The digital ageThe decentralization of power generation and decarbonization is driving the energy world. Only through digitalization it will be possible to master the transformation to a multi-directional energy system. Myriads of sensors in modern energy systems collect vast amounts of data and are interacting on an entirely new level and scale. Artificial intelligence and big data analytics are revolutionizing our decision-making. The critical factors for success in the digital economy are an agile infrastructure and systems that allow adaption to future requirements. Moreover, individuals' and companies' data protection to minimize the risk of malicious cyber attacks are of utmost importance.
There are many challenges for grid operators in the digital age. These include business agility to adjust to new circumstances and adapt to new business models and services quickly, and ensuring grid availability and reliability. Grid operators need to manage the transition of grids where, in the past, electrical power has been generated centrally and delivered under restricted market conditions. Now, this is giving way to systems with large numbers of participants and multilayered energy, information, and finance streams. In addition, grid operators must optimize the management of investments in view of the ongoing technological transformation and operational efficiency, so that they are able to deliver products at an optimum cost with optimum functionality and optimum quality – thus perfectly fulfilling the needs of their customers.
Our value storyIn the fast-moving energy sector with its increasing decentralization, it is becoming more and more important for grid operators to know their installed base. This ensures that you get a complete picture of all relevant assets, which helps you in keeping them up-to-date for several reasons, e.g. functional safety or cyber security. Even further, knowing what equipment and when it was installed, gives you the possibility to better plan the lifetime of your assets and facilitate preventive maintenance activities.
The "old-school way"
In substation automation systems, numerous devices have been implemented – protection devices, RTUs, routers, switches and PCs, for example. This secondary equipment provides a lot of valuable data, like firmware versions, serial numbers, patch versions and much more. You can perform asset management the “old-school” way, by visiting those devices, reading the necessary information from the display and entering it into an (electronic) spreadsheet. You might already use vendor-specific engineering tools for querying the installed devices. However, you would still have to connect and read separately, device-by-device.
Imagine you would have to repeat this task for all of your tens or hundreds of substations in your grid. And imagine, you had several dozens of devices and software components in each substation. And to make the situation even more complex, imagine you had numerous spreadsheets for every substation,that you would have to fill in and synchronize to get the complete picture.
Example for 10 substations in the grid, each containing 50 secondary equipment devices in average, in total 500 devices.
Actual time savings may differ based on the actual configuration. However, time savings are, in all cases, significant.
A convenient taskIt is vital to protect your assets and systems, since cyber attackers may exploit known security vulnerabilities. Preventing power outages caused by cyber attacks becomes a more and more complex task. One very efficient way to keep your systems secure, is to ensure that the secondary equipment in your environment has the latest patches and firmware installed.
The "old-school way"
Each intelligent electronic device in your installed base needs a firmware or software component to be able to work. Protection devices have a communication module and a main module, both with a separate firmware. Routers have their own firmware and PCs have an operating system plus additional software installed. For cyber security or functional safety reasons, or to cope with regulatory requirements, you might be obliged to keep these firmware and software components up-to-date.
Imagine you would have to keep track of several dozens of supplier’s websites or newletters, where patch information is presented. Imagine you would have to manage or store this patch information in an email archive or an (electronic) spreadsheet. Sounds like a time-consuming and error prone task, doesn’t it?
Example for 40 SW Components from 15 different vendors.
Actual time savings may differ, based on how the vendors present the patch information for their products: email newsletter, press releases, websites etc. However, time savings are, in all cases, significant.
- 10% of time required for documentation of e.g. firmware or patch changes compared to traditional paper based documentation.
- Enhanced security with installation of latest patch versions.
- Reduced time and effort by receiving updated patch notifications related to installed base devices.
- No travel to substations required when using remote connections.
- Scalability to cope with more and more digital devices in future.
- Flexibility of integration with third party devices via SNMP, WMI and 61850 interfaces.
- Enabling preventive maintenance or retrofit actions based on the installed base data.
- Fulfilling regulatory requirements like ISO 27001.