The picturesque coastal city of Sorrento, Italy, was the enviable location of GE Grid Solutions’ 20th International Software Summit. The event brought together 400 free thinkers, executives and technologists from 50 countries across the globe—all keen to explore grid modernization opportunities, collaborate on shared challenges and celebrate success.
Throughout the event, I was privileged to interact directly with thought leaders and industry experts from our international customers and partners, all of whom convey deep local and cultural insight into the power and telecoms industries.
A diverse, energized and progressive region, Europe is often at the forefront of innovation due to early market deregulation, European Union–backed energy efficiency initiatives and high adoption of renewables. This innovative spirit was palpable in the conference sessions and dialogue throughout the event.
The need for “business transformation” was a key theme—the rapid rate of change in the power and telecoms industries is unprecedented. Network complexity is exploding and grid redefinition is emerging—driven by the influx of new smart devices, grid storage devices and vast renewables penetration, including PV, EV and wind. GE’s customers, prospects and partners talked about network stability becoming a real issue. They also shared the increasing challenges of stringent regulation, cyber security risks, and ever-more demanding customers despite declining—or, at best, flat—electric demand. Network organizations need to adopt new business models and embrace technology innovation in order to respond quickly and position themselves for growth.
Listen here to Marko Kruithof, manager of sustainability and innovation at Stedin (a distribution system operator in the Netherlands), discussing the ever-changing utility landscape.
A deeper look at IoT
IoT discussion generated real excitement among the delegates. The opportunities are perceived to be huge, with IoT promising a new level of grid edge intelligence and analytics driving vastly improved operational efficiency and awareness for network operations.
Analytics and big data are on most organizations’ IT agendas, but grid analytics and asset performance management were of particular importance to Sorrento. I heard their ultimate objective loud and clear: using near-real-time insight and situational awareness to run the grid much closer to its limits, and deploying just-in-time maintenance and replacements to avoid costly network upgrades. Rightly so—this one area of grid analytics alone promises significant savings to reforming utilities.
Watch Torgier Waterhouse, Internet & New Media Director of ICT Norway and our keynote speaker at Sorrento, deliver his big-picture perspective on IoT.
Integration and efficiency
A wealth of great items were discussed and debated throughout the week that would warrant coverage here, but with limited space, one final area worth highlighting is the topic of technology integration. IT/OT convergence—integrating traditional operational systems and data with business- and customer-focused IT systems to meet the needs of the modern networked company—was ever-present. What excited those at the event more specifically, though, was the growing appetite for mobility solutions to drive further business efficiency. These are not the point-based deployments of old, but new specific applications offering information from multiple systems in an intuitive manner enabling field engineers to perform their jobs more efficiently on the device of their choice.
With communications networks now far more reliable and ubiquitous, field work increasingly being outsourced, the need for collaboration with third-party emergency response teams being met with new available technology, it’s an exciting time! The increased flexibility to work anytime, anywhere is upon us, dissolving the boundaries between the office and field. The convergence of web and mobile technologies allows one solution to meet the needs of those managing and controlling the network directly from the field in real time.
With convergence leading the way as technology opens new avenues, I hope the discussion stays alive. If you’re a stakeholder in grid modernization, stay informed, stay engaged and stay communicative. We’re already hard at work exploring challenges and solutions, and hope you’ll join us.