It's perhaps not surprising that a world with 7,000 languages would find value in a product called MultiSpeak®. But the latest iteration of this cooperative-built software integration tool, already widely used in the United States, has earned particular interest from utilities and vendors overseas.
"We're seeing success with leading software manufacturers in China and Turkey and the Philippines," says Alvin Razon, NRECA's senior director of distribution optimization. "It's really beginning to be recognized as a go-to solution that works everywhere."
Some 800 utilities in 22 countries are now using MultiSpeak, he says.
The platform was originally developed in 2000 by NRECA, its member co-ops, and several vendors to allow application software made by a variety of manufacturers to communicate effectively with different co-op office systems.
"America's electric cooperatives came together with our great software and hardware partners to develop this solution," says Jim Spiers, NRECA's senior vice president for Business & Technology Strategies (BTS). "It helped control the exorbitant cost of building out one-by-one IT systems and saved the prohibitive expense of adding staff to do the work each new step required."
The team that manages MultiSpeak has continued to develop the platform's capabilities over the years, adding protocols for things like cybersecurity and integration of distributed energy resources (DER). Its latest version—the one that's garnering so much attention internationally—includes a real-time testing harness that enables software vendors to test and certify their products so customers can be sure they'll perform as needed.
"The power grid is extremely complex, so it's important that all of the hardware and software used by the connected systems work together effectively," Razon says. "It's rare that utility systems are built from fully compatible, state-of-the-art components. Most systems are made up of a combination of newer and legacy software and equipment, and as expectations and technology change, even more devices are integrated."
In Turkey, Mapbis-Basarsoft signed on with MultiSpeak to test its geographic information system-based outage analytics and distribution optimization platforms. The Ankara-based software vendor is working with eight distribution co-ops in Turkey and NRECA's Reliability Benchmarking Group (RBG) to provide real-time visual data for reliability and cost/benefit analyses, which eventually will be applied to managing DER, including battery-stored power.
"Mapbis is planning to implement this MultiSpeak solution for more than 20 electric distribution systems across Turkey," says Tony Thomas, NRECA's senior principal engineer and RBG project manager. "Use of the technology could eventually be expanded throughout Africa, Asia, and other parts of Europe. This is quite exciting."
Working in cooperation with NRECA International, 13 cooperatives in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines have begun deploying MultiSpeak to integrate a variety of critical systems.
"They're learning how to use MultiSpeak for their SCADA systems, outage management systems, and automated metering infrastructure management," Razon says.
His team is working with the Central Luzon Electric Cooperative Association to train their 12 co-ops on incorporating the testing harness and other capabilities into distribution optimization strategies. Razon says the next step is to work with the Philippines National Electrification Administration to bring MultiSpeak's benefits to all 121 electric co-ops in the country.
ChinaSoft International, a multi-billion-dollar Beijing-based software company, is using MultiSpeak to ensure its products integrate properly with others before they're launched.
"Co-ops should be proud," Thomas says. "Something they created 18 years ago is now helping 22 countries and expanding worldwide as we speak."
Razon's team is supporting the rollout of the new version of MultiSpeak with a series of webinars, training videos, and professional papers for member utilities and vendors. As the new testing harness gains widespread use, Razon says, the data it provides will help make interoperability increasingly seamless and robust.
"As we test the compatibility and interoperability of more applications used by different components, we're building an even larger database of information," he says. "That means we'll have more versatility so that devices can be certified to work together effectively to complete other processes."
As power grids here and abroad grow more complex and interconnected, Razon adds, interoperability will become an increasingly critical concern. He sees MultiSpeak as well-positioned to help co-ops and other utilities around the world manage the change.
"Multiple system operators, power wholesalers, transmission management groups—these complexities will be characteristics of modern electric service," he says. "The testing harness not only reduces the risks of technology investment, but it also helps control costs, evaluate various operating options, and gives users more flexibility in how they incorporate new technology into their existing infrastructure."
One key benefit Razon sees to the international interest in MultiSpeak is the premium non-co-op entities pay for access.
"Subscriptions for NRECA co-ops can be as low as $500 a year," he says. "When other entities buy in at much higher rates, it helps us add value and keep rates low for co-ops."
Razon points to the cybersecurity components of MultiSpeak as particularly useful as utilities in every country work to thwart the global scourge of cybercriminals.
"We've worked very hard over the years to develop MultiSpeak into a true solution to some of our industry's most pressing problems, and I think the interest from around the world shows we've done that well," he says. "Now it's just a matter of making sure everyone knows about it."
More information on MultiSpeak®