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Unison's Smart Network

Innovation, emerging technology, real-time data, better utilisation – what do these words mean at Unison?

To us, they are the foundation of our Smart Network – Unison’s vision for transforming the way we manage your electricity supply.

To do this, we’ve been researching, sourcing, testing and developing innovative technologies to install on our network, transforming parts of our traditional electricity distribution network to a Smart Network.

What is a Smart Network?

We define a ‘Smart Network’ as accessing and utilising ‘real-time’ data from our network to optimise decision making around network investment, improve our ability to use existing capacity in the network, enhance our lifecycle asset management policies and processes, and provide additional services on the modern network, all for the ultimate benefit of our customers and shareholders.

To do this, we continually research, trial and deploy the latest communications technologies and emerging trends in electricity distribution, to ensure our network really is ‘world-class’. It’s not about gold-platting our network, but about using the latest technology and knowledge to ensure our network can deliver the best possible quality of service while ensuring the network is cost-effective for our customers.

Smart Future

Unison embarked on a journey to implement its vision of a Smart Network in 2010, and since embarking on this expedition; we’ve been leading the deployment of world-class technology - in some cases being the first company globally to install the latest innovations in smart network technology.

We became the first electricity distributor in the world to deploy Silver Spring Networks’ generation four mesh radios in 2013; the same year in which we also began the installation of the most innovative Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) in the southern hemisphere, developed by Schneider Electric.

While Unison aims to complete the installation of the ADMS in 2014, this is just one aspect of the Smart Network, and our team continue to develop new ways to transform the way we manage our network, such as the development of algorithms to optimise asset decision making to help us establish best practice asset management.

Unison’s Dynamic Rating Research

Unison Network Investment Specialist Dr Thahirah Jalal  is part of a team that has led the company’s Dynamic Rating development.

“Currently the industry approach to asset management is based on standardised information from the manufacturer; expected lifecycle of an asset, and a scheduled maintenance programme. However in order to optimally manage and utilise our assets, varying parameters such as weather conditions need to be factored in,” said Dr Jalal.

“We’re developing a new approach to determine asset loading capability, using real time data to provide ‘Dynamic Rating’ information. This ‘Dynamic Rating’ will form a basis for decisions on how hard we work that asset at any given moment, based on a number of key variables such as wind and ambient temperature.

Unison expects the Dynamic Rating development to improve network reliability through better utilisation of existing assets, with the additional benefit of deferring large capital expenditure.