Energy and Power Engineering, 2013, 5, 1308-1311
doi:10.4236/epe.2013.54B248 Published Online July 2013 (
Towards Harmonization IEC61850 and Intelligent Agents:
Characteristic Analysis of Service Tracking*
Bin Duan, Cheng Tan, Yan Liu
Xiangtan University, Xiangtan, Hunan, China
Received March, 2013
IEC61850 is the most pro mising standard fo r design of power utility communication networks and automation systems.
On the other hand multi-agent systems are attracting growing interest for different applications of power engineering.
This paper presents the possibility that IEC61850 could be applied to build intelligent agents for power engineering
applications. The paper investigates th e correlation betw een IEC61850 and multi-agents and presen ts IEC61850 service
tracking as a scenario. First, briefly introduces reporting and service tracking; then, investigates agents, intelligent
agents and the characteristics of intellig ent agents; last, analyzes the characteristics of service tracking and compares it
with intelligent agents. And an alysis shows that IEC61850 cou ld be ap plied to build intelligent agen ts, which represents
a significant step forward for MAS to apply in power engineering.
Keywords: Intelligent Agents; Service Trackin g; Multi-agent; IEC61850Ed2
1. Introduction
IEC61850 is an internationa l standard on communication
networks and systems for power utility automation,
which has been made by the International Electrotechni-
cal Commission (IEC) technical committee 57. The
IEC61850 edition 2 proposes the service tracking me-
chanism, which is to realize service surveillance and
normally applied to the third-party service in new devel-
opment application. In recent years, study workers from
abroad and home have carried out a large number of re-
searches on IEC61850, research fields including power
system control [1], protection [2], condition monitoring
[3], fault diagnosis [4], and so on.
For over a decade, the proposed use of multi-agent
system (MAS) has been reported in many kinds of fa-
mous journals and conference papers. MAS technology
is now being developed for a range of applications for
power Engineering. Four categories of power engineer-
ing applications were discovered: monitoring and diag-
nostics [5], distributed control [6,7], which is the most
interesting area, modeling and simulation [8], and pro-
tection [9], which is the least active area.
The study of harmonizing is not without precedent: to
realize the interoperability goal of smart grid, the Electric
Power Research Institute (EPRI) has sponsored the de-
velopment of harmonizing the IEC Common Information
Model (CIM) and IEC61850. There is a detail research
about the harmo nization between the CIM and IEC6185 0
in [10]. In addition, to investigate the interplay between
IEC61850 and IEC61499, there is a deep research on
how to combine the application functions of
IEC61850-compliant devices with IEC61499-compliant
“glue logic” in [11]. Accordingly, we may think that
whether can we harmonize IEC61850 and multi-agents,
or IEC61850 can be applied to bu ild intelligent agents. If
so, it would be very significant for in telligent agen ts with
interoperability to use for power eng ineering applicatio ns.
There are more and more discussions on the question that
whether if IEC61850 could be applied to build intellig ent
agents in the wo rld. And some say yes to it, in p articular,
Karlheinz Schwarz introduced that IEC61850 could be
applied to build intelligent agents in his Bokee [12]. But
he doesn’t make any other research on this problem, such
as, why IEC61850 can be used to build in telligent agents?
How does IEC61850 used to build intelligent agents?
And what is the significance of IEC61850 used to build
intelligent agen ts? This paper is aimed at discussing why
IEC61850 can be used to bu ild intelligent agents.
2. IEC 61850 Reporting and Service
2.1. Reporting
*This research was supported by National Natural Science Foundation
of China (NSFC) (No.61170191). Scientific Research Fund of Hunan
Provincial Education Department (11CY017 ) Reporting meets a number of crucial requirements for
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
B. DUAN ET AL. 1309
event-driven information exchange. The data transfer
models provide mechanisms for transferring data values
caused by well-defined conditions from a logical node to
one client [13].
The main characteristics of reporting are:
Timely reports serve as an indication to clients (op-
tionally keeping sequence-of-events to the client),
Sending reports only when required (controlled by
several attributes),
Low-frequency integrity scan and client-initiated
general interrogation.
