Tollgrade has been around for 25 years, building expertise in network monitoring and assurance, specializing in the telecom vertical. After two decades of using accurate equipment to collect and analyze large amounts of data to provide actionable intelligence, Tollgrade decided to use its core competencies to move into a different vertical. For the past five years, the company has brought its same architecture, hardware and analytics software to the utility vertical. It spoke to companies in the industry and realized that the largest part of the utility’s infrastructure, the distribution network, had the least visibility, so that is where Tollgrade set its sights.
Recent events have shown us that there is a need for new solutions in the utility vertical. Events like Superstorm Sandy and the power outage at the Super Bowl have demonstrated that that 100-year old power grid is fragile and needs help. Utilities need to be able to address potential problems proactively, and that is where Tollgrade comes in. The company’s predictive analytics can help identify problems before they exist. The information gathered can help identify potential faults and outages and protect the high value asset, the distribution network, before it breaks down.
According to Erik Christian, VP of smart grid at Tollgrade, the company is well suited to address this issue because of its in-house expertise. It has experience monitoring large networks and giving actionable intelligence. It created new hardware and software, the Lighthouse product suite, for this vertical, and Tollgrade works closely with customers to determine best practices. In a nutshell, Tollgrade has the next generation of sensing equipment that provides actionable intelligence to handle the grid, with schemes and architectures that can restore power to customers rapidly, moving maintenance to a condition-based rather than calendar-based model. While other companies focus on smart grid modernization, Tollgrade has found a niche with distribution grid modernization.
Christian sees the industry at a tipping point. The M2M market has grown quite a bit in the past 15 years. At first, sensors were low tech, more or less blinking lights on a wire, and utility companies needed to learn about an outage from customers and then drive around looking for the lights that indicated the problem. Nowadays, thanks to Tollgrade and its partnership with Sprint (News - Alert), utility companies can benefit from embedded sensors that are easy to hook up and can communicate in real time to computer screens.
Tollgrade chose to partner with Sprint because of the embedded M2M solutions specialist’s robust technology. Christian stated that Sprint’s M2M platform enables technology providers in the smart grid industry to utilize the cellular network, and Sprint is a premier network operator.
As for the future, Christian sees Tollgrade’s inductively powered, battery-free technology as an important differentiator. The company’s sensors operate down to three amps (far less than the 30 to 40 amps which is industry standard). This allows Tollgrade to get down to the nuts and bolts of the distribution network. The company will continue to develop analytics software for actionable intelligence, and sees more and more utility companies migrating toward these types of solutions.
Edited by Carlos Olivera