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IT, OT convergence to deliver huge smart grid benefits

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The term "convergence" is increasingly being used by smart grid industry leaders, and the buzzword is packed with meaning that appropriately describes the latest trends regarding grid modernization projects.

According to The Energy Collective, smart grid deployments will strongly depend on the convergence of IT systems and operations technology systems, which are used by utility managers to perform a wide range of smart grid functions. This has resulted in grid infrastructure such as meters and transformers - which are inherently non-communicative - to become a part of a network that allows them to send and receive data, which utilities can leverage to improve asset monitoring and control.

The media outlet states that this has allowed for business intelligence and big data analytics to be used by utilities, enabling never-before-seen grid management. Convergence holds great promise for not only utilities, which can use the technology to tremendously lower their costs and carbon footprints, but North America's entire grid, as it will improve reliability by supporting intelligent maintenance programs.

Convergence of IT and OT is also the focus of studies being conducted by experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy has supported projects that seek to improve predictability and design of new materials. Already, scientists have developed ways to expedite the processes by which smart grid device manufacturers improve performance, which was once time-consuming and costly.

"Imagine how Thomas Edison would have enjoyed this IT/materials science convergence to develop the incandescent light bulb," wrote smart grid consultant Christine Hertzog. "He would have benefited from a database to identify the most practical, reliable, and cost-effective materials. Instead, as he so famously stated, 'We now know a thousand ways to not build a light bulb.'"

Machine to machine communications will also improve with convergence, allowing power grids to interact intelligently with the cities for which they are providing power. This could manifest into, for example, street lights that sense how much electricity is needed based on current lighting conditions.

Convergence will inevitably result in some disruptions, the media outlet stated, however, SUBNET has developed products and solutions that can help utilities connect disparate intelligent electronic devices. These technologies allow power companies to securely gather and analyze huge amounts data through their own IT infrastructure, and also ensures compliance with strict NERC CIP standards.

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