Life of PI for OSIsoft as smart grids start to roar
Life of PI for OSIsoft as smart grids start to roar

Life of PI for OSIsoft as smart grids start to roar

OSIsoft has announced its new connector for integrating data from electricity substations with its IoT platform, PI System.

Operational intelligence company OSIsoft has long had a keen focus on the utilities industry, with executives at the company claiming that over 1,000 utilities companies, all of the grid operators in the US, and hundreds of renewable power specialists use its PI System to manage their business.

PI System is basically an industrial IoT (IIoT) platform, designed to capture data from sensors, machinery and IoT devices in smart grids and apply real-time analytics to it. According to the company, this platform manages over 1.5 billion sensor-based data streams.

Last week, the company announced its new PI Connector for IEC 61850, an international standard defining communication protocols for intelligent devices located in electricity substations.  It is a part of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) Technical Committee 57 reference architecture for electric power systems.

This connector will enable utilities to add data from IEC 61850-based devices – such as transformers and switchgear – to their installations of PI System.

Read more: Industrial IoT: Plenty of words, too little action, says GE

Automatically contextualized data

OSIsoft also claims that its new connector will make it easier for engineers at utilities to add new devices and new sources of data to their smart grids and other operational networks. They may want to do this in order to implement new processes for remote diagnostics, for example, or predictive maintenance. The company reckons that the market for IEC 61850-compliant equipment is growing at around 18 percent per year.

At Stedin, an electricity distribution system operator (DSO) in the Netherlands that services around 2 million residential and commercial customers, engineers are currently retrofitting 185 substations around the standard.

To do so, the company is working with OSIsoft to capture real-time data and synthesize it for use by a wide range of employees. As Anne van der Molan, grid strategist at Stedin, explained: “Utilities will need greater visibility and predictability into their operations to meet the demands of their customers in the future. To make decisions adequately, you need adequate underlying data.”

Read more: OSIsoft SAP tool kills the ‘data janitor’

Synthesizing raw data

There are several points of interest in this announcement from OSIsoft. 

First, the use of the term ‘synthesization’ suggests a new type of data analytics. It is used to convey the idea of the IoT platform as a data fabric – a multi-layered piece of software that transforms raw data into business insight, by providing it to employees in context.

Second, we expect to see a lot more people in the utilities sector using the ‘grid strategist’ title, as Anne van der Molan does, as these networks become more intelligent – and more complex to plan and manage.

Third, we were struck by OSIsoft’s term, ‘high-fidelity insights’. This is (perhaps) not just spin, but rather a nod to the type of precision tooling needed in software development as it increasingly focuses on IoT networks.

Read more: Smart meter provider creates app store for utilities using IoT edge devices