Reporting provides mechanisms to report packed val-
ues of instances of a data object immediately or after
some buffer time.
The principal building blocks and services for report-
ing is depicted in Figure 1.
The reporting model is composed of three building
blocks. Classes are defined for the report control.
IEC61850 defines the report-control-block classes for
reporting, there are two classes of report control blocks
defined: buffered report control block (BRCB) and un-
buffered report control block (URCB).
The RCB class definition contains a number of attribu-
tions and three services. These attributions can be classi-
fied into three kinds: one of which is used to operate the
BRCB behavior and represent as the symbol of BRCB,
such as RptEna, PurgeBuf, Owner, et al; Another kind is
used to control the formation process of report, such as
TrgOps, In tgPd, GI, et al; The other kind is used to con-
trol the report format, such as SqNum, Entry ID, time of
Entry, et al. The three services are report, set RCB Val-
ues and get RCB Values.
2.2. Servicing Tracking
The reporting and logging function based on the process
and function related d ata model allow to track what hap-
pens in the process. For tracking what happens commu-
nication wise in the system itself, the IEC61850 edition 2
provides the possibility to track all services, even those
with negative responses. For this purpose the service
tracking are classified as follows:
Control block tracking services ;
Command tracking services;
Figure 1. The principal building blocks and services for
Other service tracking.
For a given server, there is a single data object in-
stance (tracking data object) available in the object di-
rectory for each kind of service, that will mirror the value
of the service parameters and its acceptance by the server.
This allows that a service can be reported to any client,
as soon as the tracking data object is a data-set member
of the Dat Set associated to a RCB or to a LCB.
The control block tracking services provide a means to
keep track of issued services on or related to the control
blocks. Control block value changes may be caused by
services setting a specific value or by internal (local)
events in the server. The control block tracking service
replaces the originally intended use of the FC and TrgOp
of the control block attributes of the edition 1. The
tracking service provides the same possib ilities in a more
consistent way, and with additional features. The model
can be used to tracking any service request.
Similarly to the service tracking for control block ac-
cesses, the control command can also be tracked. The
tracking of control command offers a logistic for tracking
any control command applied to a data object.
3. Intelligent Agents
3.1. Overview of Intelligent Agents
When talking about the concept of an agent, different
researchers put forward different ideas and opinions ac-
cording to their own research background and research
field. And so far, there is not a unified definition for an
agent. While all the definitions are difference, they all
share a basic set of concepts: the notion of an agent, its
environment, and the property of au tonomy.
From an engineering perspective, this definition is
problematic: it does not clearly d istinguish agents from a
number of existing software and hardware system. In
order to help differentiate MAS from existing systems,
many researchers extend the concept of an agent. For
example, Doctor Wooldridge, the famous agent theory
researcher, thinks that an intelligent agent is a computer
system which can take a complex autonomous behavior
in the specific envi r on ment.
3.2. Characteristics and Functions of Intelligent
An intelligent agent is a computer entity which can dis-
play flexible autonomy in the field of agents, naturally,
with the common characteristics of agents. Making a
general survey of an agent definition, the characteristics
of intelligent agents can be summarized as follows [14]:
Reactivity: an intelligent agent can react to the
change of environment in a timely fashion, and
takes some corresponding action according to the
change and function which is designed to achieve.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Pro-activeness: an intelligent agent can follow the
promise, take the initiative and exhibit the goal-di-
rected behavior. Goal-directed behavior connotes
that an agent will dynamically change its behavior
in order to achieve its goals. For example, if an
agent loses communication with another agent
whose services it requires to fulll its goals; it will
search for another agent that provides the same ser-
Social ability: an intelligent agent has a certain
social ability, that is, intelligent agents are able to
communicate with users and resources represented
by an agent and oth er agents. Social ab ility not only
connotes the ability to pass and transmit data be-
tween different software and hardware entities, but
also to negotiate and interact in a cooperative man-
Not only does the characteristics of reactivity, pro-ac-
tiveness, and social ability help us distinguish agents
from traditional hardware and software systems, but also
we may discuss weather IEC61850 can be applied to
build intelligent ag ents through a comparative analysis of
the characteristics between intelligent agents and service
4. Characteristic Analysis of Service
Reporting mechanism is the information exchange me-
chanism which is driven by information change. The
information contains both the data information in pro cess
which also called event information and the configura-
tion parameters of service itself which also called service
information. Report is produced when the information
change, but only the changed information referenced
dataset member values can be reported. The IEC61850
edition 2 defines service tracking which is the develop-
ment of reporting that is driven by the change of service
configuration parameters. The essential difference be-
tween reporting and service tracking is that: Reporting is
normally applied to report changes of state information
and measurement information in process; while service
tracking is applied to monitor the behavior between sys-
tem and equipment or equipment and other equipment in
Service tracking can be implemented with the report-
ing or logging. Service tracking is only a functionality
interface, which must be used through combining with
reporting or lo gging.
