How SMOCs Enhance Visibility & Decision Making For Utilities

Vahishta Mistry
July 3, 2024
5 mins to read
Smart meter operations center

In a survey of over 400 executives and policymakers at US and Canadian utilities, one theme emerged at the forefront of everyone’s minds: resilience is key. In a world where climate change causes ever more uncertainty, be it from adverse weather events or increasing pressures on aging grid infrastructure, or the introduction of consumer-level power generation (thanks to renewable sources of energy like grid-feedback rooftop solar) utilities are increasingly looking to improve how resilient and failsafe their distribution networks are.

The first step to improving resilience is to switch over to smart meters, which is an ongoing process; over 80% of the North American consumer electricity market has made the shift, and Asia is inching closer and closer to a significant milestone of a billion smart meters installed.  

But having installed these smart meters and set up the infrastructure to gather the data from those meters, the task then moves to one of reacting to that data and taking decisions led by that data. And that’s where having a central repository for operational data from the grid becomes invaluable.

What we’re describing, of course, is a SMOC - a Smart Meter Operations Center. But how does it help, exactly? Let’s take a closer look at the inner workings of a SMOC. At its core, a SMOC functions as a central nervous system for utility operations; collecting, processing, and analyzing data from various sources to provide real-time insights and actionable intelligence.

Depending on the team accessing the data in the SMOC, there are a variety of benefits:

IT Teams

A SMOC can (and ideally should) be set up to automatically process data events and apply escalation and notification rules in real-time. IT teams that are in charge of making sure the IT assets of the utility are in smooth working order will benefit from this sort of configuration, because it will reduce the amount of custom work and hacked up solutions that would otherwise be necessary to achieve the same outcome. A well-configured SMOC will require fewer interventions from IT and make use of interoperability to provide proactive monitoring and alerting mechanisms to the ops staff that are in charge of day-to-day operations of the utility. As events trigger data thresholds, a SMOC automatically notifies the concerned personnel, highlights relevant data on dashboards and creates maintenance tickets, all without the interference of or attention from the IT team, leaving them free to focus on other, more mission-critical tasks such as managing uptime and maintaining cybersecurity.

Operations Staff

As the primary stakeholders dealing with issues on a day to day basis, the operations team - starting with the on-duty personnel at the SMOC itself, all the way down to the most junior field engineer - would interact the most with the SMOC.

As with most ops teams in large organizations, the KPI that is most important to maintain is uptime, and adherence to SLAs for service. Anything that interrupts those metrics needs to be identified, addressed and normal service needs to resume as fast as possible. We’ve already seen that SMOCs are incredible (when configured properly) at escalating these sorts of issues, reducing downtime as much as possible. However, there is another category of data that is just as important to monitor: potential issues.

There are a number of critical signals that the SMOC can surface which, rather than impacting uptime immediately, point to areas where preventive maintenance can be applied, leading to better uptime numbers overall. For example, many smart meters can report under- or over-voltage; smart transformers can report environmental variables like heat and humidity, as well as status of active cooling components. These are all pointers that ops teams can use to identify where the next failure might occur, and take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Finally, an ideal SMOCs will also integrate data from ancillary repositories, like spares inventories, contractor billing and other operational databases that give ops teams complete visibility into any reasons that failures might take longer to fix. If spare meters are running low, for example, that might be a bottleneck to replacing one - a SMOC would highlight this low status well in time so that procurement teams can place orders before the meters are needed. Thanks to GIS capabilities, multiple warehouses can be supported, expanding even further the amount of time and money saved.

Leadership Teams

For leadership teams, a SMOC transforms raw data into strategic insights. Advanced analytics and customizable dashboards provide executives with a bird's-eye view of operations, project progress, and key performance indicators. This high-level visibility enables leaders to make informed decisions quickly, allocate resources more effectively, and steer the organization towards its strategic goals.

The SMOC's role as a 'single source of truth' is particularly valuable for leadership. By consolidating data from multiple sources and presenting it in an easily digestible format, the SMOC eliminates the need for executives to sift through multiple reports or systems. This not only saves time but also ensures that all decision-makers are working with the same, up-to-date information.

We’ve all heard the promises that smart meter evangelists make: smart load management, AI / ML-based demand forecasting, dynamic pricing models to account for peak loads, etc. But all of this is only possible when the data is being fed into a SMOC, where the next level of analysis can be done.


In summary, a SMOC serves as a proponent of resilience for utility service providers in the form of improved efficiency and reliability across the grid. The benefits of SMOC are many- from automating trigger responses and workflow maintenance for IT teams and proactive response to potential issues for operational teams to data-backed strategic decision making for leaders. By unlocking the full potential of smart meter data, a SMOC is key for utility players to realize maximum ROI from their smart grid investments and stay ahead of the evolving energy demands.  

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Vahishta Mistry
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