Utilities are constantly aiming to improve grid resiliency and power reliability but without effective communication with field workers, this will be hard to achieve.
Utility must adapt
Today, utilities have access to a variety of solutions that will help them adapt to an ever-changing power industry. Solutions now have the flexibility to help utilities adapt to new challenges, new and innovative ways of conducting business, new communications networks and new hardware form factors.
Utilities do not operate in isolation-they are subject to many external factors which are forcing them to change how they manage their workforce, especially via mobile networks. This is relevant for all utilities.
Future-proofing mobile networks
Since there are a multitude of scenarios that can alter the business landscape, utilities need to plan ahead by adopting a forward-thinking strategy. This will help the utility to “future-proof” their mobile networks. In many cases, the core of this strategy is Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM). Lee Johnson of Netmotion Wireless suggests five reasons why utilities should future-proof their mobile networks by leveraging an Enterprise Mobility Management solution:
1. Changing business models
Utilities are moving toward a decentralized, distributed workforce that is beginning to rely less on paper and face-to-face exchange of orders. Ideally, field workers will spend significantly less time reporting into the main office. Instead, using their mobile devices and relying on Enterprise Mobility Management software to maintain a secure, constant link to corporate resources, workers can perform these tasks on the road. By spreading out operations across local service areas, utilities can maximize employee productivity and cut down travel time between work orders. Dynamic and scalable mobility software is the best way to manage large, distributed workforces today while setting them up for success tomorrow.
Communication is always the most important element of a disaster recovery plan. By creating reliable every day mobile connectivity, the organization has the same protection when disaster hits. This allows teams to mobilize and respond to urgent situations quickly. Disaster preparedness is another reason utilities are decentralizing. This is so that points of failure are minimized when a particular service area has been neutralized.
3. Communications changes
For reasons ranging from cost to coverage to consolidation, it sometimes becomes necessary for utilities to change wireless carriers or even the entire network configuration. But such developments should not affect communications between mobile workers and corporate systems. An effective Enterprise Mobility Management solution insulates mobile applications from changes in carriers or networks, regardless of whether the mobile worker is relying on cellular, Ethernet, Wi-Fi or satellite. Consequently, the applications will continue to operate consistently and easily for mobile utility workers and their corporate counterparts.
Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly adept at finding ways to infiltrate corporate systems, and mobile networks have become a vulnerability point. It is therefore critical that utilities remain ahead of the cybersecurity curve. They should choose an Enterprise Mobility Management solution that fortifies their mobile defences against emerging threats, while complying with the latest standards from FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation). Companies should take particular note of how their Enterprise Mobility Management solution allows their workforce to centrally control network security settings, monitor and track lost devices and restrict individual users’ access to certain systems.
5. Hardware changes
Early predictions for explosive adoption of tablets by utilities have been dampened by usability issues such as difficulty using in sunlight or while wearing gloves. Until these issues are suitably addressed, the mobile device environment will continue to include laptops, tablets and smartphones. But circumstances change quickly. The attention now being paid to the Internet of Things suggests virtually any device, appliance or machine will someday be connected. By implementing a flexible Enterprise Mobility Management solution set, utilities will be prepared to embrace new innovations while still offering field workers connectivity and ease of use.
By focusing on the above key factors, utilities will be able to plan for the future more effectively.