Utilities Consulting
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Utilities Consulting

Wise Men Consultants has been working within the Electric, Gas, and Water Utility industry for 23 years and has extensive experience providing system architecture, system design and development, and managed services. We specialize in Grid Modernization, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and Smart Grid, Analytics and Analytic Platforms (Back Office and Edge), Systems Integration, Production Support, ERP Systems, and Security Architecture & Integration. Our teams have also been involved in the development and deployment of some of the largest IoT systems globally. In the current changing landscape for Electric, Gas, and Water Utilities, we help our clients embrace digital transformation in their business, both from within the data center and at the edge.

Enterprise Architecture

Wise Men has extensive experience in Enterprise Architecture development for our Utility clients and has been involved in the development of Smart Grid Systems for major utilities around the world. This has led to a deep understanding of Utility back office systems and how to architect/integrate systems to solve Utilities issues from a real-world perspective. Wise Men has been integral in the development of several large utilities Smart Grid and Grid Modernization architectures, both within the back office and field components. We provide professional services to assess current issues and define future Enterprise Architecture needs.

Design and Development

We bring a core development team with over 15 years of experience working in the Utility vertical to provide design and development services. In addition to our expert team of software engineers, we have expertise in Database Design and Data Modeling. Our development services are fluent in a large collection of languages and a broad range of database technologies. We have extensive experience in both traditional software architecture as well as cloud-based solutions, including Microservice design and development, allowing us to develop best in breed solutions for our clients.

Project Management

Our knowledgeable Project Managers have worked on deployment, integration, and de-commissioning projects within the Utility industry. We have managed projects from small scale with single system integration to very large scale with high volume of systems being integrated across Engineering & Planning and Control domains within the Utility. Our Project Management teams not only know the tools and processes of project management but have considerable domain expertise within the utilities vertical.

Security

The Wise Men team has extensive knowledge of and experience in building secure products and systems. We have worked in all deployment scenarios, from intranet-based software systems, to IoT devices deployed in adversarial conditions. We can provide strategic and tactical assistance in security architecture development and review, threat modeling, vulnerability analysis, key custody and management, risk analysis and risk mitigation, penetration testing, continuity and Disaster Recovery and network and IP security. Our security services help our utilities clients navigate the increasingly stringent security policies which must be adhered to in a Modernized Grid.

Custom Collection Engine (CCE)

 

Traditionally, collection systems for Advanced Metering and Smart Grid applications have been developed to work with specific functional partners making it difficult for utilities to use AMI/ Smart Grid infrastructure based on overall system selection.  Additionally, when new/updated components of the headend software are introduced, there is no simple functional way to test the new components/systems within the production environment without providing a full upgrade of the system. Finally, when utilities acquire new businesses, this inflexibility makes system integration very complex and costly.

 

Wise Men is proposing a new software component called the Custom Collection Engine (CCE) which is implemented on top of any data collection system interfacing metering/sensor networks within the utility.  The CCE will provide abstraction to the underlying collection engines by utilizing their given functionality and provide the utility a common interface, both programmatically and visually, enabling vendor independence when selecting new meters, sensor systems or integrating acquired systems.  The CCE also supports different versions of the same underlying collection engines to enhance migration strategies as well as to provide a common user interface both within the utility infrastructure and mobile applications.

 

As the Smart Grid space is expanding to Grid Modernization and IoT Integration, the choice for technology selection is also becoming more complex.  The “Master” headend system which will interface with many different collection systems, through vendor APIs, will provide a common interface for the various teams, within a utility, that will be independent of the underlying infrastructure.

 

For example, at one of the utility companies, there is an OpenWay Collection Engine operating with the HW metering infrastructure.  If this company were to implement the RIVA platform, a new headend (OpenWay Operations Center) would have to be installed; new user and programmatic interfaces need to be learned and developed.  By providing a CCE, both systems could be operated and interfaced with the same look & feel and programmatic framework.

 

On the other hand, if the same company acquires another company, it is possible that a new metering or sensor technology may have to be integrated with their current systems.  The easiest path would be to utilize an CCE which would again provide a single interface to the underlying system for operators and back office systems.  Of course, work would need to be done to integrate the new software systems into the CCE, but systems, users and mobile devices would have seamless access to the new systems once those CCE integrations are performed.

 

By providing this integrated view of the overall systems, integrated state management across many components within the grid infrastructure is totally possible.  New visualization and state management tools can be integrated, allowing for a broader and more insightful view of the overall infrastructure.  All of this while providing a common system interface, reduces training time and costs helping to maintain common procedures and troubleshooting guides, to reduce system down time.

 

The CCE utilizes a common interface to multiple versions across various vendor systems and maintains a common set of operational functions.  Simultaneously providing integrated systems state visibility from a single interface point, a more holistic view of the underlying AMI, Grid Modernization and IoT sensor systems can be realized.

Existing Issues at Utilities

  • Smart Grid is rapidly expanding with Grid Modernization, integrating with DA devices, new edge intelligence, Smart Cities integration and expanding to IoT. It is becoming necessary to integrate new systems to meet the increasing needs. With acquisitions, new systems may need to be integrated not only new electric systems, but also gas, water, streetlight system, etc. There is no common protocol/platform for interfacing with these devices. Each system will most likely require its own headend, requiring Utilities to learn new systems and all the idiosyncrasies associated with each of them. Even when considering the Itron RIVA platform, the OWCE and OWOC are not currently integrated (OWOC-DLMS/COSEM, OWCE-C12.19/22) meaning if expanding to RIVA a secondary head-end would need to be initiated.
  • Each of these headend needs to be integrated with the utility infrastructure. There are many contact points typically within the utility back office, including MDM, CIS and OMS. As more Grid Modernization infrastructures are implemented, ADMS, Planning Systems, Analytics and Streaming Analytics will NEED to be integrated. This will be very costly both from a product and human resource perspective. All of this tends to require the Utilities to limit the headend systems to a few players, to maintain integration sanity.

