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Self-healing grids to self-healing factories

A file photo of the skyline of Mumbai. Utilities are now deploying self-healing concepts in densely populated metros such as Mumbai and New Delhi to reduce the time for power restoration to less than a minute from more than 15 minutes earlier. Photo: Hindustan Times
A file photo of the skyline of Mumbai. Utilities are now deploying self-healing concepts in densely populated metros such as Mumbai and New Delhi to reduce the time for power restoration to less than a minute from more than 15 minutes earlier. Photo: Hindustan Times

A lot of work is going on to include self-healing in the larger smart grid project, integration and balancing of renewable energy and the transmission and distribution focus

India is poised for a rapid climb when it comes to grids and factories incorporating self-healing concepts. The energy revolution is manifested in government programmes like access to reliable 24x7 power for all and the renewable energy target of 175GW by 2022.

A lot of work is going on to include self-healing as part of the larger smart grid project, integration and balancing of renewable energy and the transmission and distribution (T&D) focus.

The blackout and grid failure of 2012 underlined the need for self-healing grids which prevent damage from spreading across regions.

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From tractors to cement plants, biscuits to motorbikes, Indian industries are implementing sensor pilots or intelligent plant frameworks and driving the fourth industrial revolution.

Remote monitoring centres with predictive maintenance for drives, motors, robots and for installations like cement and steel plants are also gaining ground--bringing together the industrial internet of things (industrial IoT), services and people. With Make in India as the larger goal, Digital India as the underlying theme and the aggressive energy efficiency and asset productivity programmes being pushed by the government, concepts like self-healing would be critical to keep the momentum of manufacturing in the digital age.

In self-healing grids or shopfloors, there is a seamless, two-way communication network between equipment and smart processing units, whether local or remote. This helps to proactively get the status of the system and minimize any adverse effect by isolating and mitigating it. The three key factors of self-healing technologies are digitalization, decentralization and adaptability through artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and expert systems. Digitalization is well underway in Indian utilities and industries.

Decentralization requires greater policy support and process clarity, while adaptability warrants a gradual shift in mindset.

As India undergoes rapid digitalization, the intelligence of the data (AI and machine learning) as an influence on decisions across shopfloors and in network management would be critical.

Self-healing in Indian utilities

Compared to many other countries around the world, India has a younger, more dynamic grid with minimal legacy investments. This makes new technologies, including digitalization and self-healing ones, easier to deploy. The digitization of the Indian grid is well underway with focused efforts now on digitalization, including real-time control and asset management—which is all important for self-healing. The National Smart Grid Mission is creating a wider awareness of this concept across diverse locations.

With greater focus on power distribution, utilities are now deploying self-healing concepts in densely populated metros such as Mumbai and New Delhi to reduce the time taken for power restoration to less than a minute (as against more than 15 minutes earlier). That, too, with minimal or no human intervention, thus reducing the impact of hurdles like geographical challenges. By efficiently managing their assets, utilities can better cope with the continually changing world of distribution—improving reliability and efficiency, and reducing the impact of outages. Holistic enterprise software solutions, which package advanced distribution management integrated with a mobile workforce management and outage (of power) analytics, are some of the global technologies that could be deployed for greater impact in India.

Leveraging software experience

By 2020, there will be 20-50 billion interconnected devices, which will require an infinitely complex network to manage. In the smart factories of the future, equipment can communicate, processes will take place in real time, production will be flexible, and the entire value chain will be automated and monitored—from order to delivery. You will be able to identify and isolate faults, and the system response will get started without intervention.

India’s experience in software can be adapted to promote and innovate cost-effective digitalization of shopfloors across different sectors. The first step of digitization can be expedited with indigenous solutions, taking advantage of lower sensor cost, which is expected to reach $0.38 by 2020. While Indian industries have embarked on sensing and analysing data, greater intervention is required to fully optimize the actions emanating from analytics. This is where domain experts will play a key role. Data analytics can indicate that a motor is not working on a given day. However, the context of not working due to predictive maintenance and not some critical fault can be provided by domain experts. The accuracy and success of self-healing action is dependent on the right context of data analytics. This seamless cyber-physical interaction is critical for the success of self-healing concepts where information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) need to synchronize to develop solutions.

The energy and fourth industrial revolutions are upon us at an unprecedented pace. We will continue to integrate self-healing as part of the larger cosmos of smart power generation and consumption and manufacturing in the country. Digitalization is paving the way for it and, hopefully, like computers earlier and mobile phones in the recent past, India will be an example of leapfrogging to the next level.

Sanjeev Sharma is CEO and managing director of ABB India.

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