Grid Analytics: Apps or Industrial Data Platforms?

Cover Image Blog jan 2020

Author: Scott Harden

Working with data is at the heart of what we do at OSI Digital.  For over two decades we’ve helped our customers transform the way they do business by leveraging a wide variety of technologies.  Across value chains and vertically through IT and OT, we’ve implemented solutions to improve almost every aspect of an enterprise. Regardless of the objective, our ability to understand customer-specific data has always been a key to our success. 

In the early 90s, ERP transformed the way our customers managed their back office by providing integrated applications with standardized business processes across core functions including finance, sales and supply chain management.  We’d bring to bear a team of professionals that were well-versed in both process and technology to implement a full suite of enterprise applications.  Regardless of the overarching principle to focus on best practices, our customers would always want to understand their data through a unique lens and the reason was simple.

Successful Businesses are Unique
Regardless of the industry, every business approaches the production, categorization and consumption of their data differently.  In many cases, it’s the key source of competitive advantage as companies leverage data to differentiate. This drive towards a unique view of data ultimately led to concepts such as value engineering, 360-degree customer view and concepts like ‘a single source of truth' - all of which are still in practice today. 

For each project, dedicated teams from OSI partnered with our customers providing the domain and data integration expertise to define custom reports that were curated and aligned to the mission of their leadership; enabling them to make critical decisions to drive planning, growth and operational excellence.  Ultimately, custom reports were the most visible and tangible outcomes of investments in enterprise technology because they presented data to leaders in new and profound ways.

Data Defines & Disrupts Industries
We now operate in a world of big data that spans well beyond the enterprise including real-time operational data across the entire value chain.  IT and OT systems have converged and are augmented by Industrial IoT, machine learning capabilities and advanced analytics.  In this brave new world, the effective use of data defines industry leaders while disrupting others.  And few industries are experiencing this disruption as acutely as power utilities.

The US electricity grid is arguably the most complex machine ever built. The original engineering is largely intact; where electrons are generated from bulk providers and sent down a cascading funnel to the point of delivery.  However, the power utility business model is being challenged at its very core as climate commitments and the relentless rise of renewable resources reshape our energy landscape.  As utilities embrace this new future, a paradigm shift is taking place on the grid, where production is decentralized and distributed to the edge.  Essentially, the power system is becoming the ‘Internet of energy.'  Like the Internet, the only viable option to orchestrate this new paradigm is digitalization.  

Digital transformation in utilities around the world is taking place at a breathtaking pace.  The grid itself has become an incredible source of data where traditional meters are being replaced with millions of advanced sensors.  The amount of data being generated by utilities on a daily basis is truly staggering.  To put the sheer volume into perspective; it’s predicted that by the end of 2020, there will be 107 Million smart meters installed in the US.  This network of Industrial IoT sensors will generate well over 100 billion data elements every day.  The information is extremely rich with measurements that can provide meaningful insights for operations, resilience and system reliability.  As staggering as this volume may be, utilities know they need to leverage the value.  

As a leader in Industrial IoT, OSI Digital has had the opportunity to work with many of the utilities that are embracing this transformation.  Our primary area of expertise has been data analytics; where our team consults with leaders looking to maximize the benefits available as they become data-driven companies.  Similar to the early days of ERP, one of the most common questions our customers ask is, “Are standardized applications available to help us analyze the data from the grid?”

Similar Challenges. Different Data
Traditional industry vendors are racing to provide solutions for their customers by providing targeted applications to address specific challenges.  However, the leading use cases are still coming from the utilities themselves. Why? Because they truly understand their data better than any provider. It’s their domain. In fact, this is analogous to ERP reporting where data collection could be standardized with business processes and the context for analyzing the resulting data was unique to each customer.  

For example, a utility planning for a storm in Oklahoma is very different than staging for a hurricane in Florida. The physics of electricity are the same, but the assets are different, the infrastructure is different, the demographics are different, and yes, their data is different.  This premise exposes a gap in the software market because industry vendors don’t offer the data integration platforms that utilities may be looking for. If your use cases don’t align with the apps in their portfolio, then I’m sorry but you could be out of luck! 

Data Platforms Deliver Business Logic
There’s no question that industry leaders have a wealth of domain knowledge to offer their customers.  However, they may have missed a simple value proposition.  Rather than trying to predict the market with targeted apps, they could leverage their knowledge capital and collaborate to provide a data platform that is enriched with business logic.  Domain experts could partner with their customers to create the unique analytic tools each utility will ultimately deliver to their operators.  

A good example can be found in Seattle.  Amazon AWS for Power & Utilities offers the full capabilities of an Industrial Data Platform, allowing utilities or their partners to ingest, store, analyze and consume vast amounts of utility data. The modern architecture supports real-time data ingestion and hyper scaling for the massive volumes of data generated from AMI networks and IoT grid sensors.  Using AWS’s platform utilities can ingest any type of data, aggregate it in an industry-specific format and develop the right analytic tools for every use case their operators look to fulfill. 

OSI Digital is working closely with AWS and other partners to offer the domain-specific content to further enhance the capabilities offered with their Industrial Data Platform.  Our knowledge repository of analytic techniques can be quickly deployed for a variety of grid-specific use cases including power quality analysis, load forecasting, electric vehicle impact analysis and advanced network planning.  

The future will ultimately decide the role of grid analytics and what supporting products or services will be successful.  But history does have a way of repeating itself. In this case, I believe analytics will follow the same patterns as reporting. Only this time, a new type of expertise just may be required.

Related Resources:

scott_harden2About the Author

Scott Harden, Practice Leader, Industrial IoT
Scott is a strategic leader in the design, development, and implementation of advanced solutions for industrial IT/OT transformation, and an energy sector and technology specialist with broad expertise in system integration and software-defined operations.  With deep knowledge of real-time analytics, artificial intelligence including machine learning, data visualization, edge computing, Scott skillfully leverages his expertise in data-driven technologies and industrial operations to drive efficiencies for our customers. Scott currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for Smart Grid Northwest.



Karen Dosanjh
Karen Dosanjh VP, Marketing & Communications at OSI Digital