As utilities strive to inexpensively increase the benefits and functionality of smart grid deployments, IT developers are being pressed to develop innovative solutions. Silver Spring Networks has just introduced its SilverLink Sensor Network, a cloud-based analytics and networking platform that represents the first ever utility app store. Based on an open API, the platform can be overlain on existing communications networks. Silver Spring is positioning it as a low-cost but highly customizable option for utilities that want to unlock the value of data gathered by smart meters, or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).
The modular selection and development of SilverLink’s smart grid apps will allow utilities to customize smart grid functionality that’s enabled by meter data. For example, customers can view and adjust current home energy use, utilities can monitor and manage assets, and managers can oversee operations and workforce planning. Silver Spring is putting significant effort into developing strategic partnerships with analytics developers, such as Plotwatt, ONZO, Sentient, and AutoGrid. The results of these partnerships will vastly expand the choices available for specific applications— the utility version of having numerous options when seeking out an app for editing photos on your smartphone.
Crawling through the Data
An interesting development in data collection and analysis is the platform’s “crawling” method of sorting through data to recognize (and potentially automatically respond to) unique grid events. While Silver Spring does not disclose proprietary details on its data search, it has likened it to Google Search and Twitter Trending, both of which index sites and posts based on frequency and credibility gained from associated links and mentions.
For utilities, this means the establishment of a meter data search that can prioritize information based upon the applications selected by the individual organization. For example, if a utility wants to use the platform for real-time condition monitoring, smart meter data can be accessed and automatically filtered to gain insight into substation health through the analysis of voltage and load from individual endpoints.
The SilverLink technology illustrates the convergence of IT and operational technology (OT) by using the smart meter as a networked sensor that transmits data directly into the IT platform. It also meets growing demand from utilities that invested heavily in smart grid upgrades after receiving federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), but have yet to effectively leverage these new AMI systems to meet diverse system and organizational needs. (Navigant Research discusses these trends in depth in three recent reports, Smart Grid IT Systems, AMI and Distribution Automation Integration, and Smart Meters.) One key question raised by the release of this platform is whether such technology developments will reduce utilities’ hesitation to deploy new AMI systems, a smart grid market segment that has seen a significant slowdown over the previous year as many systems have struggled to produce significant cost benefits.
Tags: Energy Management, Home Energy Management, Smart Grid IT, Smart Utilities Program, Utility Innovations
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