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In the early days of computing, software and hardware were tightly bundled and sold together. You simply bought a product, and this product was supposed to deliver value. Humans most often fed the machine with input and receiving a certain output.  The complexity of the machine, the software, as well as the input and result has been growing ever since.  

Then came digitalization… and with that a whole new level of complexity. Systems integrating with other systems. Refined insights from data combined in a way that nobody thought of before, or even had the technology with the performance required to do so.  

Organizations today are often faced with this increasing complexity, webs of legacy systems, third-party applications, and new software. Each system has its unique data formats, communication protocols, and technologies, making integration a challenging process.  

Distribution system operators are no exception. At the same time, the energy transition is causing DSOs to face issues they never imagined in the past and that their legacy systems were not designed to solve.  

There seems to be a consensus around the fact that we need to modernize and digitalize electricity networks. But for a sector with the mission critical task to provide electricity security of supply, the mere challenges of system integration may become paralyzing, even though the purpose is clear. 

However, as we transition from understanding the challenges at hand to exploring potential solutions, sharing knowledge and learnings can help ease the pain of change and speed up the implementation of new innovative technology. Based on our experience of deploying integrated Digital Twins in distribution networks, at Plexigrid we have found a few key success factors that should be considered before embarking on any modernization project. 

  1. Moving into a cloud architecture 

The foundation for a modern integrated system is a cloud-based IT architecture, which reduces system deployment cycles, thereby increasing the speed of innovation. It offers cost-efficient utilization of hardware, allowing you to pay only for what you require. Additionally, cloud architecture is highly scalable to meet future needs, accommodating large data volumes, storage, performance, and security requirements. 

  1. Deploying best-of-breed solutions 

Technology is developing fast and new innovations see the light of day at an ever-increasing pace. The traditional way of procuring monolithic comprehensive systems for solving a task is no longer fit for purpose, these systems may be great at solving the problem at hand but will not be flexible to solve the unforeseen problems in a few years. They are expensive and time-consuming to replace. Adopting the philosophy of a cloud-based integration platform enables a best-of-breed approach. Each function is viewed as an independent service, or functional blocks, that can be replaced individually and integrated as pieces of the larger puzzle. 

  1. Managing data quality 

In an organization dealing with sensitive data, the importance of data quality cannot be overstated. Accurate and reliable data is the basis for strategic and efficient decisions. Any inaccuracies or inconsistencies within the data can lead to flawed analyses, jeopardizing the organization’s ability to make informed choices. Therefore, maintaining high standards of data quality is paramount. By ensuring that data is correct, complete, and up-to-date, organizations can mitigate risks, optimize processes, and avoid unnecessary costs associated with rectifying errors or making decisions based on flawed information. Ultimately, investing in data quality measures is not just a matter of compliance; it is a strategic imperative for safeguarding the integrity and success of the organization. 

As a supplier of new software with the ambition to provide game-changing insights to grid operators, Plexigrid aim to live by these recommendations. We have created a cloud agnostic solution that can seamlessly integrate into the grid operators’ Data Service layer. Let’s take the Digital Twin, a core component of the Plexigrid platform, as an illustrative example.  

Imagine a mirror, reflecting your electrical grid in real time; a virtual replica of the electrical grid continuously updated by the data on network topology, process measurements and other key grid information. The data is collected from multiple separate systems such as GIS for network model, Smart Meters for customer behavior, weather data for forecasting and ADMS for grid behavior.  

In the world of modern technology, the concept of digital twins has emerged as a game-changer, reshaping how we perceive and interact with complex systems. These digital replicas not only connect previously isolated systems but also open up new dimensions of knowledge and capabilities. 

Imagine seamlessly linking planning, operations, and maintenance horizontally, while vertically leveraging customer insights to tackle issues across voltage levels. This is the power of digital twins—a transformative force in our rapidly evolving energy landscape. 

But going through complex digital transformation and system integration isn’t unique to the energy sector alone. Across various industries, we’ve witnessed remarkable shifts that have not only enhanced customer experiences but also reduced costs and delivered unprecedented value to society. 

From the telecom industry’s transition from copper wires to IP-based networks to the banking sector’s shift from paper-based transactions to mobile services, the examples are abound. Each illustrates the profound impact of embracing digitalization and adapting to the changing times. 

However, reinventing one of humankind’s greatest machines—the electricity grid—comes with its own set of challenges. Yet, it’s precisely the spirit of innovation, creativity, and collaboration that has propelled us forward thus far that will guide us towards the grid of the future. 

As we navigate the complexities of digital transformation and system integration, let’s reflect and draw inspiration from the shifts we’ve seen in other industries. From telecom to banking, embracing digitalization has improved experiences, cut costs, and delivered remarkable value. The energy sector is no exception, and as we harness the power of digital twins and innovative technologies, we can create a brighter, more sustainable future for all. 

The journey won’t be easy, but with determination and a willingness to adapt, we can build a grid that’s responsive to the demands of the modern age. It’s a journey worth taking—one that promises to reshape how we generate, distribute, and consume electricity for generations to come.