Smart Grid Growth Demands New Tools for Today’s Utility Management Systems

Energy providers are facing new challenges as the smart grid gains intelligence and consumers gain access to choices in what services they use and how they understand their options. The complexity imposed by the increasing activity and variety of power sources is bringing with it an increase in cost for providers who need to step up their game to meet customer expectations. In particular, the growth of distributed energy resources (DERs) means more devices need to be monitored and serviced. Energy providers need to evaluate their management services and how they are utilizing them so they can get ahead of the upswing and automate their maintenance and service functions.

Smart grids are increasingly made up of intelligent communicating devices like smart meters and DERs that deliver a variety of status reports and usage information. The data they deliver is collected as part of big data and analyzed to provide insights into service needs and many other areas of importance to energy providers. But collecting data is only the initial step in delivering maintenance and support, and many energy providers are finding their existing back end systems struggling under the demands and volumes presented by today’s smart grids.

Energy companies have become more than electricity providers as their customers strive to take more control over their own activities and their use of energy. Customers want to understand how much energy they use for different purposes and at what times, and are installing intelligence in their homes to monitor and assert control over everything from their heating and air conditioning systems to individual light bulbs. And growing numbers of consumers are becoming prosumers as they install solar energy panels and other electrical generation systems that feed power back into the electric grid.

Energy companies need to increase their capabilities with regard to the management systems they deploy so that they can cope with the influx of data, the requests for information, and the costs of additional technology required. Traditional management systems never anticipated today’s smart grids and the volumes of data they produce. Even if data collection systems have been added to existing systems, the real time analytics and intelligence needed to deliver predictive maintenance in support of intelligent assets is often missing or inadequate. Providers need to identify and implement state of the art management systems that can handle real-time data and intelligence and incorporate rugged devices that can help deliver the enterprise-grade support customers demand.

The smart grid is composed of smart devices that require installation and management to properly integrate with a backend management system. Mobile devices play a huge role in expediting that integration by allowing field workers to go on-site when needed. The mobile devices the technicians use need to be rugged and able to be used outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions from bright sunlight to rain and snow, and even survive being dropped in the dirt. They also need to be able to withstand these conditions without breaking and still perform at their full capacity with an enterprise-grade OS capable of managing the wide-range of tasks demanded. Energy providers need to equip their technicians with rugged mobile devices that can connect to high performance management systems, streamline implementation, deployment, and management, resulting in expedited ROI for energy providers riding the wave of the smart grid.

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