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Analytics key to making most of smart grid solutions

By Max Burkhalter
January 23, 2013

Smart grid technologies offer so much promise that many utility providers are putting millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars into the technological upgrades. Improving the utility grid through smart infrastructure enables better use of renewable resources, improved automation capabilities, streamlined maintenance and better operational practices. Making the most of these capabilities requires considerable changes in how utility companies get the job done. According to a recent study from Pike Research, analytics tools will play a vital role in helping utility providers take full advantage of what the smart grid has to offer.

Importance of analytics in smart grid systems
Bob Lockhart, senior research analyst for Pike research, explained that analytics functionality provides the data-related functionality needed to make the smart grid more intelligent.

"Data analytics are the next level of intelligent network control and planning," said Lockhart. "The application of smart grid data analytics is challenging, because it involves collating and analyzing data from many internal sources, plus integrating non-structured data from external sources such as demographics, social media, emails, and images, to effectively support decision making. Simply analyzing well-structured meter and monitoring data may no longer be enough to understand how a utility can improve its business."

Establishing infrastructure to support analytics
Making analytics work in the smart grid is often a matter of getting data to the right place at the right time. This, of course, depends heavily on the network. Ethernet is the lifeblood of the smart grid. Getting data to flow freely between power generation sites, homes, transformers and utility provider offices depends on Ethernet, as serial solutions and similar network formats are not well-suited to such large-scale deployments. Because of this, Ethernet is integral in making analytics work because it provides the data transit lanes needed to support smart grid functionality.

Ubiquitous Ethernet is not an option in most utility networks. Many electric grid systems are designed to function on serial architectures that are not interoperable with Ethernet infrastructure. As a result, serial to Ethernet media conversion tools are necessary to support the Ethernet capabilities that are so key to transmitting data throughout the network. This type of functionality is necessary to support the analytics capabilities that can enable better smart grid systems. Analytics systems are built on the ability to make data more usable. Media converters make data more available within the grid, helping utility providers maximize the benefits of analytics.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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