Utilities are striving to improve service reliability and are under increasing customer expectations to provide timely and accurate outage and restoration information. Many utilities are testing new technologies and enhancing their business processes to be more resilient and consumer focused.

However, there are barriers. Emerging data sources can be difficult to integrate into traditional data sets. The level of visibility and automation in the distribution system is still relatively low when compared to other infrastructure-dependent industries with which utility customers are already familiar. Utilities have been restoring power for more than 100 years and have adopted several new technologies and best practices along the way. But because of proprietary and sometimes rigid solutions adopted over the years, continued improvement in this field requires changes to many inter-related systems and processes.

Everyone believes in realizing efficiency, capturing change and building the next-generation utility. This is an industry united by engineers, technologists, business people and wires — a whole lot of wires. Across the U.S., a story has been building of a grid organized to make faster, more meaningful decisions; a grid that honors affordability, reliability and safety; a grid ready to put the next-generation customer first. But, when the lights go out, is the industry equipped for the next generation of outage management?

A New OMS

Enter collaboration. A new effort is underway to bring together the strengths of an ecosystem of providers to address the emerging priorities and the associated technology barriers. By seamlessly integrating a solid “core system” for network analysis with an evolving ecosystem of additional products and online services, a next-generation outage management solution has been developed. Through this combination of traditional outage management systems (OMS) with information technology systems and other solution components, such as social media mining and smart grid analytics, utilities can leapfrog the limitations imposed by the current generation of utility technologies.

The next-generation outage management solution approach, advanced by OMNETRIC Group, has collaboration at its core and is based on five key principles:
• A core platform, augmented only by the capabilities a particular utility needs or wants, selected from a broad menu of vendors
• The integration of any third-party applications and online services that bring innovation and value through the use of open standards and protocols
• A data layer and analytics applications that are platform agnostic; the solution provides in-the-cloud or on-premise analytics options using a variety of leading technologies
• Comprehensive integration back into operational technologies to allow execution of actionable insight
• The use of diverse data sources and multiple media paths to customers and associated stakeholders to deliver increased customer value and increase satisfaction.

The ability to augment a strong core platform of network applications with whatever new applications and services come available from any provider, based on an established integration architecture, could potentially lower total cost of ownership by increasing the options for functionality and how it is provided. Avoiding obsolescence and vendor lock-in would dramatically increase flexibility in the pursuit of additional solutions and improvements.

Duke Energy, OMNETRIC Group, customer engagement