All Posts By

Ted Schneider

What’s in place to ensure your ‘stream’ of service?

By Blog | No Comments

Many of the businesses and industries (e.g., utilities, airlines, manufacturers, critical infrastructure) I work with at ARCOS every day have customers who depend on the smooth, uninterrupted operation of technology. Take the airline industry as an example. Aircraft makers design air-frames with multiple, built-in fail-safe elements. Planes have to be able to fly with a failed engine, land with broken landing gear, and have a backup power source, among many other redundancies.

For utilities who depend on cloud services to organize day-to-day operations, the principle is the same. A constant, unbroken “stream” of water, gas, or electric service is imperative to utility customers, and thus, fail-safe measures are built into the network to ensure this. There are a few different layers of redundancies that can be built into cloud systems. The first layer of redundancy should always be physical. If you need a server operating constantly to keep the system going, there should be a backup server in the event the first goes down.

Another important fail-safe layer is called location redundancy. In addition to physical hardware in a single city, it’s important to have redundant systems set up in other cities. If, for instance, there were a problem in ARCOS’s Columbus, Ohio, office, those services could be shifted to a similar facility in another city.

Finally, if a business relies on a vendor-provided service, it is imperative to have a layer of vendor redundancy. A good example is a business’ internet service provider (ISP). If constant internet service is critical to the business model, there should be a managed plan in place that if that ISP goes down, another one picks up immediately.

Ultimately, when uninterrupted service is a top priority, it is the responsibility of a business owner to look for every fail point and implement fail-safe measures to bridge that gap. These examples are just a few of the places that technology professionals and business managers can build fail safes into cloud systems to ensure service is always on point.

Ditching custom code: The benefits of APIs for software implementations

By Blog | No Comments

When a utility company implements a new system from a vendor, a smooth rollout of the new application is of utmost importance. Systems rarely stand on their own these days; so that means utilities and their vendors must also build a nexus between new and existing software platforms. Writing custom code to allow existing programs to communicate with a new system can often be time-consuming and costly.

Application programming interfaces, or APIs, allow for two different programs to talk with one another without the need for custom code. It acts as a layer in the architecture that allows data to pass between systems. Some third-party middleware services can even write logic in between, allowing information to be manipulated and transferred to other systems as needed.

A common way APIs can be used in the utility industry is when dealing with automated crew management systems. For example, say a utility using the ARCOS Callout & Scheduling Suite receives a work order. The data from that work order is needed both by the utility’s work management system and dispatchers using ARCOS to assemble a crew. APIs facilitate the transfer of this data between programs in real time.

This real-time data transfer has major benefits for utilities. During a major event, accurate real-time data is imperative in order to respond correctly, safely and efficiently. Since utility executives, emergency operations center staff, dispatchers, field personnel, corporate communications officers, contractors and local government want real-time information in an emergency, APIs become critical data transfer tools.

As utilities receive data in real time, they can even provide an appropriate subset of this data to customers as well. This is especially useful during after-hours or major events, when a utility wants to provide timely updates for an estimated time of restoration, or ETR.

Moreover, APIs can help trim labor costs, and also increase the security of data transfers. In the days before APIs, there had to be an administrator from each system entering information manually. Without an automated way to transfer this data, insecure data would sit unconsumed, which leaves the company at risk of a data breach. APIs circumvent both of these problems as well, reducing both unnecessary work and security risks.

Why the utility industry needs to play ‘Moneyball’

By Blog | No Comments

 
Utility-worker-in-truck

By Ted Schneider

In an earlier post on Energy Central, a writer proposed new ways utilities could apply proven technologies for tracking workers. Let’s add location services to that list. Many of us carry a smartphone, which, of course, features location services for day-to-day business or personal apps.

By writing an algorithm for the location services feature of a smartphone, tech guys can set the ping rate (or echo protocol) for anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour or more. Why bother doing that? Imagine you’re a damage assessor. As you drive a circuit and get closer to a target, your smartphone ping rate increases. Consequently, alerting the storm center where you are and how quickly you’re moving from asset to asset. Or let’s say you’re a mutual assistance crew headed to help a neighboring utility. As you close in on your destination, we speed up the ping rate to give the storm center a more accurate ETA for you and your crew. Read More

Cyber security and the cloud of protection

By Blog | No Comments

 

Cyber Security

By Ted Schneider

In June, I’ll attend EEI’s Annual Convention in San Diego where I’m excited to hear Robert Herjavec, founder of information security firm Herjavec Group and Lead Shark on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” talk tech. Security is a passion of mine. The second person I hired for the ARCOS CloudOPs team was a cyber security engineer. A little over a year after joining ARCOS as its CTO, I watched the Ukraine fall victim to a hack of its electric infrastructure.

Since then, the number of discussions about security that we’ve had with clients has grown exponentially. Security requirements are mushrooming. And groups inside utilities dedicated to cyber security are ballooning. Maintaining security is a moving target, though. It’s more than minimizing downtime; security is about giving your organization and technology a multi-tiered buffer zone allowing time to ignore, trap and reject the negative intrusions or loading. Read More