Multiple RF Engineers Needed by Itron - RF Cafe Forums
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Post subject: Multiple RF Engineers Needed by Itron Posted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 12:21 am
Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Erie, PA
Itron Inc. is a leading technology provider to the global energy and water industries. Itron Inc. consists
of Itron in North America and Actaris outside of North America. Our company is the world’s leading provider of
metering, data collection and utility software solutions, with nearly 8,000 utilities worldwide relying on our
technology to optimize the delivery and use of energy and water. Our products include electricity, gas and water
meters, data collection and communication systems, including automated meter reading (AMR) and advanced metering
infrastructure (AMI); meter data management and related software applications; as well as project management,
installation, and consulting services. Please click on the banner below to learn about the RF engineering jobs now
I worked for Itron in the early 1990s as an RF
design engineer in Waseca, MN. The Waseca location began life as Enscan ("Engergy scanning," I think), which was
born of a project developed by the EF Johnson company and the University of Minnesota. Itron had bought Enscan
shortly before I arrived, while the company was still operating out of a portion of the EF Johnson building. Just
about everyone was a former EF Johnson employee. The company's biggest product achievement was the ERT
(Encoder-Receiver-Transmitter), which is the radio modem unit that is embedded in utility meters. A high volume
production facility was in operation that turned out thousands (maybe 10s of thousands) of units each day, running
24/7 shifts. A custom ASIC handled the digital data and control of the unit, while an ingenious RF circuit that
used a single transistor as both the transmitter PA and the receiver front end worked in the 900 MHz ISM band. The
simple superregenerative receiver would be "wakened" once every second or so to listen for an interrogator. If it
heard its unique ID code being called, the transistor switched into PA mode and blasted out a consumption message
using a frequency hopping spread spectrum format. If its name was not being called, it went back to sleep. This
scheme permitted the ERTs to run on a lithium battery with a published life expectancy of around 12 years - an
truly significant accomplishment for its day. Remember that this all predated cellphones. Those EF Johnson guys
were a very talented bunch. I worked on the interrogation system that was mounted in a van with a 1/4-wave whip
antenna on the top. It had already been designed and field proven, but the steadily rising ambient noise in the
900 MHz ISM band was beginning to cause meter read rates to decrease (meaning either a human would have to go read
the missed meter, or a second pass with the van would be needed). My job was to redesign whatever parts were
necessary to get the read success rate back to where it should be. Today, Itron still uses the Waseca facility to
manufacture its ERTs - a rare thing in a day when it seems like everything electronic is made offshore.
Worth mentioning is that one technician I worked with was actually a crewman on the famous Edmond Fitzgerald coal
freighter that went down in a storm in Lake Superior. Fortunately he, Grant, was not onboard during the fateful
voyage. Now I feel an urge to listen to Gordon Lightfoot's song about it...
Oh, must give my buddy Bob an
honorable mention. Bob could single-handedly lift the 200+ pound interrogation chassis into and out of the van. My
guess is that the unit has since been repackaged into a suitcase-sized chassis.
- Kirt Blattenberger
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster