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Outage Management: The DataCapable Approach to Intelligent Mitigation and Prediction

Like a good auto insurance policy or that trusted bottle of pepper spray, a good outage management system becomes a prized possession when things start to get dicey. Utilities know the criticality of such systems and the need for something more effective. Though so much of what’s out there today remains inefficient and out of touch. Most are cobbled together systems that don’t adequately make use of the latest technology for detecting and preventing  incidents. Plus, power outages can lead to staggering revenue losses for large C & I customers not to mention the public safety issues. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, in August of last year, a 5 hour power outage cost Delta Air Lines $150 million.

A better approach to managing grid interruptions may be one that’s refreshingly familiar to anyone with an internet connection.  New entrants like DataCapable, are enabling utilities and end-users to better coordinate the unexpected through intelligent crowd-sourcing. The startup initially viewed utility operators and other first responders as the greatest beneficiary of a smarter outage management system (OMS). But that was only tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve learned that energy managers at Target and Walmart are spending millions on outages, and $33 billion in lost revenue,” says Zac Canders, CEO and Co-founder of DataCapable. “If an individual store loses power, and doesn’t call the head power manager in the company, and mobile generation isn’t brought in, then food gets thrown away and it’s a real tax liability against the company. There’s great value in reacting and predicting things quickly."

The company’s  UtiliSocial platform bring together real-time aggregate outage reports, customer sentiment feedback and overall situation awareness to support the power ecosystem. When outages do occur, utilities must determine if it’s an isolated event or linked to something bigger. Often a an individual’s Facebook or Instagram update of an outage in a public place may be the first report that something is amiss, and the more a vendor can detect that sentiment, the better off everyone in the system will be. If social media has a role to play across such a wide variety industries, why should the power industry be different?

“In a recent example the SCADA report of the outage occurred at the same time as our solution’s report, which came in through an LTE phone,” adds Canders. “Data availability is fast and leads to real time integration and visibility.”

Outage management providers are better positioned to thrive as they share outage data through common standards.  The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), taking the lead from the White House’s  Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has helped organize the Outage Data Initiative.  For the first time, there’s an official embrace of standard APIs , and data sharing that allows utilities and industry to learn from outage patterns. Better data sharing means better mitigation of outages and improved predictive analytics. Plus, newer cloud based systems are just what the doctor ordered for regulatory agencies pushing to capitalize technology costs.

Like it or not, a utility’s outage map remains one of its most visited touchpoints for residential and commercial customers. But as consumer engagement with utilities builds more momentum, the end-user will play a more active role in reporting on and helping manage outages.  That's a good thing for everyone involved.

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