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An old editor explores a new app for Itron Utility Week

I admit that I'm a bit of a latecomer to the app game. (What can I say? I'm old.) When I finally got an iPhone---which was a gift from a software engineer friend who had upgraded and thought my flip cell held together by duct tape was uber pathetic---the first thing I downloaded on the app side were games. Yes, I admit I downloaded Candy Crush. And Pet Rescue Saga. And a few Disney games. And, well, Tetris. (Remember: I'm old.)

But as I got used to the phone and the easy interactions it could bring me, I admit to expanding past games to things that I actually use. Today, I have more functional apps. I refill my prescriptions with an app. I deposit checks with an app. I will even check my flights to next week's Itron Utility Week with an app.

So, when I got a note that Itron Utility Week had an app, I crossed another first in my app world: I downloaded my first conference app. (Yes, I've been going to power conferences for 20 years. Yes, I realize previous apps were available and Itron Utility Week isn't the first ever conference app, but, again, I'm old. Baby steps.)

The first thing I noticed about the Itron Utility Week app: It's gorgeous. The opening page is clean, simple, eyecatching, with a pleasing design. (This is a decided change from some the apps I regularly use. They might want to give some notes to Bank of America and Walgreens.)

The functional tabs inside the Itron Utility Week app are sorted into nine simple categories: schedule, sessions by resource, sessions by track, track descriptions, speakers, activity feed, sponsors and exhibitors, maps and networking. To be fully honest, I expected to see a schedule, sponsors and maps. Those are basic "must haves." I'm happy to see sessions sorted not just by track but by descriptions, speakers and resources. (Most people going to a conference to attend sessions aren't looking to pop in by track. They're on the hunt for certain topics or people they know. It's delightful to see Itron really paying attention to that user experience factor.)

The first thing I clicked on the app: activity feed. Why? Curiosity. And it had a tempting little red number that said something was sitting there waiting for me---again, another good user experience concept: We're all lured by an unread message. The message turned out to be just a general welcome, but it served its function: It got me to take a look. 

From checking out the activity feed, I wandered around in the speakers part of the app for awhile. I know it's old-school, but thanks for the alphabetical order, Itron. It seems we've forgotten, as a society, alphabetical order as an organizational tool these days. I can't tell you how many apps and websites I open that make you wade through topics, concepts and, yes, speakers in a odd, random or schedule-based "order." I miss the ABCs. So, I appreciate them here.

Some speakers that caught my eye: Adam Anderson with Duke Energy presenting on preparing for big smart grid projects, David Deyagher with BC Hydro from the "Down to the Last Meter" session and Pat Vinton with ERCOT who will talk on disaster recovery planning. I hope to get to see all of them. (And, yes, Itron mobile gods, I've already bookmarked them on the app.) 

The networking part may be the single most helpful---and by far my favorite part of the Itron Utility Week app. It allows you to leave notes and messages for every attendee. While I admit this may be a logistical nightmare if your conference has thousands, in this instance, for a more intimate conference, it's a brilliant idea. If I miss Adam Anderson's presentation, for example, I can actually send him a note requesting a sit down at another time (or an interview---hey, I am an editor). 

While scrolling through the attendees under the networking tab, I ran across another Davis who isn't me---Ben Davis, Information Services Coordinator with Southeast Alabama Gas. He'd been bold and put his picture on his account. I decided I would follow that lead and do the same, but it you see my funky self-portrait on there, no making fun of my hat. I love that hat.

I played with the Itron Utility Week app for about an hour this morning, and I'm sure I'll do a lot more in it as I travel there on Sunday. (It will give me something to do during all those "waiting for a plane" moments.) I have to say, on first blush, I'm pretty impressed at the ease of use and benefits of the app, but perhaps I shouldn't be. 

After all, just this week, Itron launched Itron Mobile, which lets utilities' field operations use the Itron app across a number of devices from smartphones like mine to tablets and laptops. Granted, that one is for meter data collection and the conference app is for me to pin down the exact times on that pirate party, but it's all still part of the mobile world these days---from swashbuckling to service orders. 

The Itron Mobile system has one up on their conference app, though: It has safety warnings, including vibrations and tones, to make people aware of hazards. My request: I need one of those to warn me about potential irritating people sitting next to me on the flight to Orlando on Sunday. Granted, that's not nearly as important as field worker safety, but I'm only thinking of ways to better that already awesome conference app. That would be my one request of the Itron Utility Week app, even though I realize it's a pipe dream. But, a girl can dream.

Hope to see you at Itron Utility Week. Ping me on the networking app and tell me how much you like my hat.

 

Going to Itron Utility Week and didn't know there was an app for that? Look through your email inbox (if you've signed up for the show already). There should be an email that actually says "there's an app for that." You can also download the app from the Apple Store directly from your phone. (And one's available for Android, too.) Next step: Open the "there's an app for that" email on your phone and hit the "verify" button. Then join me wandering around the Itron Utility Week app.

And there is still time to sign up for Itron Utility Week Oct. 14-21 in Orlando. 

 

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