IT-OT Integration Roadmap for Energy Distribution Companies

IT-OT integration should be about consolidating to explore and benefit from new business scenarios.
Published: Thu 13 Feb 2014

The business process integration of data among IT- OT sectors has become a major driver of the transformation at energy distribution companies. The capabilities to relate data from sensors to business applications provide significant benefits and improvements to the current business processes of companies. This is according to Miquel Carbo, Industry Director Utilities, SAP, in his presentation IT-OT Integration Roadmap for Energy Distribution Companies, at European Utility Week in 2013, who discusses the correct strategies to follow and the benefits involved.

Choosing the right approach

The most common approach is to establish an end-to-end integrated process for the entire Asset Lifecycle-from “cash to asset” to “operations and maintenance” scenarios. With this goal in mind, many synergies and IT – OT integration areas are identified and implemented. The best way to do this is to adopt PAS55 (future ISO) as it provides a central guideline and measurable framework.

However, there is another approach. IT – OT integration, and the foundational technologies which enable it, are revealing a
new generation of systems. The new IT –OT convergence platforms gather data from all the systems and provide value-added information to improve system processes.

The concept of an IT – OT convergence platform, where the SAP “Real Time Data Platform” can be accommodated, does not replace any of the existing systems or functional domains. However, it provides additional information, such as condition-based maintenance or predictive maintenance.

Evolution steps: The roadmap

When energy distribution companies decide to implement an IT – OT integration platform, they need to have a clear idea as to what system processes and assets they currently have and what they are aiming to gain.

A good starting point is to have a decent supply of IT assets and data, both from the IT (historical data, technical data model) and OT (signals, time series historical data) departments. They also need to have a decent understanding of what is currently happening in the network-this is the real-time information provided mainly by the process control systems and Scada.

Information and data models should be optimized

However, normally the historical information and data models are not being optimized. These are usually used only for real-time information. It is recommended that an IT – OT convergence platform should enable capabilities to look into the past (retrospective analytics) as well into the future (forecasting, prediction).

The first step towards initiating this platform is to establish a data model definition and a data quality policy. Energy distributors should consider common information model standards (specified in the IEC 61970 for Transmission and 61968 for Distribution) as it provides a semantic model which describes the components and structure of the electric power system. This will enable the exchange of information between applications.

The next step is to define the data services of the platform, and also set up a Data Quality Policy. Often, energy distribution companies experience difficulties in managing their data quality during the life of the asset.

To assess, validate and continuously monitor the quality of their asset data, organizations use quality management tools and pre-defined content in order to:

  • Create or change business and validation rules

  • Identify corresponding data quality issues

  • Identify on-going analysis of historical data with continuous insight for IT systems

  • Set up pre-defined business rules to cover critical data such as Technical equipment, Bills of Materials, Maintenance Plans, and Task Lists.

The result is a platform where both retrospective analytics and forecasting can be carried out. This results in a more holistic view of asset information.

High performance analytic appliance makes this all possible, says Mr Carbo. By using an in-memory, column-oriented, relational database management system; obstacles are removed when big data is being analyzed. Benefits include:

  • Decisions Closer to Real-time

  • Fast and easy creation of ad-hoc views on business

  • Access to real-time analysis

  • Accelerate Business Performance

  • Provide sufficient speed of the information process to reach new functional areas such as planning, forecasting, data mining, predictive analytic and simulations for structured and unstructured data

Cases of new generation of applications based on IT- OT integration – The Real Time Data Platform

A very interesting scenario has been prototyped by Dr. Ralph Kühne, from the SAP Innovation Center Potsdam, explains Mr Carbo. They have built a prototype to experience how the SAP HANA platform can analyze large volumes of operational data using the latest Web UI technology to visualize transformed overload situations in the context of a co-innovation project with the SAP innovation Centre.

Another case is the Space Time Insight which offers Asset Analytics based on Situational Intelligence. It also supports day to day management of transmission and distribution assets. With this platform, companies can have an enterprise system for identifying alerts, asset risks, priorities to optimize asset lifecycle decisions, and “what-if” scenarios.

Alert Enterprise is another good example. Its goal is to provide a Unified Identity and Risk Management System to manage security information, operations and threat prevention out of the traditional silos of IT applications, physical security and Sensor (Scada) data. An example of this may be to prevent access to a critical area, like a substation, to a person with an authorized badge, outside of normal working hours without a work order.

It is not only about detection through video integration but to facilitate intelligence by providing remediation scripts for automated and\or manual response. It gives security personnel the broader context of what is happening on location.

Mr Carbo concludes: “IT – OT integration at energy companies is about the capacity to freely manage Big Data. As technology is becoming a commodity while application e-signs and content are being produced, it is feasible to think about consolidating data in a single instance and to explore and benefit from new business scenarios. Achieving a significantly high return is feasible as the large investments in smart infrastructure are already done in most cases and IT investments are small in comparison.”