complex markets in the world to be more than up to the task of storing, processing, aggregating and reporting period-based data.

When integrated with MV-90, the de facto industry standard for the collection of data from C&I metering points, this data management solution processes data quickly and delivers it in a variety of formats to suit your system users. It allows multiple versions of collected meter data to be edited, reviewed and reported against, a critical component for market settlement operators. The software also enables you to retain the history of data as it changes over time, preserving all versions of the data and tagging it to show how it has been used in the reporting process. 

Itron's data management solution also supports the management of contracts between service providers and end customers, an important factor in a free flowing energy market. And it can support your load profiling initiatives in conjunction with the market settlement process. 

Such load profiling and energy forecasting initiatives can set you apart when dealing with customers who are looking for a broader range of services. How much value would your customers get from being able literally to predict the future, pinpointing how much energy will have to be produced and when? Itron is more equipped than ever to lend expertise and advanced software in this area, due to the recent acquisition of Regional Economic Research, Inc. (RER), a firm special-ising in energy consulting, analysis and forecasting services and software. 

So let's say you've taken the steps necessary to put the infrastructure in place to collect, manage and store huge volumes of data, and to help your customers predict how much energy they'll need in the weeks, months and years to come. In order to reach and even surpass your strategic and operational objectives, the next step is to maximise the efficiency of the most important asset at your disposal – your workforce.

Field service operations represent a clear area of opportunity in which technologies such as wireless communications, the Internet and real-time data exchange can be applied to achieve significant operational improvements.

Itron is leading the way in this area as well. Service-Link is a web-based, wireless workforce management technology that takes field workforce management to the next level, helping all your other initiatives come together. Unleashing the potential of your mobile workforce unleashes the potential of your entire organisation.

As Australia enters a new era, market participants will have to embrace new technologies and new ways of thinking in order to thrive. Itron is poised to provide both, with proven solutions that have already made a difference for more than 2,000 utility clients worldwide.