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Tech leaders take on IT/OT convergence

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The smart grid has been evolving for years, and with the most recent advancements in communications technology, utilities will be able to significantly increase their operating efficiency - if they can successfully navigate the convergence of information and operations technologies, that is.

According to GreenBiz, this convergence has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the smart grid world. There are currently more than 3,000 utilities throughout the U.S., and a large majority are increasingly focusing their efforts on improving grid operations through better machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. This will also lead to new developments in data analyses that can help utilities with everything from monitoring revenue stream to handling voltage levels.

The importance of IT/OT convergence has also led to a flurry of activity among smart grid vendors and some of the world's top tech companies, including Dell Computers. Dell recently announced it was developing products that would help utilities take advantage of all the opportunities the smart grid has to offer, and stated that 2013 will be the year for utilities to begin adopting such systems.

Dell is just one of many firms that have stepped into the smart grid arena, offering smart grid data management solutions that bring together next-generation computing power, advanced networking tactics and storage capabilities that will allow utilities to leverage data. To ensure these products are what the industry is looking for  - and needs - many are taking their solutions to several testbeds around the country that are modeled after the real electricity transmission environment, the media outlet stated.

Dell is quickly becoming a pioneer in this field.

"This is a noteworthy collaboration between a traditional ICT vendor (Dell) and a traditional OT vendor (OSIsoft) that is focused on grid operations," wrote smart grid consultant Christine Herzog. "Dell’s solution coupled with OSIsoft’s provides faster updates and makes actionable data available to staff, applications and business systems and is an excellent example of how M2M communications and data management technologies can become ubiquitous in the smart grid."

Dell also recently announced that it is planning to get involved with the Pecan Street Inc. Advisory Board, which controls the Pecan Street project. This initiative is an energy and smart grid research development organization that provides the laboratories for smart grid studies. The group focuses on microgrids, generation electric vehicles and energy management.

According to Utility Products, LG Electronics has also announced its commitment to further research conducted through the Pecan Street project. The company recently signed a two-year agreement with Pecan Street to perform research on smart homes and energy management and how this relates to electronic products.

"In addition to our leadership in energy-efficient smart appliances, our involvement with Pecan Street demonstrates LG's ongoing commitment to smart grid technology," said Skott Ahn, chief technology officer of LG Electronics. "We are excited for the opportunity to further promote the burgeoning smart grid industry, both domestically and globally."

More than 450 homeowners in Austin, Texas, have volunteered for the project, which will help utilities test smart grid technologies and how they relate to consumer electronic products and services.

M2M communications are certainly one of the major focuses on utilities today, and SUBNET has helped some of the largest in North America integrate two-way communication between intelligent electronic devices with strong results. SUBNET's Unified Substation Communications solution helps utilities use one advanced substation server to collect all substation data, eliminating the need to install multiple gateway devices.

The solutions also allows utilities to replace legacy remote terminal units, and only update the substation server when upgrades are available - not each piece of hardware installed throughout all infrastructure. 

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