MultiSpeak began with modest expectations in January, 2000 as a collaborative effort between NRECA and a small group of vendors supplying software to U.S. electric cooperatives. It has now grown significantly in coverage, capability, sophistication, and membership.

To understand how MultiSpeak developed, it is important to understand its origins.

In the past, electric cooperatives have had few or no IT staff. This has had several implications. For example, there was a high premium placed on interoperability as the target utilities did not have the resources to build custom interfaces. Further, cooperatives often have had no messaging infrastructure or enterprise service buses. There was a need for protocol features built into the specification to address the lack of message persistence and guaranteed delivery.

The web services approach used in V3.0, V4.x and V5.0  can also be effectively deployed as a part of either an enterprise service bus or a message bus enterprise architecture.

The philosophical underpinnings of MultiSpeak have led to a specification with wide applicability, without major limitations on the ability to customize, but without the requirement to do so in most installations – valuable traits for any sized utility.

multispeak-timeline

Enhancements to MultiSpeak to support improved work management interfaces, tagging and lockout, as well as best practices in web services design.

Version 5.0 was issued to MultiSpeak members for development in February, 2015.

Significant enhancements include:

  • Development of a comprehensive set of detailed use case definitions.
  • Improved testing procedures, which will result in improved interoperability among products.
  • Streamlined endpoints to eliminate duplicative message definitions.
  • Enhanced work management interfaces.
  • Improved error handling capabilities.
  • Use of globally unique object identifiers, which reduces interface errors.
  • Enumerated string fields, which significantly improves inter-vendor interoperability.
  • Clarified and standardized message naming making the intention of messages more clear.
  • Eliminated errors inherent in earlier versions by the use of current best practices in web services design.

Enhancements to MultiSpeak to support mobile workforce management, demand response, automatic vehicle location, and harmonization with other smart grid standards

Version 4.0 was issued to MultiSpeak members for development in February, 2009 and Version 4.1 was issued in June, 2010. Version 4.1 interface development was based on the use of a Unified Model Language (UML) class model.

Changes in Version 4.x included:

  • Internationalization including:
    • International telephone and address fields
    • Unit/value pairs with a wide selection of units
    • Supports all of the ISO 4217 currency codes
  • Added work management and vehicle location (AVL)
  • Added AMI-focused demand response (DR) capabilities.
  • Enhanced support for water and gas metering
  • Added a transmission power system model exchange that is compatible with the Common Information Model (CIM) Common Power System Model (CPSM)

Further expansion and introduction of web services

In December, 2005, the first release of MultiSpeak Version 3.0 was made. This major version has undergone continuous improvement since the original release and is, as of May 2010, available to the general public through build z and to MultiSpeak Members through build aa.

MultiSpeak Version 3.0 was significantly improved and expanded over Version 2.2 in a number of critical regards. One major change was the shift to the use of web services. The Version 2.2 messaging framework was very powerful and flexible and was state-of-the-art at the time that Version 2.2 was released. However, the flexibility of the messaging framework came at the price of additional complexity. Further, the flexibility increased the possibility that two vendors could implement compliant interfaces that could not interoperate – a significant drawback from the user perspective.

In the time between the release of Version 2.2 and late-2004, web services had evolved and matured to the point that their application to utility needs was appropriate and their adoption industry-wide was nearly assured. Furthermore, a significant number of software development toolkits that supported the new web services standards had become available, which enabled the MultiSpeak participants to efficiently develop web services interfaces. Therefore it was time for the Initiative to incorporate web services into the specification.

The first release of Version 3.0 also:

  • Enhanced some of the underlying data definitions and better supported some business processes.
  • Added a means to break large XML file transfers into blocks of arbitrary size to improve performance, minimize problems with parsing unmanageable files, and reduce network bandwidth constraints.
  • Added a means to resynchronize the client and server in publish/subscribe interfaces without requiring the client to request a complete dump of all information from the server.
  • Added a means to synchronize clients and servers based on groups of updates referred to as sessions.
  • Added a new way to extend data objects at run time for real time interfaces.

Subsequent releases of Version 3.0 have included:

  • A new bus architecture was developed and issued during CY2007. The bus structure better supports service-oriented architecture implementations. Learn more on the bus architecture.
  • Support for meter data management, water and gas metering, electronic payment processing, prepaid metering, meter receiving and testing, as well as distribution automation was added to the specification.

Expansion of the MultiSpeak specification and extension to real-time processes

The MultiSpeak specification underwent continuous development for the next several years, and late in 2003, Version 2.2 was issued. This version extended the coverage of the specification to include:

  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
  • Automated meter reading (AMR)
  • Outage management (OM) Load management (LM), and
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems

Version 2.2 carried forward provisions for batch transfers where they made sense to support utility business processes, but also made the significant step forward to support real-time integration. Both the batch and real-time messaging capabilities supported incremental updates and deletions with a high degree of granularity. The messaging framework was capable of supporting both request/response and publish/subscribe communications modes. At the time, the messaging framework was the state-of-the-art. The exchange of graphical data made use of the Geographic Markup Language (GML), an open-source, XML-based means to describe graphical features, that had been developed by the OpenGIS® Consortium, Inc.

Initially, the MultiSpeak Initiative focused on five back office software applications:

  1. Customer information systems (CIS)
  2. Geographic information systems (GIS)
  3. Engineering analysis (EA)
  4. Interactive voice response (IVR), and
  5. Automated staking.

By doing so, within twelve months, on December, 2000, the first MultiSpeak specification, Version 1.1 was released. That version defined seven interfaces and developed a data dictionary for the information that could meaningfully be exchanged among the target applications. Only batch file transfers were defined in Version 1.1. In addition, no provisions were made for incremental updates or for the deletion of data. Furthermore, the transfer of graphical data relied on proprietary graphics protocols. However, the first step had been taken, and the collaborative processes that would guide the development of MultiSpeak moving forward had been established.

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