Mash-in

KC P&L DRAW IN THE WEB

Published In: Intelligent Utility Magazine September/October 2009

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THE TERM ''MASHUPS'' HAS JOINED THE LEXICON OF Web 2.0 applications where Web-sourced information, such as maps, weather and other data, is aggregated on a Web site to be shared among a group. Being able to quickly and inexpensively assemble customized views of data drawn from multiple Web sources on a Web site holds great promise, but true mashups have just begun to arrive for utilities.

What is happening, however, is the mashing-in of Web information on utility sites to improve internal operations.

CON EDISON LOOKS IN SIDE

In January, Con Edison launched its outage management business intelligence dashboards, a Web site that may eventually be accessible to 15,000 employees. It provides near real-time data on outages down to the granularity of the individual meter. The dashboards incorporate Web-based maps by Virtual Earth along with a number of other data sources.

''At a higher level, we present a thematic map and color-based targeting of a borough or a network based on the range of customers out. Below that level, we have drill-down capability so we can see an individual outage from a bird's-eye view,'' said Frank Racaniello, a Con Edison technical specialist. Red dots indicate individual outages. A black phone icon represents a customer who called about the event. There is no question that displaying information spatially on a map is preferable to a chart or tabular data. At a glance, for example, a colored map area can show whether 1 to 50 or over 5,000 customers are out. ''On the intranet side, we know of only a few utilities that are now doing this. There are other utilities that have something like this on the external side, but with limited functionality,'' said Racaniello.

Con Edison sees the dashboard as an evolving system and may add other Web sources such as weather-particularly wind direction and speed. The system may also expand to include census data. ''It's been catching on like wildfire,'' said Racaniello about user acceptance. Initially, operational dashboards only had 100 to 200 users accessing the system per day, but it grew to over 1,000 concurrent users during winter storms.

KCP&L LOOKS IN AND OUT

Kansas City Power and Light (KCP&L) uses mapping areas and colored outage levels similar to Con Edison for its PowerWatch 24/7, a customer resource on its Web site, but without the drill-down granularity to the individual circuit or device level. A drop-down list allows customers to check outages by city and county. Customers, with proper security, can also access detailed outage information and report an outage. ''Our customers must trust our data since we are reporting events in a near real-time environment and customers are making real-time decisions based on what we present,'' said Stephen Diebold, KCP&L's manager of real-time systems.

A more powerful version of PowerWatch is being used internally by 456 of KCP&L's 3,000 employees. It provides complete drill-down, drill-through decision support related to asset outages, resource performance and general power management.

There's little doubt that Web 2.0 will have an increasing impact on communications. We will hear more about social media, mashups, widgets and wiki-type informational exchanges. Utilities, of course, have a public obligation to provide reliable, verifiable information to regulators, employees, customers and the media about operational issues. Ad hoc mashups will find a place as ''good enough'' applications that can be rapidly deployed for internal communications, such as task-specific projects, but the informal nature of the medium will have to be closely monitored as inaccurate information may cause negative repercussions.

POSSIBLE DATA MIX-INS

  • Virtual Earth
  • Google Earth
  • MapQuest
  • Weather.com
  • Work management
  • Geospatial
  • Outage management
  • Customer information
  • Traffic monitors
  • Vegetation management
  • Automated vehicle location
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