Reactivity: Service tracking can adopt the reporting
event-driven mechanism, that is, service tracking uses
changes of service configuration parameters to drive the
reporting. For example, GOCB service tracking trigger
mechanism is shown in Figure 2. First, instantiate BRCB,
which contain setting BRCB attributions (e.g.
Figure 2. GOCB service tracking trigger mechanism.
BRCB.TrgOps.dupd=TRUE) and setting BRCB DatSet;
Second, monitoring GOCB configuration parameter val-
ues; Last, triggering report, when one or more values of
GOCB configuration parameters changed because of the
Set GOCB Values request from a client, the BRCB in-
stance will report all the values of GOCB and CST
(common service tracking common data class) configu-
ration parameters at timely. For this, we may think that
service tracking has the same reactivity characteristic
with intelligent ag ents.
Pro-activeness: similarly, service tracking can also
dynamically change its behavior in order to achieve its
goal. For example, the RCB instance sends a report im-
mediately or after some buffer time when the service
configuration parameters changed. But in case of the
communication association loss between the RCB in-
stance and the client, the RCB instance can not send the
service tracking information timely. In order to achieve
this goal, service tracking adopts the buffer mechanism
of reporting automatically which can be implemented by
BRCB. The BRCB instance adds Entry ID, SqNum,
Time of Entry to the buffered report, which is convenient
to manage the buffered report. Once the communication
association is recovery, the BRCB instance will report
the new and buffered reports in sequence. In addition, it
can also ask Logging for help, because logging has the
ability to achieve th e goal.
Social ability: Service tracking can also represent the
characteristic of social ability. Reporting just transmits
the changed data information from one or more logic
nodes to a client, but can not confirm the accuracy of the
data. For example, when receiving a report after the RCB
instance’s configuration parameters changed, a client can
not parse the message as the report format changed. But
service tracking can solve the problems. When one or
more RCB instance’s configuration parameters change,
service tracking will report all values of the RCB in-
stance’s configuration parameters to the client, and nego-
tiate with the other software of the client, then decide
whether to change the RCB instance’s configuration in
the client. Through this method, the client can always
correctly parse the message transmitted by the RCB in-
stance. Therefore, service tracking can not only pass data,
but can cooperate and negotiate with other software.
To sum up the characteristic analysis of service track-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
ing, we know that service tracking may represent the
same three characteristics with intelligent agents; there-
fore, we may think that service tracking could be applied
to build intelligent agents.
5. Conclusions
This paper opened by posing some questions surrounding
IEC61850 and intelligent agents: Why IEC61850 could
be applied to build intelligent agents? How does
IEC61850 used to build intelligent agents? And what is
the significance of IEC61850 used to build intelligent
agents? In this paper the first question has been answered,
by introducing that what is agents, what is intelligent
agents, what characteristics does intelligent agents have
and so on. On the other hand, we briefly introduced ser-
vice tracking and reporting and analyzed the characteris-
tics of service tracking in detail. Through the compara-
tive analysis, we concluded that service tracking could be
applied to build intelligent agents.
