Drones, broadband and all the cutting-edge technology that electric co-ops are using to build better futures for their consumer-members are among the big attractions featured at NRECA’s TechAdvantage Expo 2019 in Orlando, Florida, March 10-13.

For the thousands attending the premier trade show for the electric cooperative industry, there will be many opportunities to learn from experts about equipment and services available to co-ops.

“The Lab is back,” said Eric Commodore, NRECA’s director of meetings and events planning. “It was such a hit with Annual Meeting and TechAdvantage attendees last year that we’ve looked for vendors and service providers to make it even bigger in 2019.”

Co-ops now deploying or considering fiber-to-the-home technologies in support of rural broadband will get opportunities to see what that technology could mean to consumer-members as they upgrade appliances and other household systems.

“This year, the TechAdvantage Expo will feature a utility-connected home that includes many of the technologies developed for the ‘internet of things,’” Commodore added. “Visitors will see how co-ops and their members can use interoperability to manage energy use with internet-enabled appliances and other devices.”

With over 72,000 square feet of exhibit space in the newly renovated Orange County Convention Center, the 300 participating vendors will have ample room for demonstrations and product display. Attendees will be able to see more than static examples of products that could help meet their members’ needs.

Expo TechPark will provide opportunities for direct contact with industry experts who will be available to answer questions and provide in-depth information on their products and services.

“Vendors and attendees will be discussing the tools, systems and platforms co-ops are using to boost efficiency and productivity,” said Steve Young, an NRECA marketing manager. “We’ll also feature products and services that are transforming the way co-ops do business, and TechTalks will be taking place in the Expo TechPark, March 12 and 13.”

To keep conference attendees connected, personal FM radios with earbuds will be distributed. They will air the TechTalk presentations live from TechPark.

“We’ve got a great lineup for the TechAdvantage conference this year,” said Mary Ackleson, TechAdvantage program manager. “Our keynote speakers are offering valuable and inspirational insights and our conference presenters are authorities on some of the top issues confronting co-ops and the entire utility industry.”

Cybersecurity expert Kevin Mitnick will speak at the opening general session. Hacking into the systems of 40 major corporations earned him a spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. He is now the leader of a white hat firm hired by clients to deliberately penetrate their own secure systems using technology and social engineering.

The closing general session will feature former NFL Pro Bowler Karl Mecklenburg, star tackle of the Denver Broncos from 1983 to 1994. Mecklenburg played all seven positions on the defensive line, making him one of the most versatile NFL players of the modern era.

In addition to a full track focused on broadband, the TechAdvantage will feature the top-rated sessions from the 2018 IEEE Rural Electric Power Conference:

  • Toby Landes of Valquest Systems Inc. on solutions to power-quality issues in large motor applications.
  • Jeremy Blair of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. on common distribution protection challenges.
  • Adam Toth of Toth Associates Inc. on rate considerations related to solar distributed generation.

The 72 breakout sessions and 20 TechPark talks cover topics such as communications, disaster recovery, blockchain, wood pole inspections and treatments, data analytics, safety, drone operations, and facilities security.

“TechAdvantage runs concurrent with the NRECA Annual Meeting but it has its own purpose and character,” said Commodore. “It is a showcase for existing and emerging cooperative technologies and an opportunity to share techniques and information that helps co-ops get stronger and serve their members better.”

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2019 NRECA Annual Meeting: What You Need to Know