As we enter into a new decade, technology is shaping our future faster than ever. Everything is becoming connected and managed by an app on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Utilities are no different. Consumers expect more from their utility than ever before – including detailed information on consumption rates, leak detection, outage information and rapid response to customer service requests. To provide this increased level of service, consumers now expect that their energy and water providers have deep and instantaneous knowledge of what’s happening in their distribution networks.

From the utility’s perspective

The investment in new technologies — such as Industrial IoT (IIoT) and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) — means that more (traditionally siloed) stakeholder groups within these companies are looking to leverage the same infrastructure to support a broader set of needs. This is where we start to see the Information Technology (IT)/Operational Technology (OT) overlap begin to take shape.

For example, many of today’s smart meters are IIoT-connected “mini-computers” that are capable of using distributed intelligence to talk to each other. They can collectively make decisions and take action when and where it makes sense. Sophisticated solutions like these touch multiple departments within a utility beyond the meter shop — such as operations, customer service, and IT.  These groups need to work together to define common sets of operational processes to make their grid modernization strategies successful.

To help achieve this goal

Cisco and Itron are working with utilities and cities around the world to deliver intelligent connectivity – networked solutions designed to leverage the right communications technology to support a range of use cases for a diverse set of stakeholders and business objectives. A major part of this work is bringing the IT and operation teams together to start speaking the same language.

Here are three connection points between IT and OT to consider:

  1. Evolution of communications solutions – Systems that were traditionally built on proprietary technology are moving to a open and interoperable network, providing more capabilities. Therefore, IT and OT need to work together to manage this new environment.
  2. OT adapting to IT standards – Grid modernization involves the deployment of complex and interrelated systems which as a result, requires increased cybersecurity measures. IT has long developed standards for security and can help OT adapt to these best practices. (standards examples: providers, upgrades and security processes)
  3. Keeping your network healthy – To streamline operations for IIoT networks companies need automated ways to understand maintenance and technology health. For this reason, teams need to work together to drive predictive maintenance and protect the network.

Additionally, here are three tips to get started on building a holistic strategy:

  1. Develop a joint vision with shared goals. Bring all stakeholders to the table and learn to speak the same language (literally). [TIP: In a water utility? Help drive this conversation by calculating your value with AMI]
  2. Learn from your peers. For example, attend leading industry events like DistribuTECH 2020 to take best practices from other cities and utilities to create your digitalization roadmap.
  3. Consult the experts. Lean on trusted industry partners like Cisco and Itron to help you define and achieve your IT/OT goals.

To learn more from the IT/OT experts visit www.itron.com/cisco.

We look forward to helping you build your IT / OT partnership.


Marisa Rutti

Partner Marketing Manager

Global Partner Marketing