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.