The utility of the future will be a hyper-connected ecosystem that easily shares data across devices to break down silos and automate operational decision making. Unfortunately, we are still a long way from this future. While utilities do a nice job of collecting data, it is not easily shared between devices. As utilities modernized over the past decade they built many proprietary systems and engaged with a handful of vendors, which ensured that their IT and OT systems don’t speak to one another. True automation will require a multitude of software platforms, telecommunications networks, and hardware to integrate. How do utilities work towards interoperability?


1. Create a Distributed Automation Roadmap

 Currently, only 28% of utilities are moving forward with large-scale and well-integrated distributed automation (DA). Even that number is slightly on the high end because there are many stages in this process from the pilot all the way to fully deployed systems that communicate with each other. Therefore it is imperative that utilities create an automation roadmap that identifies the most crucial systems for modernization.

2. Prioritize Modernization

At its core, DA is very much about delivering greater reliability, system stability and safety in an economical fashion by automating distribution equipment. About 85% of respondents say reclosers are in their top three priorities for automation, followed by voltage regulators (76%) and capacitor banks (57%).

There are a variety of applications expected from automating distribution equipment. Clearly at the top of the list is fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR). Automating FLISR will improve the Customer Average Interruption Duration Index, a key benchmark for regulators.


3. Connect Key Systems

Utilities have made the most progress in digitalizing their SCADA, Outage Management, and metering systems, but most still have a long way to go to complete their AMI deployment, which will serve as a lynchpin in understanding the real-time demand on the grid. Furthermore, a truly digital GIS platform will allow utilities to visually understand where every asset is on the grid and how it is performing. As the grid becomes increasingly distributed, the harmonious integration of these crucial systems will allow a utility to maintain system reliability and operate efficiently.

4. Create Platform for Connection  

IT departments at utilities are already managing many software systems and that number is not likely going to shrink, due to the increasing proliferation of digital solutions. Without a strategic approach, integrating all the different platforms to build fully operational DA can cause an IT nightmare. To effectively integrate these new initiatives, utilities must create a DA platform that is comprised of a variety of distinct systems. Communication networks and software connecting these key assets is essential.  The proper IT infrastructure can integrate AMI, OMS, SCADA, GIS, and other systems crucial to a modern utility.

Advancing the integration of applications and systems improves interoperability for utilities which allows them to leverage the variety of applications that play a role in Distribution Automation through a cohesive strategy as opposed to a piecemeal approach.

Zpryme recently surveyed 160 primarily North American utilities to understand today’s strategies for DA and future visions of a distribution automation ecosystem. Download our free infographic for more information on how utilities are working to create an interoperable distributed automation platform.

Infographic: A Vision for an Integrated DA Ecosystem