CenterPoint Energy (CNP; Houston, Texas, U.S.) is working with IBM (Armonk, New York, U.S.) to create an intelligent utility network (IUN). Built using IBM software, the IUN automates and integrates business processes for electric utilities to improve service, reliability and efficiency.

The IUN model responds to five major challenges facing utilities today: aging T&D networks; rapid infrastructure buildout in emerging economies; environmental policies; aging workforce, affecting corporate knowledge; and increasing energy demands for supporting the digital economy.

IBM is a critical part of CNP's long-range strategy to fully align its technology with the company's business goals through the creation of a service-oriented architecture (SOA). This SOA is part of a business strategy that enables CNP to reuse its existing technology assets to help create the IUN. CNP is using IBM's integration middleware, information management software and enterprise portal software to create the IUN.

Looking more closely at the model for an IUN, CNP's infrastructure: helps detect and respond in real time to changes and everyday problems; connects everything from equipment and control systems to applications and employees; enables automatic data collection and storage based on a common information model; uses analytics to increase efficiency in the management of assets and operations; and provides operational value that comes from creating an aware environment through the integration of applications such as advanced meter management and network automation and analytics.

As CNP's SOA evolves to include IBM's testing and management software tools, the utility will be able to continue to reap greater business efficiencies, boost productivity and enhance customer service. IBM and CNP have just begun working together to design and develop an SOA framework that will be the foundation for the IUN and other business applications at CNP.