During this year’s DistribuTECH event, the halls of San Diego’s Convention Center were abuzz with an influx of tools, technology and talk surrounding the industry. And rightfully so, as utilities across the country seek out the latest developments that empower them to connect their workforces and streamline their services.
And as the Internet of Everything continues to present new opportunities for the world, connectivity has proven to be even more important for public utility operations.
At DistribuTECH, Cisco had the pleasure of engaging with attendees, demonstrating how utilities the world over have worked with Cisco and our partners to reduce costs and deliver more services on a single, intelligent and secure platform. The IT model we shared is one that brings innovation to the Operational Technology (OT) environment, integrating information, data, people and processes – the building blocks for the Internet of Everything.
In talking with utility managers and leaders, one thing is for certain – nothing is accomplished when feet are on the ground and employees are idle. By 2020, the Internet of Things is expected to connect a mind-boggling 50 million smart devices with network access. The sheer amount of data transmitted by these devices can be invaluable – but it can easily overwhelm traditional IoT systems that utilize satellite or mobile networks.
Enter Cisco’s IOx.
Real-time data is one of the strongest tools that utilities can utilize for improved efficiency, better response times and improving on citizen services. Financial savings, skillful and deliberate resource allocation and even saved lives are just a few of the benefits that could result. Speaking analytically, local network assessment is best for making on-the-ground and quick decisions. Labeled “fog computing,” this extension of cloud services has proved to be a viable solution for deploying real-time solutions when used in conjunction with Cisco’s IOx platform.
Developing smart applications that capitalize on the power of fog computing is the crux of the IOx platform and a few attendees shared how IOx is transforming the industry. As an example, Cisco partner Bit Stew is providing what they call Software Defined Operations, and that’s the ability for their customers to have end-to-end visibility across their distribution grid, to be able to manage faults in real-time, and to gain better awareness of information coming from the sensors they have in their network. Kevin Collins, CEO of Bit Stew, put it in simple terms:
“Fog Computing has become a big aspect of what we’re doing. Utilities want to do things right at the edge of the distribution network. They’re in substations and what they need is intelligence embedded right at the substation level which is really fog computing.
So, we’re taking our software right now, embedding it in Cisco routers, putting them inside substations, allowing that intelligence and that automation to happen in real time, right at the edge of the network, yet tie back into cloud based systems.”
Together, Bit Stew and Cisco have worked collaboratively to bring this technology to life at major utilities such as BC Hydro, a Canadian electric utility in the province of British Columbia, which first introduced smart meters in 2011.
The plan there is to expand the migration of all meters to IPv6 and therefore create one of the largest IoT sensor deployments in the industry. Already, BC Hydro manages approximately 1 billion data points per day.
If you’d like to know more about what happened at DistribuTECH, check out our other videos on the Cisco Energy You Tube Channel. If you’d like to know more about what’s happening at BC Hydro, watch out for my next blog!