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Inside info: Integration


Inside info: Integration


IT/OT integration: Increase grid-control and -insight by connecting existing systems

History of IT/OT

Historically, operational technologies (OT) in utilities have played a role in securing the delivery of electricity, gas, or water towards their end-customers. These OT systems were mostly implemented as separate, stand-alone solutions, focusing on specific tasks related to grid control and monitoring using proprietary protocols and programmable logic controllers (PLC). Given their history and the fact that they form a critical infrastructure with given security risks, integrating with other systems never was a priority. Especially when it came to connecting the OT world with enterprise IT.

As both OT and IT systems evolved, more functions and technical capabilities were added including enhanced possibilities of integration, including standardization of protocols, common information models, and others. Still, advanced integration long remained limited to the IT world because of security concerns and the risk of potential penetration of critical OT infrastructure from the outside world. However, with the maturing of cybersecurity and increase of digital protection solutions most of the utility and industry companies today have started to integrate their IT and OT environments.

OMNETRIC has been named as a leader in the IDC MarketScape: North American DERMS Strategic Consultants and System Integrators 2020 Vendor Assessment

"OMNETRIC was launched with the mission of solving utilities’ strategic task of integrating information and operational technologies, and, hence, enable the industry’s transformation. Since its creation, the company has enjoyed tremendous traction and now serves customers, including top-tier names in the industry, across five continents."

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Why IT/OT integration?

The grid is becoming increasingly complex at all levels, and the energy transition is ramping up. There is a large change of usage patterns due to the growth of distributed energy resources (DERs), usage of electric vehicles, rise in energy storage and changing consumption patterns.

This is impacting the traditional way of power flows causing increased interconnection and dependencies between the transmission and distribution levels. These changes are accompanied by an increase of new and interconnected information systems with larger amounts of grid devices being installed leading to more data sources and data exchange, all of which is closely followed by evolving regulations and standards.

And when we look past the (r)evolutions in the grid, there is also large impact coming from the IT world with the growth of distributed cloud-based software and platforms, new infrastructure solutions, Internet of Things (IoT), Edge computing, interoperability, cybersecurity, and so on. All these changes form an ever-increasing challenge for utility companies to remain capable of managing the grid and energy supply effectively.

IT/OT integration by itself is not a purpose, but it is foundational to operating the energy business of tomorrow and a prerequisite to Distribution Grid Digitalization. It enables existing systems to exchange data, collaborate and enhance the capabilities of monitoring, controlling and operating the grid. Furthermore, higher quality data management provides new opportunities to improve business processes, facilities and workforce automation. Without integration it will become impossible to (cost-) effectively and efficiently manage the reliability and resilience of the grid with all its ongoing changes.


Making IT/OT integration tangible

Utility companies integrate their IT and OT environments to increase their ability to actively capture, store & share data, providing more flexible control and a greater ability to automate and digitize processes. OMNETRIC has been working on the forefront of IT/OT integration together with our customers realizing these benefits.

Projects related to the integration of low voltage grid data with medium & high voltage data typically include
By integrating these systems, grid operators gain a holistic view of their entire network, all the way from the point where energy enters their network to where it is being consumed. This enables Furthermore, it gives network planners the opportunity to create Additionally, we see that many challenges are dealing with information regarding grid assets, such as quality of data, availability of data, and establishing single source of truth information models.

By integrating data planning & operation systems into Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems, companies become more effective in understanding the status - age/health index - and performance - probability of failure - of their assets.

This allows for predictive asset management and preventive maintenance, and in the longer term improves strategic investment planning.

These are just some examples of the many different types of use cases and projects we encounter at our clients, involving various types of systems, data sources and vendors. However, they all have in common that getting more done with existing systems and data starts with integrating them.

What’s next?

By bridging the gap between IT and OT, utilities are becoming better positioned to further digitalize the grid which in turn can support advanced analysis and decision making: helping to realize a good deal of the promised benefits of the smart grid. Off course IT and OT must work together taking the necessary security measures to protect critical operations, but the trend to apply innovative technologies is accelerating and moving well beyond basic data integration and analytics projects. Platform-based offerings are maturing and becoming a pillar of many vendors value propositions.

In the last couple of years there is a clear trend that digitalization is growing way past the smart meters into houses and smart building solutions. More and more sensors are being placed on and over the edges of the grid into private domains, pushing the digitalization of the low voltage grid further and providing more possibilities for integration, including building-to-grid and in-house energy management. Much of our integration work is about ensuring that data is exchanged in an interoperable way through service-oriented architectures, using industry standards and models, e.g. the Common Information Model/CIM, IEC-61850, COSEM. However, the traditional information flows are being supplemented with new ways of communication through IoT, including MQTT, CoAP, AMQP, LWM2W, etc. to be capable of handling the fast-changing amount and types of data.

What we see happening next are two major developments: The first is the creation of digital twins (LVG), not only of the physical grid and its assets, but also the information flow providing The second development of this digital transformation is the embedding of IoT platforms, where (data) integration from the device in the field all the way up to the application layer is implemented end-to-end, and interoperability between solutions comes out-of-the-box. With these developments new opportunities arise as true digital enterprises form.

Find out about our use cases

Multi-tenant data platform based on Smart Meter integration

Siemens and OMNETRIC unlock the digital future of a Swiss energy leader
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Closer to the customer with smart grid technology

Closer to the customer with smart grid technology
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The E-Cloud Project

OMNETRIC has been tasked with the development of an app to visualize energy consumption and local production for ORES, the biggest distribution grid operator of gas and electricity in Wallonia, Belgium. 
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