There is much to be said about system integration and open platforms.
When I reviewed the completed editorial for this issue, I was a little worried about the amount of information this issue contains on integration and the need for common communication protocols. I thought that maybe we were falling into a rut. After all, in the past few months, Utility Automation has had several articles dealing with data sharing and system integration. November’s issue featured the topic, the January/February issue featured an article on sharing metering and billing data, in March we ran the first part of a two part series on UCA 2.0trademark, and now this issue not only features the second part of that series, but it also contains an article on open platforms and system integration.
That’s a lot of coverage for what at first glance looks like a pretty narrow subject. However, the more I cover the topic, the more I realize, it is an area that could probably support a separate publication-not that PennWell is planning on launching a new publication devoted to system integration. But, the point I’m trying to make is that there is much to be said about system integration and open platforms. As re-regulation and competition spread, utilities are finding it necessary to move operational data out to other users. In addition, mergers, acquisitions and convergence have resulted in companies either developing or inheriting many systems that may or may not be compatible with each other.
A white paper recently released by ICL, a global IT solutions company headquartered in London, reports that 71 percent of UK utilities already operating in multi-utility or dual-fuel environments identified the need to share/standardize data across different sites/divisions as a key IT challenge for the future. Similarly, 72 percent felt the need to share data with other utility companies was also a key challenge. The paper also reports that system enhancement and integration are considered as important, if not more important, than implementation of entirely new systems. These statistics indicate that integration issues will continue to be a hot topic. Also, since these statistics came from utilities in the United Kingdom, which is several years ahead of the United States in terms of restructuring and competition, it is safe to assume that U.S. utilities will be dealing with these issues for some time to come.
If you look back at the articles I identified earlier and read the articles in this issue, you will find that system integration and open platform development are being taken seriously. Several organizations, such as EPRI and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), are heavily involved in standards development. In addition, vendors and utilities are pursuing various integration solutions. So, while I don’t intend to turn Utility Automation into a magazine covering only integration issues, you can be sure that system integration will remain an important part of its editorial focus. If we are getting into a rut, I think it is one we may want to stay in for a while.