At the 12th annual Geospatial Information and Technology (GITA) Pacific Northwest Conference at Salishan on the Oregon Coast, John Mitchell of Terraspatial Technologies gave a fascinating presentation on a hosted or SaaS (software as a service) solution for small utilities.
I blogged previously about Burlington Hydro, a relatively small utility in southern Ontario that is integrating into an intelligent network many aspects of what is typically included in smart grid including intelligent netwrok devices, self healing networks, smart meters, distributed generation, electric vehicles (EV) , factory ride-through systems (enables factories to continue functioning through outages), battery-based electric storage, bidirectional communications network linking the intelligent devices to the control center, and dramatically increased volumes of real-time data.
Most utilities, large and small, are experiencing or very soon will experience a similar change in the customer services, responsivness, and level of reliability their electric power networks are expected to provide.
An important difference between large utilities and small utiltiies, many of which are municipally-owned or rural coops, is that large utilities have the IT staff and experience to deal with intelligent electric power networks whereas small utilities often don't.
What struck me as as so unique about what Terraspatial is offering and so valuable to small utilities is that it is a hosted solution, in other words, all the utility needs to install at their site is a browser, everything else is running in the cloud. The most important benefit of a hosted solution like this is that it reduces the level of IT capacity that the utility needs to maintain in house.
One of the utility associations that Terraspatial has been working with is the Central Services Association (CSA), an association of 116 smaller utilities, in central Mississippi. Jointly Terraspatial and CSA have developed the requirements for a hosted solution called PlantWorx for electric power utilities. Based on thes requirements, Terraspatial has designed and built, and CSA has been testing a solution called PlantWorx.
- It is hosted, which means that the utility does not need to own or manage servers or software.
- It is secure because it relies on the security of Rackspace a major cloud hosting provider that can provide a level of security, including protection from internal tampering, role-based access by users, protection from external threats, the latest encryption, redundancy and back-ups, ISO certified data centers, and mirrored servers for persistent backup, in other words a much higher level of security than the average utility network is capable of.
- Because it it running in the cloud, it is accessible from anywhere and from any device, in the office and in the field.
- It is an integrated work order management sytem solution supports staking through to accounting and reporting. It interfaces to customer information systems, accounting and billing systems, and materials management systems,
- It provides a dashboard allowing the utility to monitor key performance indicators of the utility's business.