The structure of future smart grids is more than just expensive hardware and power lines. Many complex systems, both physical and in software, are necessary in monitoring and controlling the power grid for maximum stability and efficiency. Here, we focus on systems on the distribution side (>70kV) of the power grid which powers our homes, streets, and businesses. These are systems such as:Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) – A system which utilities use to collect data from devices on the grid, as well as perform actions such as remotely energizing or reenergizing lines using remote switches.Outcall Management System (OMS) – A system which collects customer calls and provides them to utility operators to use when diagnosing faults on the grid.And many more, depending on the utility.

Until a few years ago, a huge issue with all of these systems was how isolated they were from one another. It was difficult if not impossible for systems to share information with one another, due to being different software from different companies, oversights from the utility, etc.

Now, the advent of the Integrated Distribution Management System (IDMS) is being developed by software companies and slowly being used by more utilities across the world. The IDMS rebuilds legacy systems from the ground up in an environment where all information from the power grid is connected. The entire power grid can be visualized, and studies on power flow or data from customers and hardware can be done to better improve control and monitoring of the power grid.

Here at the Energy, Power & Sustainability group (EPS) at Florida International University, we work hand in hand with one of the largest, most ambitious, and cutting edge power utilities in the world, Florida Power & Light (FPL). Together we perform Advanced Research on Integrating Emerging and Existing Systems (ARIES).