What is Custom Collection Engine (CCE)

Custom Collection Engine (CCE) provides an overarching integration for electric, gas, water, sensor, edge, systems etc. It provides an operational abstraction layer both from a software, as well as communication perspective. Upstream utility systems do not need to have intimate knowledge of how to access the underlying devices, however they can use a standard interface protocol for system operation, interfacing only with the CCE. The CCE also provides a single view into the various systems, providing Utilities a unique operational view of integrated electric, gas, water, smart building, streetlight, grid sensor systems, etc.

CCE Interfaces

  • CCE integrates each downstream system, for eg. OpenWay Collection Engine, Sensus FlexNet headend, SSN Utility IQ etc. These are integrated using the system’s programmatic interfaces, keeping the underlying operation isolated to that given system. Each system’s data and operational distinctions will be translated into a common set of data and operational procedures.
  • The UI will operate against the data sets, present information in a common form, spanning all integrated systems. Reports, graphs, system diagnostics, geospatial information will be presented to the user in a single/simple format. This includes integration of mobile devices.
  • To interface with upstream utility systems (MDM, CIS, OMS, DMS etc.) the CCE integrates using a set of commands/services for device operations. This can be thought of as being like a microservice, but at a more macro level. Each service provides some necessary common functionality interfacing with the underlying AMI/Grid systems.

CCE Architecture

  • Consider now a new ABB sensor network is deployed and integrated. The Utility and Field Services interfaces are updated to integrate the ABB system. Data and operations are normalized to a common view/process. Utility systems needing sensor information subscribe to the CCE. New sensor systems would then map into the common sensor model to map to the upstream systems and UI.
  • This shows the planned architecture for a Custom Collection Engine. Starting from the downstream field systems, each system headend software would connect to the CCE via a unique component which would integrate with the Field System Integration Services. This provides a common architectural layer enabling the Utility to add and remove systems in a modular way.
  • The unique data and operational mechanisms for each system would then be normalized in the translation and normalization layer of the architecture. Data would be normalized to the Master Data Framework like the CIM data objects. There is a Master Scheduling component which allows for a common scheduling and operation scheme from upstream systems, but integrates each system unique mechanism of managing schedules. These 3 central layers provide the key to get operational and data abstraction within the CCE.
  • The collection of services necessary to operate the system utilizes the normalized data/operation. Each service is a component of the overall system providing a common functional interface for utility systems. For example, the MDM may not have the need to operate firmware management aspects of the system, but certainly would want to interface via Command and Control. On the other hand, an asset management system would need to interface the Provisioning/De-provisioning, Firmware Management, Configuration Management and maybe Group Management Services. Again, this provides a functional abstraction for operation of the underlying field-based systems and a better interface to the business tier of the utility.
  • The Master User Interface provides a common view across the complete collection of systems and insight into the operation of the core CCE components.

CCE Architectural Overview Integration of Current System

  • Consider the current OpenWay electric system integrated with CCE. The OWCE is integrated via Field System Integration Services (listed as Field Services) and utility back office systems are integrated via Utility System Integration Services (listed as Utility Services). Users interface through a common UI. Upstream utility systems currently integrated with OpenWay would interface through the CCE. Similar subscription mechanisms would be employed as today’s system.
  • As indicated earlier the current OpenWay RIVA headend (OpenWay Operations Center) is a different headend than the one of the utilities company is currently using. Integrating OpenWay RIVA into the CCE should be straight forward as the service interfaces are very similar between the currently installed OpenWay Collection Engine and OWOC. The data representations and operational methodology are almost identical. The electric data will translate almost directly into the initial data maps developed. With these two systems integrated with the CCE, there is no operational change for users other than possibly new reports, information, serial numbers, etc. There is still a single common way to view/interface/operate the system.
  • Imagine through acquisition a new Sensus FlexNet system operating electric, gas and water meters needs to be integrated. Here is what a Utility needs to do:
    • System integration point is between CCE and Sensus FlexNet and Field Services Interface is updated to integrate the FlexNet system.
    • The Utility Services interface is updated to support the gas and water data.
    • The electric data will map into the common data model used for integrating the OpenWay electric system.
    • Systems subscribe to the new information set.

Again, there is no operational change for users and utility systems, other than possibly new reports, information, serial numbers, etc. There is still a single common way to view, interface and operate the system.

MDM to HANA Platform

Wise Men has successfully completed the development and testing of the Itron Enterprise Edition™ (IEE) Meter Data Management (MDM) solution migration to the SAP HANA® platform.

Itron is a leading technology company that provides solutions which measure, manage, and analyze energy and water usage. Their Meter Data Management (MDM) platform, IEE, has been running successfully on Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Databases with more than 39 million meters in production across 6 Continents. Wise Men Consultants, Itron and SAP have worked together to bring the world’s leading MDM to the SAP HANA platform to help clients:

  • Reduce cost of IT infrastructure by enabling a single SAP HANA platform for both Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and MDM
  • Provide a single platform for an optimized end-to-end meter-to-cash lifecycle
  • Provide easy access to meter data to help companies use analytics and make decisions in real time

We completed the entire project using our onshore and offshore teams consisting of SAP HANA experts, C# and SQL developers, Solution Architects, Business Analysts, MDM domain experts, Database experts, and Quality Assurance personnel. The Wise Men team worked for 7 months to code, validate, optimize, and migrate 7,900+ complex components to run seamlessly on the SAP HANA database. In July 2018, the solution was scale tested in COIL (Co-Innovation Lab of SAP) for 5 million meters resulting in increased performance over SQL Server and Oracle of 81%.

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