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Go360: Transforming electric utilities

Geoff Cameron, Executive Vice President, Go360
Geoff Cameron, Executive Vice President, Go360

Location-based software Go360 promises to transform organisations by simplifying data for decision-makers. Geoff Cameron, Executive Vice President, Angus GeoSolutions, tells Geospatial World how Go360 is helping the electrical and natural gas utilities. Read on to know more…

Q. What kind of utility problems does Go360 solve? Please give us an overview of the customer engagements you’ve been involved in.

Go360 has been striving to make smart grid applications a reality for quite a few utilities. The key lies in unlocking all the information which can help in the legacy of GIS systems. Now, you have to remember that the smart grid is in a consistent loop, because there’s no traditional upstream or downstream source of information. You add generators and real-time tie points that can open and close in fraction of seconds. You need a system that can handle the flow of electrons. You also need a powerful engine to use all the GIS data and grab the information — be it sensor data or smart meter data — and integrate with other things, like the weather data. In our case, we’ve leveraged the traditional GIS mapping data and put it in a central repository, called Oracle, which has led us to witness tremendous performance enhancements.

The thing about Go360, and the way we set it up, is that the focal point — where the things integrate to it and it also ties together all the other systems —gives you a true system of record. Data may come from SAP, but SAP is not a system of record for your app data. Nobody is working in the field, hitting a button. If you look at smart grid and the need for energy analysis in a real-time engineering model, it has to happen there, but, it can certainly feed into other systems, such as GIS and weather. What we’re doing with Go360 is tying all the systems together, and letting the systems know that a transaction has happened and here’s the data you’re interested in.

Q. If we talk about the deployment of applications based on Go360, where do you think utilities are getting the biggest bang for the buck?

That would be real-time integration of useful information. In our case, it can be providing the information to everyone, from the operator in the control room to smart grid applications and the crew that is making information faster and safer. We also try to cut out a bunch of manual processes that are costly. So, you get the bang for your buck right away. We’re trying to eliminate unnecessary paperwork also because it slows things down. Go360 is more of an integrated GIS Data Management System (DMS) than just GIS itself, because it also responds to you.

Q. What is your take on the data quality issue?

That’s the key with opening up with GIS. Many times, people get to the smart grid with advanced DMS, and the data doesn’t support what they’re trying to do. So, while they re-engineer things from the ground, they make assumptions. When you look at a smart grid with advanced DMS, you need to look at your network first. You data should be fairly good; it should be unlocked; and it should be in available to the right source — whether it’s a person in the field doing inspection, or a system automatically updating things to mobiles. You also need to have the right browser with the right interface, where people can get access to the right data. You need to give the right tool to the right people, especially where geospatial networks and geospatial assets are not a part of how they do their business. Operational technology is all about bridging the gap between the people on the field and the IT guys. There’s always going to be a reason to not use technology, but, when we used it for one of our projects at Hydro One, the payback was more than double the cost of the project, and the data that came back was all updated.

Q. Talking about one of your customers, like Burlington Hydro who founded GridSmartCity, were they worried about self-healing networks?

They are the champions of GridSmartCity in Canada. They’re also pretty smart about their business. They’ve been working with companies which self-heal networks for critical infrastructure. So, if you go to downtown hospitals and industrial areas, they have greatly reduced their outage. They’re a unique utility because they’re very urban and also very big geographically. They have farms and protected areas without any cell towers. They’ve rolled out their AMI system, which can collect data and indentify their outages. Everything that you see on Go360 is live; everything is available on real-time, so, there’s no guessing required. We can even pick up pictures for social media through Go360. There’re a few things which you absolutely need for your business to work. You need an impeccable GIS system, the best IT software, fair knowledge about the field, and a background in electrical engineering. People pursuing a subject like this need to focus on technology and utilities. If any of the above mentioned elements is missing, then it’s no good.

Q. What is the future of social network and applications dedicated to utilities?

Social media is pervasive; it is everywhere. We have been using social networking for monitoring activities, discussing company auditing, dispensing information about natural events, like storms, and communicating with people. During storms, we have been able to gather 33,000 geo-tagged pictures of the damage with notes and time-stamps. Not only are people using the available technology, there’s a thirst for more evolved technology. For example, when there’s no power in the city, people use social media to report the status. Similarly, for us, social media is a good way of informing people when the power will be back up.