UIL Holdings Corporation Selects IBM to Help Secure Smart Meters

  • Posted on: 13 July 2011
  • By: chw staff

IBM today announced that it has been selected by UIL Holdings Corporation, a Connecticut-based electric and natural gas delivery company, to help secure its smart meters and Advanced Metering Infrastructure from vulnerabilities and security attacks.

The United Illuminating Company (UI), wholly owned subsidiary of UIL, is upgrading its electric energy grid with smart meters to enhance consumer experience and operational efficiencies. With the use of the new meters, UI is able to collect data on energy consumption and assist many of its 324,000 electric customers in making better energy choices.

As part of the upgrade, UI created an open, shared environment that would allow authorized customers to access their data. However, during this process, UI anticipated its increased susceptibility to a host of threats and recognized that the infrastructure required an added layer of security to protect against unauthorized public access.

UI turned to IBM to establish a secure platform that would provide the cyber security controls needed during the advanced meter deployment. Today, IBM technology is being used to secure UI's 50,000 advanced meters, with the goal to support a total of 80,000, by the end of 2011. As the company rolls out additional smart meters to more of its customers, the secure environment will be extended to accommodate the communications platform supporting UI's entire advanced metering system.

Part of the IBM Solution Architecture for Energy and Utilities (SAFE) framework, IBM's WebSphere DataPower appliance filters and validates data traffic to ensure incoming and outgoing messages are legitimate. DataPower monitors and scans data as it flows to and from the smart meters to the utility. This two-way process ensures that only approved data can pass in and out of UI's corporate system. Malicious information or corrupted data is blocked, logged and reported. This allows UI to monitor all transactions with accounting and auditing functions to mitigate risk and maintain regulatory compliance. With its authentication capabilities, DataPower provides the reliability, security, and performance needed for UI to advance its systems to build a smarter energy infrastructure and elevate the customer experience with new information.  

"UI is investing in metering capabilities that will produce immediate benefits for our customers and drive future advancements in the electric grid, by enabling a more responsive ecosystem, improved customer awareness, and overall grid optimization." said Joseph Santamaria, UIL Holdings Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer. "With the increase of network connections, we needed a solution that could ensure the security of our data flows, making IBM's security solution the clear choice for us."

In addition to securing the advanced meters, this project will allow UI to create a secure environment for information exchange with its partners, vendors, and customers. This integrated environment will also allow customers to access on-demand meter reads from the United Illuminating Website, without opening UI to traffic hijacking or other potential vulnerabilities. DataPower will provide secure communication for the 80,000 smart meters and other 244,000 automatic meter reading (AMR) meters.

"As energy networks are transformed to become more intelligent, utilities must establish secure platforms that are protected from physical or cyber attacks in order to protect critical business assets and maintain customer trust," said Guido Bartels, General Manager, Energy and Utilities industry at IBM and Chairman, Global Smart Grid Federation. "Smarter energy is about improving the performance and sustainability of our energy systems.  Ensuring those systems are secure is fundamental.  UI is part of the global movement to develop smarter infrastructures that reduce complexity and operational risk."

UI is also using IBM System p Servers and XIV Storage Systems for data management in their enterprise data center in addition to smart meters provided by Landis and Gyr.