Occam's Razor and OMS
- Mar 10, 2021 2:31 am GMT
If you're familiar with Occam's Razor, you know the simple solution to a problem is the most likely. If you're not familiar with Occam's Razor, you know this is true but you haven't heard it stated in such a way. We all know this is true. We can offer a very complicated solution to a problem. It might be right. But, given the choice between ten steps to a solution and a hundred steps, we're probably going to try ten first. The basic principle of Occam's Razor, hopefully, stated simply.
If you're familiar with OMS, you'll know that the Outage Management System is a key part of a utilities tools in restoring power to customers. If you're not familiar with OMS, you have yet to realize that when you call or text or push buttons on your phone to report an outage, you're giving OMS some of the basic information it needs to figure out who is out of power and how best to prioritize your problem when there are many decisions to be made about restoration. I feel compelled to remind everybody here: always report your outage.
OMS is responsible for taking the information from customer calls, analyzing those calls, and giving dispatchers and operators good information on the location and size of an outage so we can get somebody out there fixing problems as fast as we can. Occam's Razor is responsible for guiding our analysis to make the best guess as to what happened and where, the majority of the time. But how are we doing this and how are they related?
If I have a single customer reporting an outage, my best guess is that one person has a problem. If the neighbor calls, I can do some circuit analysis, or pull up my trusted GIS, or see if I might have some digital imagery available to say how likely is it that two people next to each other have two separate problems. I can tell you from Occam's Razor, I can tell you from anecdotal experience, and I can tell you by the logic that guides most outage prediction decisions: not very likely. If this makes sense, we can go bigger. We have two neighbors saying they are out of power. In this example, we can give this a quick "transformer outage" stamp and move on. Who else is out of power? Okay it looks like a customer up the road has a problem with another transformer outage a little further down the road. We see where this is going. What is the common point of connection for all of these customers? Oh and is also able to respond to a fault event in some way? You've got it: a fuse blew and is encompassing all of our distinct points of customer reported outages. We can go to the recloser and repeat. We can go to the circuit breaker and repeat.
We take Occam's Razor in the OMS world to say: assume a single problem. If we do this when we have thousands of customer calls, we can have a hundred outages, or we can have one outage. We need to find a common point among everything we know and work from there. We need to make decisions quickly in a storm for restoration and for public safety. We can use logic. We can put that logic in our software. We can train our folks with that simple logic. We can restore customers safely. OMS and Occam's Razor. It's not something I think about very often or explain very often. It's such a core part of what we do. But, it's important that we understand it and use it to it's fullest, or simplest, potential.