Scott Propp, of Motorola Solutions, discusses the different communication solutions that his company offers to the utility sector.
The utility sector is one of those opportunities that is really in a technology transformation right now. We have some core areas that we’ve begun to bring to the table to really begin to help utilities kind of deal with all the technologies coming at them right now. The Motorola that you know really began around the public safety area in a very high reliability communications area. To utility market, we’ve been bringing something like this personal, portable radio here called Turbo. It is data enabled and very useful for voice communications — there are times when you absolutely need to get the voice through; as well as speed data. So, it’s a very, very reliable device. So, this is kind of the Motorola that you know.
On the other side of the organization, the typical retail side of the organization, we have this mobile computing device. In terms of enabling the field workers for the utilities and to get that really to be able to be very productive in the field, this is a device that can use a number of radio networks, everything from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to the core cellular networks that can capture data IDs, so it can go out in the field and scan an asset, understand what’s in there, and you can get a very detailed information on the screen. It’s non-glare, serving you the specific circuit background or some opportunity that you’re maybe unfamiliar with; you can quickly go out and get that information again delivered to you. So, these are a couple of our core product lines that are very specific to enabling the worker; and also building up the customer service experience.
One of the things that’s coming up to utilities these days is a lot more customer touch, a lot more information required, putting in information in the hands of the utility workers that go out and meet with the customer base is really key. The spot where we really have a lot of expertise is everything from the core wire network to the edge to the people who really need the information. If you think about the Internet tsunami and all that information that needs to get to the edge of the network, we really are very good at getting that industrial base and high reliability information into people’s hands. Along with that, there’s a control aspect and the other smart grid capability that kind of comes naturally with that but we have to think about there’s meters at the edge of the network, there’s people in the edge of the network, there’s customers at the edge of the network; and all those population need to be served with some information. The core smart grid these days, *pre-smart grid spanning was built on a very low bandwidth devices, SCADA, and a few kilobytes of data. The new world demands a lot more bandwidth, so when we approach the customer we talk about the number of different products and solutions that really get that bandwidth up over a very wide area, thousands of square miles. So, the way at the top layer of that network, we have something over microwave portfolio. This is a P2P 800 unit 6GHz kind of coverage. This unit can do several hundred megabytes over fifty miles of coverage. So, it’s a point-to-point unit, so if you need to deliver a lot of bandwidth to another point out in your network, this is a very useful tool for that. Up there on the pole, we have a point-to-multi-point product, it’s called the PMP 320, and that is a WiMAX based product that is able to put about 40MB into a sector and allow a number of devices to receive a lot of data fairly quickly in a WiMAX based format. These two pieces of technology are very useful when you’re trying to build up a wider network. You can start at the edge of the wired network, extend your Internet coverage, and broaden it around the point-to multi-point portfolio. We have a little demo going on with our partners at the Oklahoma Gas and Electric. We were able to build out a very nice multi-layer solution and cooperation with them. There’s a nice amount of information out there on Web for those who would like to understand that further. But it makes use of our core middle mile wireless communications and really highlights the fact that the customer, the end-customer, in the system is truly seeing savings from smart grid.
On the CIO side of the house, they’re fairly familiar with networking concepts in the layers of networks on different bandwidth, so they understand it fairly well. There’s other environments, a transmission and distribution environment, where they haven’t been working with the information systems as much, s there’s a little bit more of technology dialogue that needs to take place. There’s a whole bunch of different protocols that could pass on these networks, everything from core data to control signals. Some of them from software that’s written a decade and a half ago, so it takes a lot of expertise to integrate all that software together to make it useful. What we do is we go in and talk about that. We created different layers of software that can pass that information back and forth.
I absolutely love technology. I’ve been doing this technology since I was just out of college. I find the energy environment fascinating. I was one of those early guys that worked on solar energy and worked on some of the basics of how these will all fit together. So smart grid’s kind of a natural evolution of a communications background tied with an interest in energy and just for love of technology.