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September 23, 20202 min read

Benefits of Unified Critical Communications: Utilities


Unified Critical Communications (UCC) benefit all industries, but each industry takes advantage of multi-bearer networks in ways specific to their operating environment. Continuing on with the fourth lesson of the Introduction to Unified Critical Communications course, we explore the benefits a UCC strategy can bring to Utilities.

The Challenges of Providing 24/7 Services

Utility companies are constantly challenged to provide cost-effective, safe and reliable power, gas, and water services. Not only do they need to maintain large distribution networks; they also need to respond to a changing marketplace with new demands and negotiate environmental and security issues.

To keep the lights on and people and workers safe, utilities need to become smarter: they must become more responsive, more flexible, more efficient, safer, greener, and more cost-effective.

Smarter distribution systems and smart grid applications that are integrated into advanced outage and distribution management systems can automate fault location, isolation and restoration (FLISR), dramatically reducing the time needed to determine faults. Enhanced telemetry and automated analysis also make predictive maintenance possible.

View this complete course on the Tait Radio Academy

Unified Critical Communications for Utilities

The future of utilities is to use real-time monitoring and remote control of both the distribution and transmission networks to fully automate distribution. Fast, secure, ultra-reliable, high bandwidth communications are essential to make this future a reality.

With UCC, multiple network systems that combine the capabilities of LMR, LTE, cellular, WiFi (even satellite for geographically remote locations) can offer distribution operators outstanding improvements in reliability and coverage over traditional radio-only communications. The ability to add new bearers such as 5G without impacting existing communications future-proofs the benefits gained by integrating communications now.

The Benefits of UCC for Utilities

Combining, enhancing, and unifying technologies used by utilities now and in the future means crews can arrive better informed, better equipped, and better connected through UCC to deal with the situation at hand.

  • A communications advantage helps the situational awareness of crews that are sent out for fault identification or maintenance
  • A UCC platform in the service vehicle brings reliable and resilient multi-device group communications to the field location and, via the backhaul, to the central office. Two-way voice consultation, the exchange of field data, images or videos, and connectivity to power line sensors can speed up fault resolution and service restoration.
  • Field crews working in dangerous conditions are better protected through GPS/AVL, location tracking and automatic safety features built into their comms devices. For example, if a line worker is in danger and unable to manually call for help, automated safety features like Man Down and Lone Worker will immediately send an alarm to dispatch for emergency assistance.
  • Smart metering presents another tool for real-time monitoring of system operations by collecting data on customer energy consumption. The built-in two-way communication can automatically transmit this information to be processed for customer billing, outage management, and other operational purposes.

To gain these benefits, utilities will need to move beyond single-technology communications, not by abandoning their LMR investment, but by including it within an integrated communications solution. Find out more in the complete course on the Tait Radio Academy.

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