The Smart Grid is forcing a change in utility operations and pushing IT across its traditional boundary into OT. This integration is blurring the distinction between the two.
IT-OT systems are becoming more sophisticated, and the level of OT data for electrical distribution organizations continues to escalate as more intelligent devices and communications are added to the grid.
Various technology developments are helping to advance the necessary amalgamation of IT-OT systems in the utility sector:
Remote data collection and communications -The cost of collecting and transmitting operational data is decreasing. More cost-effective, wider bandwidth communications between the control centre and remote field devices provides the data communications back to the organisation’s IT department. Networks installed for advanced metering infrastructure, which have not typically been broadband, are also being used for operational monitoring, and even control.
Standard IT architectures - Certain operational technologies such as SCADA, DMS, and OMS, have been using standard IT platforms. This includes Linux-and Windows based software running in IP-enabled networks. This gives IT organizations the ability to economically manage these resources. These systems can be configured and monitored with standard network management resources. Chip capacity and higher disk and network capacity continue to lower costs throughout the OT-IT domains, providing the economic, high-scale computing capacity which is needed for increased distribution automation and advanced data analytics.
Applications Integration-Technologies available for system integration have evolved significantly. Real-time publish/subscribe messaging middleware has made it possible to apply some of the principles of enterprise application integration (EAI) to distribution operations. Today, the trend for linking many IT-OT applications is the development of Web services in a service-oriented architecture. However, a hybrid system architecture in which other interfaces, such as point-to-point, will be economically viable for particular applications. Application integration technologies continue to advance, further facilitating IT-OT convergence.
Data modeling and integration-Interoperability standards, which are developed by numerous bodies such as IEC and IEEE, are beginning to be employed. This includes the Common Information Model for distribution management. This model will cover various aspects of distribution operations, AMI, distributed energy resources, and demand response. The maturation of such standards is crucial to facilitating further IT-OT convergence.
Mobile computing and data access-Extending, inspecting, operating, and maintaining a distributed asset infrastructure means that many distribution work processes are field-based. The increase in mobile computing, data access, and even digital photography and video will result in major changes to distribution activities such as switching, inspections, design, situational awareness, equipment operating history, damage assessment, field resource optimization, and inventory tracking. Field crews will have much more access to operational data, some of which will be in real-time.
The complexity of these developments calls for and allows for the convergence of IT-OT technologies.
The implementation of these IT-OT systems in distribution organizations presents a large organizational improvement opportunity- its full potential has yet to be harnessed.
By breaking down the barriers that exist between IT-OT , utilities will encourage data sharing which is bound to enhance system performance, decrease costs and improve customer satisfaction.