Utilities of the future: How APIs are powering innovation in Winston-Salem

Nestled in the North Carolina Piedmont region, the city of Winston-Salem is known for its history, picturesque surroundings, universities, and major revitalization over the past years. The county seat of Forsyth County, Winston-Salem’s metro population of over 675,000 makes it the fourth largest metro area in North Carolina.

As the city of Winston Salem and Forsyth County have grown and developed, the region’s utilities have also undergone technological transformation. Responding to growing infrastructure needs, heightening customer expectations, as well as initiatives to bring in new technologies to better serve customers, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities is adopting an enterprise integration and application programming interface (API) management strategy to innovate for the future.

Modernizing and transforming for the future

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities (WSFC Utilities) uses technology to support all aspects of operations — including ensuring regulatory compliance, meeting customer needs, and improving its infrastructure. As the organization embarked on its digital transformation, leveraging technology was seen as a key component in driving its vision to become a smart utility.

“Several initiatives are planned, including advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), enterprise integration platform implementation, and a GIS architecture upgrade, as well as implementation of data management, performance management, and advanced analytics programs. Customer expectations will continue to increase, and technology will help WSFC Utilities to meet those expectations.”

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities Strategic Plan

These new systems and initiatives, like the AMI program, will allow utility providers to give  customers more access to their data, enabling them to make more informed decisions on their usage. The providers can also give enhanced support should an issue arise. In looking to introduce these new capabilities, WSFC Utilities realized it needed to find a way to manage, integrate, and build out a scalable approach to introduce these new capabilities.

Historically, the organization relied on leveraging point-to-point integration to integrate data among various back-end systems. However, as needs grew and timelines for new services were established, it became evident that point-to-point integration would not be flexible or agile enough to meet the organization’s needs. This led the utilities team to approach integration and API management strategically to ensure both current and future goals would be met. These technological requirements included:

  • A central point for all system integrations
  • Reduction in application lifecycle costs
  • Ability to support existing and new application platforms
  • Developer standards to ensure consistency during staff turnover
  • Ensure security and governance for regulatory compliance
  • Improve control and visibility
  • Reduce or eliminate duplication of effort and overlap

Leveraging APIs and reusability

To provide a sustainable, future-ready architecture to support these new systems, WSFC Utilities understood the importance of having a holistic platform to manage integrations and APIs and building those integrations with reusability in mind. To achieve this, WSFS Utilities leveraged MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform to enable real-time data integration and sync across key systems. This approach solidified the foundation for enabling future programs.

The first core set of integrations the utilities team focused on was integrating their customer billing system (CIS) and work order management system (CMMS). It was important that tickets and cases being submitted by customers for work requests were being synced in real-time between these two systems, as it would enable work crews to have real-time knowledge of which customers were requesting assistance and allow them to respond much more quickly. 

To address this, the utilities team used APIs built in MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform to unlock data from core systems of record, including their COTS CIS, CMMS, and GIS mapping systems. By doing so, they were able to integrate and orchestrate the data sets that enabled real-time data sync. By using APIs, the utilities team created a set of reusable assets for future projects which would require connecting to these same systems or leverage combined data sets. The ability to reuse integrations and APIs was a key consideration for why they are leveraging an API-led approach and chose to partner with MuleSoft. As new systems and data sources are introduced that require integrating with existing data sources, reuse of existing integrations will accelerate project delivery and reduce time to market.

“Through integrations between our billing, work order management and geographic information system we’ve been able to meet all our billing system requirements while also putting a priority on front line staff who have specific needs from the work order management system.  We met all meter services division requests and we were able to expand our ad hoc work order routing capabilities.”

-Matt Whitman, IS Supervisor, WSFC Utilities

Building for the future

Having successfully completed their first set of integrations, WSFC Utilities is looking to continue to leverage API-led connectivity as a strategic approach and enabler of a more connected application network. A part of the next phase of their strategic plan includes bringing in even more new technologies, including IOT devices and advanced metering infrastructure, to provide more accurate and connected data for both the utility, its workforce, and customers. 

“We are expecting our AMI project will transform the utility and we will have new real-time data streams that need to be integrated and managed.  We will be able to detect leaks, detect water main breaks, monitor water pressure, and create solutions that benefit customers and the utility.” 

-Matt Whitman, IS Supervisor, WSFC Utilities

Supporting the utilities’ mission to provide an improved and modern experience for customers, APIs will play a role in connecting numerous systems and power the introduction of even more new capabilities and services. Furthermore, WSFC Utilities’ vision of continuous improvement and desire to enable a more data-centric workforce will continue to drive their modernization well into the future.

To learn more about how your organization can build its own API Strategy, read our API Strategy Essentials guide and see more API strategy resources.



We'd love to hear your opinion on this post