IT-OT Integration - Critical for Smart Grid

IT-OT integration helps utilities to realize the full benefits of the smart grid.
Published: Fri 14 Mar 2014

The goal for any utility that invests in smart grid technology is to achieve higher efficiency and reliable performance. By converging business systems and silos, a smart grid platform can be created which will encourage efficient and informed decision-making across the board.

The success of smart grid calls for a change in perception of how information technology and operations technology work together. Traditionally, these systems (IT and OT) have worked as separate entities. However, the two silos now need to converge in order to harness the full potential of the smart grid.

Convergence helps to realize smart grid benefits

If utilities do not fully embrace this IT-OT integration, they may miss out on a number of smart grid benefits. They could find themselves losing out on fully optimizing their smart grid data and operational capabilities, managing costs, and taking advantage of the revenue and business opportunities that the smart grid offers.

IT-OT convergence supports a high degree of grid automation, sensing and visibility. In addition, it helps to achieve a greater control of distributed generation and provides better support of regulatory compliance.

IT-OT encourages innovativeness

IT-OT integration makes a major contribution to smart grid innovation-it is changing distribution operations, enhancing system optimization; creating a more effective workforce with better-enabled employees, and creating more informed stakeholders through closer connections with external parties.

Thanks to convergence, IT and OT staff have new opportunities to work together on system engineering standards and architecture, product and supplier standards, and business case timelines. For instance, predictive analytics or "big data" is bringing IT and OT staff members together in new ways where IT has analysis capabilities and tools like Hadoop and in-memory computing platforms useful at scales needed by business counterparts and OT has data and domain knowledge, but no real experience with the cutting-edge analysis tools used by IT.

In addition to this, compliance activities have brought IT and OT together on processes such as safety, access controls, privacy and cybersecurity. High-priority, prescriptive compliance frameworks require IT staff and grid operations staff to work together in new and innovative ways to share documentation, and collaborate on risks and mitigation.

IT-OT creates a holistic view

The utility’s move to the smart grid is essential if it is going to keep up with the changes in the power sector. In order to enhance its benefits, utilities must be aware of the major influence of IT on operational equipment. There is also a need to create a clear, long-term plan for a smarter network. The plan should incorporate communications infrastructure and, most importantly, an architecture that accommodates IT-OT integration.

With this new approach, the utility will enable personnel to deploy each grid modernization application project as a part of a connected whole.