Learn more from Rob Schilling – play the soundbite.
UMC: How does Space-Time Insight improve how utilities handle outage intelligence, prep, assess, and respond time?
Rob Schilling: Our Outage Intelligence application correlates, analyzes and visualizes data from multiple outage-related data sources including OMS, CIS, and AMI. Because we draw on multiple data sources, we’re able to predict outages faster, deliver more accurate estimate times to restoration, prioritize outages by their impact on reliability measures, and provide more complete closure to power outages. We also analyze the entire outage process, to highlight where utilities can improve their response. Better response gets the lights on faster for customers, holds reliability measures in line, and keeps revenue flowing to the utility.
UMC: Can you explain how Telematics builds a broader view of operations and how it provides a complete picture?
Rob Schilling: Telematics gives utilities the abilities to understand how mobile assets are performing and the power of knowing what, when, where, and on which part of the network something happened or will happen. For operations, this opens up several new opportunities. Telematics on construction or other vehicles or equipment provides insight into where and when equipment is being used, and ensures optimal and safe operation of that equipment. For example, if a crew needs a cherry picker, identifying the closest one available might help complete the job they are working on more quickly. In addition, if that cherry picker is being driven too quickly, the driver might be flagged (potentially in real-time) for a safety violation. Analysis of data like this on the Internet of Things introduces many new cost reduction and operational benefits that were not previously possible.
UMC: What are your current clients biggest pain points? Which situational intelligence solution seems to make the biggest difference in solving those pain points?
Rob Schilling: Utilities must be able to take decisive action about their assets based on data, if they are to succeed. The deluge of data that they face from enterprise, IT and external sources takes time and money to capture and analyze. Even then, most data is trapped in silos. Utilities need a way to not only see their data, but to understand situations—in context, in motion, and in real-time – to make better decisions. As an example, our Asset Intelligence application correlates dozens of data sources into a single, risk-based view of asset health and performance. By knowing the real risk of their assets, our customers are lowering operation costs, safely running aging assets longer, and investing capital dollars more wisely.
UMC: How would you describe leveraging analytics to drive innovation?
Rob Schilling: Analytics uncovers problems, and opportunities, that you didn’t know you had. For instance, analysis of a transformer that is otherwise scheduled for replacement now based on its age, might indicate that the transformer should last at least another three years. That frees up money in this year’s capital budget for something more innovative or important. Maybe that money can go towards capacitor banks to better regulate voltage on a feeder with high solar penetration. Now, you’re investing in distributed energy resources instead of simply sticking to time-based maintenance of existing assets. That helps drive innovation. And, knowing that a transformer needs replacing in three years helps you build long-range plans and justify rate requests.
UMC: How much value does big data hold to an organization?
Rob Schilling: Without a way to derive insights from big data on which people can act, big data itself holds little value. In some sense, it’s almost a liability due to storage and privacy concerns. By using visual analytics across disparate sources of data, the value of big data is about as large as your imagination. We’ve seen customers save millions, or tens of millions, of dollars by analyzing big data. For example, BC Hydro saves $75 million a year in theft reduction by analyzing and acting on energy distribution and consumption data.
UMC: What do you see in the future regarding the Internet of Things and Big Data? Any significant changes in the near future?
Rob Schilling: By 2020 the world will have upwards of 50 billion IoT devices. All those connected devices greatly enhance our ability to know the what, when and where of assets and events. But those connected devices generate streams of data that first, must be normalized, and second, analyzed (often in real-time) to be useful. You’ll see Space-Time Insight continuing to develop new techniques to help organizations extract value from IoT data and also correlate it with enterprise, operational and external data (such as vegetation or weather). The largest return will be obtained when IoT data can be understood and utilized in the context of all the other data an organization uses every day.
UMC: What is the best insight you can provide a utility that does not use big data, and why should they be using the information?
Rob Schilling: Market forces – from deregulation, to distributed energy and evolving customer demands – are forcing changes to utility operating models. To remain competitive or even financially viable, utilities have to adopt smarter technologies and operational systems. Those systems in turn, generate massive volumes of data. The ability to understand that data and make confident, data-driven decisions is how utilities will improve operating margins in the face of tremendous market pressure.
UMC: What is the most important factor regarding preventative analytics?
Rob Schilling: Prevention is all about reducing risk. When you understand your risks, you have a basis for knowing where to focus. Knowing the likelihood of an asset failing lets utilities focus their operational efforts and capital investments for optimum risk reduction. Asset age and condition are common bases for maintenance programs, but they’re just proxies for risk. Each asset has its own unique locational and operational history. Old assets are not necessarily in bad shape, and new assets might be overloaded while serving critical customers such as hospitals and schools. The ability to understand these and many other factors and build them into predictive and prescriptive models drives tremendous business value, especially when compared to analytics that focuses on events that have already transpired.
UMC: How can Space-Time Insight assist with averting a crisis in the utility industry?
Rob Schilling: On a tactical level, we’re helping utilities avert problems by pinpointing high-risk assets, predicting power outages before they happen, providing data to justify rate cases, and integrating DERs smoothly into the distribution grid. But at a strategic level, we’re assisting the utility industry in the transition to a forward-looking, innovative, data-driven culture that constantly improves safety, reliability, affordability and sustainability.
UMC: What would you describe as the biggest advantage to having the real time mapping that Space-Time Insight provides?
Rob Schilling: Operations, especially in the electricity business, has always taken place in real-time, but software available to personnel has historically been narrowly focused. SCADA input arrives every few seconds, but in the past it wasn’t immediately correlated with other data, analyzed and visualized to help operators make decisions. Space-Time Insight combines data from sensors in the field with real-time geospatial (and temporal) analysis and visualization to identify not just that something happened, but also where, when and how it happened or might happen in the future. Operators are now able to be prepared for impending events as well as respond in real-time to accidents, storms and asset failures. That means power outages are averted or restored more quickly, crews are better positioned before a storm hits, vegetation is cleared before it falls on power lines, and so on.
UMC: Space-Time Insight hosts SI World yearly, what’s the biggest take away from that user conference?
Rob Schilling: One of my biggest takeaways from SI World is how quickly situational intelligence spreads throughout an organization. Our customers will often implement a system intended for a couple dozen users. Six months later, they are training users by the hundreds, and coming back to us for help with additional use cases. In many cases this growth is driven by the fact that all types of data from across the organization are brought into a single pane of glass for the first time, and that alone has significant benefits in many disciplines. It’s very gratifying for me and all of our staff to see.
UMC: Do you have a brief success story you can share?
Rob Schilling: I mentioned BC Hydro earlier. Another Canadian utility, Hydro One, uses our software to analyze and visualize 4.5 million T&D assets across seven risk factors. By knowing the true risk of their assets, they are saving $5 million per year in operations costs. In addition, they are now able to collaborate with regulators to understand the impact of asset investments on risk and reliability of service.