CURRENT Group Says Goodbye to BPL Industry


By: Phillip Bane

CURRENT Group offers utilities the powerful advantage of actionable intelligence for their future Smart Grid operations. Actionable intelligence is real time data that allows managers to do their job and integrate their workflows. Actionable intelligence is information you can use -- right now.


This article will reveal the four data trends CURRENT Group has identified and how its actionable intelligence model works at ONCOR. Unfortunately, the company’s messaging is still confused, and therefore utilities may have trouble differentiating the company’s value proposition from other communication platforms.


Last year, we interviewed the CURRENT Group VP of Marketing (see the article titled "BPL’s 80lb Gorilla” at link below.) We discussed then its plan to add weight to its value proposition. With its data analytics offering, CURRENT Group has done just that.


What CURRENT Group has learned about data

At meter conferences, you hear that meter data management (MDM) is this year’s critical topic. CURRENT Group has made the decision, however, that successful Smart Grid implementation requires that utilities look beyond MDM and instead focus now on Smart Grid data (SGD.) Evolving from a provider of broadband services to a provider of data analytics is a very significant shift for CURRENT Group. Utilities can benefit by tracking this evolution because it identifies the core problem and value of the Smart Grid: data.


CURRENT Group has identified four data trends you need to focus on: 

There is too much data.  All the studies show that utilities will be overwhelmed with data as the Smart Grid deploys.

Data itself is worthless.  Without the application of filters and business rules to data, it provides no value.

Utility managers want to make decisions.  They do not want to spend time analyzing data.

Data drives decisions.  However, it must be delivered in a compelling, easy to understand manner.


Utilities that understand where the Smart Grid is taking them will seriously consider CURRENT Group’s offering. The current grid produces enormous volumes of data, most of which cannot be analyzed. The Smart Grid will produce exponentially more data, so if a utility does not change how it processes and analyzes that data, it will flounder operationally and competitively.


CURRENT Group is ahead of the game on this. As Itron builds meters and Areva, ABB and GE build transformers, relays and switches, CURRENT Group will provide the platform to which these commodities connect. Such an architecture will speed the captured data to a point where it is analyzed, providing utility decision makers with useful, decision-driving data -- actionable intelligence. Eventually this same data will drive decisions on how commercial, industrial and residential consumers use their electrical power.


Evolving to data analytics

"Broadband over powerline” (BPL) was the primary focus for CURRENT Group at one time. Now BPL is just one of many communication platforms the company uses, and "in-home” entertainment is merely one of the many benefits of using its platform.


CURRENT Group’s evolution is fascinating. It could have stopped anywhere along the evolutionary tree. (Remember the Neanderthal?) CURRENT Group might have stopped at selling "in-home” entertainment or meters, as many other companies have. Or it might have stopped at automating substations, distribution, or transmission. Instead, it realized that all the sensors in all components, large and small, produce data that can drown a utility if not processed intelligently. In short, the company evolved to recognize the simple truth -- that the data needs to drive real world, operational decision-making. That is why CURRENT Group calls its decision driving data engine "actionable intelligence.”


Actionable Intelligence at Oncor

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, CURRENT Group is connecting for Oncor what will eventually be a network of 2.2M sensors using powerline, optic fiber and wireless communication platforms. These sensors, which include meters, transformers, breakers and switches, will collect energy usage and asset data (such as transformer, distribution and transmission conditions.) The sensors then speed the data down multiple paths to a collection point, called a Data Mart. CURRENT Group software then analyzes the data and delivers it in a manner and format that allows users to make decisions.


Examples of data collected along Oncor’s transmission and distribution infrastructure include voltage and transformer monitoring. By collecting sensor data and responding to predictive analysis (instead of reacting after the event), Oncor was able to identify and correct issues before they affected the customer. Oncor estimated that 50% of these corrections prevented outages and approximately 90% avoided customer complaints. These statistics show the effectiveness of timely data collection and predictive analysis. This solution provides Oncor with actionable intelligence -- not simply data, but decision-making options. Actionable intelligence makes Oncor better -- better at managing its grid and better at resolving customer problems. This, of course, reduces overall operating costs and provides a greater return on the investment in the CURRENT Group solution.


BPL industry say goodbye to CURRENT Group

CURRENT Group’s solution addresses the most pressing needs for utilities: data management. BPL is now only a minor part of the company’s message. There are many in the BPL industry who would prefer to keep CURRENT as the poster child for the BPL industry. Nevertheless, CURRENT has correctly identified that while BPL is both a tool and a benefit, it is not a business. However, its messaging needs to be sharper. Customers (Oncor), consultants (Booz Allen Hamilton) and even the company’s own press releases mention BPL as if it were the core value proposition of the company’s offering, which underestimates the Smart Grid value provided by CURRENT.



BPL's 80 lb Gorilla (Yes, I said 80)

CURRENT Group web site