In modern-day America, the backbone to this country is the interconnected electric power grid and communications network. Yet, when there is an outage on one, it often leads to extensive failures throughout the other. To keep the nation operating, it is vital for engineers to establish preventive measures that avoid cascading failures within these interconnected systems.
Arizona State University recognized this challenge and determined that a deeper understanding into the interdependency of these multilayered networks was necessary to allow engineers, service providers and urban planners avoid unnecessary failures and downtimes.
As they began their study, ASU researchers found that most earlier models to highlight the relationship between these two systems were oversimplified and failed to capture the true complex relationship between the power grid and communications network. To overcome this challenge, ASU researchers set out to create a new model that identified the most vulnerable nodes on an interdependent network and captured the nature behind this relationship. Within a network, nodes can depend on one or several other nodes from within their own and other interdependent networks. So, the failure of one node can trigger the failure of nodes throughout the entire system.
The goal of the ASU researchers was to determine what nodes trigger failure in the largest number of connected networks. By highlighting the most vulnerable nodes within a system, engineers can construct methods to avoid cascading failures throughout the entire network.
Researchers at ASU’s Computer Science and Engineering Program used data from GeoTel Communications and Platts Electric Supply to create a realistic model based on Maricopa County that showcased what nodes relied most heavily on this interconnected system.
GeoTel Communications provided data on Maricopa County’s communications network. With approximately 60 percent of Arizona’s population living within Maricopa County, researchers wanted to determine what areas were more vulnerable to failure.
The data used in the study included the power network, which consisted of 70 power plants and 470 transmission lines, and the communications network, which consisted of 2,690 cell towers, 7,100 fiber-lit buildings and 42,723 fiber links. The research showed that these two systems were fundamentally interconnected: the power network was dependent on the communication network and visa versa to function properly.
Researchers determined that generators rely heavily on the communications network and require cell towers or fiber-link buildings, and fiber links to remain functional. Cell towers depend on generators and transmission lines to operate. Fiber-lit buildings depend on generators and transmission lines to connect to cell towers. Only fiber links and transmission lines were independent structures.
From the study, researchers pinpointed the most vulnerable properties of these interconnected networks. If you would like a copy of the study, please make your request at http://www.geo-tel.com/contact/ . If your community is looking for ways to backup and strengthen its power grid and communications systems, GeoTel Communications can provide fiber network maps and other telecom infrastructure data. This helps engineers design systems that avoid cascading failures within interconnected systems. If you are interested in obtaining telecom maps, contact GeoTel Communications at 800-277-2172.