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Modernizing the Grid: Utilities and Data Analytics

The electric utilities sector is facing some challenging times as it struggles with a regulatory model designed for an earlier era. As increased renewable integrations into the grid intensify, electric utilities will need to take steps to accommodate the variable output of distributed generation and develop new insights and technologies that will shape the future of the grid. In fact, my colleague Rick Geiger recently authored a blog with his thoughts on what the future of the grid looks like.

The electric utilities business model is being disrupted and the days of the regulated monopoly appears ripe for change. So, how exactly can electric utilities work to modernize the grid? The answer is by addressing current customer requirement trends taking place in the industry through the collection and analysis of pertinent data. These utility industry megatrends include:

  • Changing customer expectations resulting from the digitization of services allowing anytime, anywhere personalized services.
  • Rise of social networks and the ability to quickly form communities of interest and communicate instantaneously with a billion people globally via text, video and/or voice.
  • Pervasive connectivity and computing that is unlocking a sea of change in productivity gains for businesses, disrupting existing businesses and creating new opportunities for agile firms.
  • Expansion of energy markets for distributed energy resources are enabling greater adoption and increased transactions.
  • Financial innovation that is enabling a wide range of customers to amortize initial capital costs of DER to align with benefit cash flows and make a stronger value proposition.
  • Energy technology advancements for power system and distributed energy technologies are accelerating at exponential rates while also leveraging breakthroughs on business models and system performance.

These trends are disrupting utilities’ ability to effectively manage the grid as customers become more involved in the way energy consumption evolves. As we look at the integration of renewable services or renewable generation from wind, solar, biogas and others, the grid is now becoming a two-way system.  Take solar panel installations on rooftops. You now have customers generating electricity and sending it back into the grid – it’s not just coming from the generating plant anymore. In order to stabilize the grid, we need to collect data and be able to make decisions that impact the outcomes seen.

In order for utilities to successfully meet these customer requirements, they must create an intelligent energy network platform that is:

  • Observable – enabling full determination of grid state – deep situational awareness.
  • Intelligent – enabling ability to gain situational intelligence to support operational decisions.
  • Automated – ability to rapidly adapt to changing conditions with minimal human involvement.
  • Transactive – dynamically balancing diverse resources and distributed market participation.

If you consider blackouts that have happened in the past, having an automated grid with the ability to collect and react to data may have helped with those cascading power outages. That is the problem modern-day utilities are solving. Electric utilities are changing their mindset about using data analytics to meet customer requirements and in my opinion, data analytics will be one of the best ways of effectively managing the grid. Harvesting reams of data opens up new, great opportunities for both utilities and ratepayers, which in the end reduces the cost of managing the grid and gives utilities real-time capabilities to deal with issues that may impact grid performance. One of the market entrants in the utilities sector taking this approach is Bit Stew. Read More »

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Incidence Response – Safety, Reliability and Recovery for Industry and Workers

Dan O’Malley talks about Cisco Systems offerings that are resonating in the Energy Industry and elsewhere. Cisco helps customers pre-plan for storms and to respond to disasters with sophisticated collaboration and device connectivity enabling technologies.

Many new technologies enable worker safety and visibility using 2-way radios, smart devices, and mobile broadband “connecting people and devices and work crews together smartly over the internet”. In the video Dan talks about the challenges customers face and how Cisco is helping them get ‘positive business outcomes’.

Yes – I know what you mean – what does that really mean? Well, mother nature doesn’t always cooperate, so getting outages dealt with as quickly as possible is one positive outcome. Keeping in touch with workers, especially those in dangerous areas, and warning them if safety issues occur is another. And maybe even having ‘wearable’ biometric devices attached to workers to see how they’re doing physically, and monitoring their vitals in real time by operations centers. That’s another.

Just keeping track of field workers is a challenge – and making best use of a constrained ‘expert pool’ might be another. Some newer ‘millennial’ devices are, of course, part of the architectural approach, but so are traditional two-way radios and other devices – so that everyone can communicate and collaborate to get the job done. And it’s getting the job done that really gives good business outcomes – ask any customer!

So, in the words of Dan:

It’s about smartly connecting people, and devices and work-crews together smartly over the internet. That’s what we do.

…and providing the best business outcomes possible: Read More »

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Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to the 7.4 MD Software Release

As the famous saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait”. Delayed gratification – person’s ability to forgo a smaller reward now for a larger reward in the future – has been linked to better life outcomes as demonstrated by the often cited Stanford Marshmallow experiment and others. In most cases though, it requires a degree of self-control not easily achievable in today’s fast paced, ever-changing world with new mobile devices, protocols and technologies.

If you are one of the Cisco Wireless customers currently deploying Release 7.0 MD and waiting for the next Cisco Wireless Software Maintenance Deployment Release, the wait is over!

Release 7.4.121.0 has achieved Maintenance Deployment (MD) status.

Release 7.4.121.0 is the recommended MD release for all non-802.11ac deployments. For 802.11ac deployments, Release 7.6.110.0 (Release 7.6 Maintenance release 1) is the recommended release.

For additional details on Software Release Recommendations and Guidelines, see Guidelines for Cisco Wireless Software Release Migration

Below are top 10 reasons (in no particular order) to upgrade from the current 7.0 MD release to the latest 7.4MD Release.

10. FlexConnect (improved and rebranded H-REAP) with efficient AP upgrade across WAN, BYOD policies support, Flex ACLs and split tunneling. Read More »

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