In order to enhance the benefits of this propose for
power engineering applications, we will work on the two
main directions to answer the latter two questions in fu-
ture. First, we are going to use IEC61850 to build a
tracking system based on intelligent agents, which is
mainly to explore the method of using IEC61850 to build
multi-agent system. Second, we will apply the agents-
based tracking system for power engineering applications
flexibility, which is about to achieve the significance of
applying the agents-based tracking system.
[1] D. W. Wang, Y. L. Zhu, J. Di and X. M. Zhai, “A Method
for Electric Power Equipment Remote Control Based on
IEC 61850,” Automation of Electric Power Systems, Vol.
33, No. 5, 2009, pp. 50-54.
[2] M. García-Gracia, S. Borroy, L. Giménez de Urtasun and
M. P. Comech, “Novel Protection Scheme Based on
IEC61850,” Electric Power Systems Research, Vol. 81,
No. 12, 2011, pp. 2178-2187.
[3] Y. Ma, J. Y. Zheng, J. Mei and Z. Zhang, “Information
Modeling and Communication of SF6 Circuit Breaker
On-line Monitoring System Based on IEC61850,” Elec-
tric Power Automation Equipment, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2010,
pp. 131-134.
[4] D. B. Liu, X. P. Gu and H. P. Li, “Complete Analytic
Modeling for Power System Fault Diagnosis Based on
IEC61850,” Automation of Electric Power Systems, Vol.
36, No. 10, 2012, pp. 94-100.
[5] E. M. Davidson, S. D. J. McArthur, J. R. McDonald, T.
Cumming and I. Watt, “Applying Multi-agent System
technology in practice: Automated Management and
Analysis of SCADA and Digital Fault Recorder Data,”
IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, Vol. 21, No. 2,
2006, pp. 559-567. doi:10.1109/TPWRS.2006.873109
[6] I. S. Baxevanos and D. P. Labridis, “Implementing Multi
Agent Systems Technology for Power Distribution Net-
work Control and Protection Management,” IEEE Trans-
actions on Power Del., Vol. 22, No. 1, 2007, pp. 433-443.
[7] C.-X. Dou, S.-J. Jin, G.-T. Jiang and Z.-Q. Bo,
“Multi-Agent Based Control Framework for Microgrids,”
in 2009 Asia-Pacific Power and Energy Engineering
Conference, Wuhan, China, 2009, pp. 1-4.
[8] T. Li, Z. Xiao, M. Huang, J. Yu and J. Hu, “Control Sy s-
tem Simulation of Microgrid Based on IP and Mul-
ti-Agent,” in 2010 International Conference on Informa-
tion, Networking and Automation (ICINA), Kunming,
China, 2010, pp. 235 -239.
[9] I. Zabet and M. Montazeri, “Implementing Cooperative
Agent-based Protection and Outage Management System
for Power Distribution Network Control,” The 4th Inter-
national Power Engineering and Optimization Conf.
(PEOCO2010), Shah Alam, Selangor, MALAYSIA:
23-24 June 2010, pp. 318-324.
[10] Z. Y. Gao, J. G. Yao, S. C. Yang, et al., “Survey of Coor-
dination Scheme between CIM and IEC61850 Model,”
Automation of Electric Power Systems, Vol. 35, No. 16,
2011, pp. 9-14.
[11] V. Vyatkin, G. Zhabelova, N. Higgins, K. Schwarz and N.
K. C. Nair, “Towards Intelligent Smart Grid Devices with
IEC 61850 Interoperability and IEC 61499 Open Control
[12] K. Schwarz, Can IEC 61850-7-2 Edition 2, be used to
build Agents [EB/OL] [2011-07-12].
[13] IEC61850-7-2 Ed. 2, CDV Basic Information and Com-
munication Structure: Abstract Communication Service
Interface (ASCI).
[14] S. D. J. Mcarthur, E. M. Davidson, V. M. Catterson,
A. L. Dimeas, N. D. Hatziargyriou, F. Ponci and T.
Funabashi, “Multi-agent Systems for Power Engi-
neering Application Part I: Concepts, Approaches,
and Technical Challenges,” IEEE Transactions on
Power Systems, Vol. 22, No. 4, 2007, pp.