Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Esri GeoConX, Smart Grid, Interoperability of Systems and DataCapable
December 1st, 2016 by Susan Smith
In mid-October, Esri held their new annual GeoConX conference in Phoenix, AZ, now a combination of their former EGUG electric utility conference, and the Telecommunications User Group (TelUG).
The emerging role of Smart Cities and Smart Grid including IT/OT convergence brings to light the fact that many utilities provide diverse services, such as water, telecom, gas, electric, voice, internet, etc.
Interoperability was the theme of GeoConX, apropos as Esri technologies provide layers of data and visualization. The grid is becoming layered and electrical grids are becoming overlaid by telecommunications, customer requirements and interoperability of data and systems.
Zac Canders, co-founder and CEO of DataCapable, reported on what he observed at the conference. Part of the Keynote Presentations included a presentation on the “Vision and Future of Esri,” which from that viewpoint, “the future is the integration of what is available today.”
This demonstrates how important integration still is:
Some ArcGIS information includes the following:
Version: Utility customers should stay on 10.2 as they are working on tools associated with 10.5 that apply directly to the utility verticals.
Portal: The value of portal for GIS is emerging as the destination for the enterprise workforce which is becoming the norm across multiple industries
The portal can be viewed as the landing page for the enterprise of ArcGIS apps.
The National Grid and PG&E are two leaders on the adoption and use of Portal.
ArcGIS Server is being renamed to ArcGIS Enterprise, and below that, are the GIS servers, both hosted and non-hosted solutions.
Esri is releasing an ArcGIS Python API.
Portal-to-Portal Collaboration is something Esri is contemplating in the realm of interoperability and Smart Cities. Organizations with multiple portals and/or organizations (utilities, cities, districts, vendors, businesses, etc.) will want to cross collaborate with their portals.
Zac Canders’ company DataCapable is currently working with major service providers and enterprise vendors in the Electrical Utilities space. The company is also collaborating with several federal agencies on initiatives related to promoting the adoption of open data standards.
DataCapable is working in collaboration with one of the foremost academic research institutions in the world on the development of advanced analytics and algorithms for intelligent outage detection and real-time event prediction. DataCapable’s flagship product is called UtiliSocial.
GISCafe Voice asked Canders a number of questions related to the state of utilities and the movement toward or away from, alternative energy sources being part of the grid.
GISCafe Voice: What was the consensus on the incorporation of alternative power sources into the grid?
It’s happening, but regulation isn’t keeping up. Many utilities are still afraid to embrace cloud based systems because they can’t treat the investment as capital dollars. Crazy right? If revenues continue to drop at utilities something is going to have to change. This either means 1) utilities start to own generation assists which will challenge deregulation or 2) utilities decouple and become the managers of wires and poles. If we go down route 2, the attractiveness for investment as well as a skilled workforce will undoubtably decrease but it honestly may be unavoidable.
GISCafe Voice: When you talk about interoperability being the main topic, does this mean interoperability between disparate data sources, other than Esri products?
Interoperability of systems. Think of Esri as a canvas for developers by which data and associated system functionality can be shared and expanded upon. What we’re seeing across utility and other verticals is a general push (as mirrored in healthcare, telcom, and banking) that each vendor will be designed to support interoperability. Not bolted on but rather built in from the start. This evolution is happening at Esri. The partner network and startup program speak to this.
GISCafe Voice: I think it’s really interesting that electrical is becoming overlaid onto telecommunications, and perhaps part of this is the move toward Smart Cities?
Braintree Electric and Light located just outside the technology hub of Boston, MA was founded by Thomas Watson (credited with the first telephone call with Alexander Bell at Boston University). I’d argue the convergence has been long recognized, it was just that technology wasn’t ready. The challenge we’re just starting to address is how to access and manage all of this data. Node based applications and a general decentralization of intelligence has been an area DataCapable is actively watching. It’s really interesting as grid optimization is going to require processing data at the edge as well as robust communications network to backhaul the data (or calculations that happen at the edge).
GISCafe Voice: While we can’t possibly know what will ensue with the impending administration, how do you think the geospatial industry and utilities of all kinds will respond to the possible non-support of carbon neutral measures?
Adam Smith had this covered in 1776 (The Wealth of a Nation). In a free market supply and demand will reach equilibrium. I’ve got my concerns with some of the subsidies we’ve seen to help promote the push for renewables. There are places in the country where certain promises didn’t come to fruition that can be directly attributed to this. That being said, in my opinion, those initial subsidies did help and will continue to help with initial investment and R&D. At some point, technology has to be able to compete on it’s own. So to you questions, any non-support of carbon neutral measures will just mean that these renewable tech. will need to stand on their own, which many can do today.