Who we are
We don't have anything against garages per se. Disney, Jobs and Gates did wonderful things in theirs. Given that cars were parked in ours — EV charging cords plugged in, of course — our solutions were born in the environment they're to be deployed in: infrastructure control rooms.
The operators in these control rooms — integral contributors to development — identified several areas of risk that needed addressing: lack of situational awareness, non-integration of applications, and the need for specific decision support tools. Our resulting solutions link, in real time, to the systems that operators use. With ResilientGrid's situational awareness tools, operators navigate through systems more easily and report a better understanding of system dynamics.
The principal architect of our applications, Michael Legatt, is ResilientGrid's founder. With PhDs in psychology and engineering, his passion for improving the way critical systems personnel perform, born of first hand experience of the breakdown of those systems, is central to the tools and methodologies we deploy.
Our team is committed to working with critical infrastructure organizations, offering implementation, maintenance, and support packages. Our consulting practice leverages our deep expertise in human factors engineering and control room design to maximize the efficacy of our core solution, RG Map. Our training services are tailored to each client, their situation, and their needs.
How We Got Here
Walking through city streets devoid of electricity, the headlights of cars on the road the only artificial illumination, you watch hopefully as they encounter intersections, wait their turn and proceed cautiously through. Without traffic lights to instruct their behavior drivers resort to basic notions of courtesy, safety and expediency, a state that many wouldn't think possible when the normal rules of traffic flow are in effect.
We're capable of more than we imagine.
It's August 14, 2003 and the northeastern part of the U.S. power grid has suffered a catastrophic blackout. Mike Legatt is hoofing it to New York's Westchester County Emergency Operations Center, his experience as an amateur (ham) radio operator being called upon to help ensure that communications flow properly between various groups that can no longer use the normal means of staying in contact with each other.
"I was at home and had just started a load of laundry," he recalls. "Seconds later, the power went out. I thought I had blown a fuse. It turned out to be much bigger than that." An estimated 50 million Americans and Canadians were without power.
"I come from a different background than most of my colleagues in the power industry," the husband and father of three observes. Born in the Bronx and raised in White Plains, New York, Legatt began the first of his professions in high school, performing IT, networking and software development tasks for his school district.
"The school district had some students with visual system difficulties," he remembers. "We found that, for some of them, it was easier to read white text on a black background as opposed to black text on white. It set me on the path toward looking at the way we receive information from our technology, rather than just the way the technology sends information to us."
While pursuing his undergraduate degree in psychology at Baruch College, Legatt managed to turn an internship into a job on Wall Street, designing quantitative equity-analysis software for Lightstone Capital Management. His software is still being used for research and stock selection in several investment vehicles.
"Back then, new computers often worked at double the speed of their predecessors," he says. "Instead of making Wall Street traders' jobs easier, we saw that the increased computer speed made their stress levels higher. Many of them saw increased health problems as a result. This further interested me in the relationships between people and computers."
This growing interest led to a master's degree and then a Ph.D. in clinical health psychology with a focus on the neuropsychology of visual attention. The blackout, in turn, interested Legatt in the power systems world. "It became clear to me how reliant we are on our electric infrastructure and, later, when it was concluded that a large part of the blackout was due to human factors — operators could not see the big picture on their computer screens — I decided to put my skills as a visual attention expert to use in that field."
He and wife Caroline packed up their family and headed to Texas where he landed a job with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the independent system operator (ISO) responsible for managing the reliability and markets of the bulk electric system for most of the state of Texas. Collaborating with his colleague and mentor, the late Gary Macomber, they developed a prototype for a monitoring and visualization system to be used by the organization's control room operators. "We started looking at the way people throughout ERCOT, but especially in the control room, saw and processed information, and the ways in which we could help better support their situational awareness and decision making."
"As part of my work, I began to meet weekly with our control room operators, shift engineers, and management. It quickly became clear that we needed to have a 'rich discussion', not just a theoretical one, in which everyone was able to see the same thing and discuss how best to visualize the information."
"Every week, I'd meet with the operators, show the prior week's enhancements, ask for feedback, and then spend the week modifying the code based on the feedback I received. Because our training schedule is set up in such a way that I would meet a different shift every week, it also meant that I had a wealth of different opinions throughout the process. I think in many ways this was always the 'secret sauce'. In many industries software developers write the user interfaces they think the end user needs, test and productionalize, then ship to the operator's computer, at which point the end user sees it for the first time. It quickly became obvious that this way of doing things is terrifying to operators because their ability to do their job is dependent on some unknown third party having enough of a good idea of what they need."
"We developed our prototype into a core systems application," says Legatt. "We called it the Macomber Map to honor Gary's memory." It is now being used to give operators a high-level view of the power grid and to provide additional problem-solving support at both ERCOT and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).
In addition to this work, Legatt has used his psychology background and power engineering control systems expertise to design control room interfaces for Advanced Fusion Systems, which is involved in the protection of the power grid from EMP/GIC, advanced environmental remediation systems and fusion power generation systems. He's also earned a PhD in power systems engineering from the University of Texas.
Here we are today
Much like that initial 2003 walk from his apartment to the Emergency Operations Center in New York, Mike's work led him to the conclusion that human factors in critical infrastructure management was a widespread concern for society. Using his experience as an engineer, psychologist and software developer, and focusing on the core visualization and integration technologies utilized in the proven capabilities of the Macomber Map™ application, ResilientGrid Map was born.
ResilientGrid designs human-computer interfaces that facilitate operator situational awareness and information sharing, the goal being to grow the resilience of critical infrastructures the world over. ResilientGrid provides training, consulting, and R&D services in continuous human performance improvement.
The ResilientGrid software solution provides an architecture and interface built entirely around operator situation awareness and enhanced operator collaboration within, and across, organizations. The server architecture also provides a secure, encrypted way in which an operator in one organization, with the approval of a supervisor or in a declared emergency, can share real-time information, or a subset of their data, with another entity in a secure, visually-integrated, and single-interface solution. Data is transmitted and maintained such that viewing, access, and storage rights are fully, and granularly, managed by the data owner.
Studies show that human error reductions in technology significantly reduce an organization's financial and operational risk profile, leading to better employee retention, collaboration, and performance. Creating strong situational awareness, collaboration, and human performance optimizes physical, cyber, and human assets such that critical infrastructures can operate in a more resilient fashion. ResilientGrid's innovative human-computer interface designs and human factors training can foster higher levels of situational awareness and collaboration, reducing human error, and growing resiliency.
Mike Legatt is a recognized leader of human factors engineering in the energy industry and holds multiple patents. For ten years he worked as the ERCOT's Principal Human Factors Engineer, during which time he developed the open-source Macomber Map, and helped to lead organizational culture change to bring ERCOT to top 10, Best Places to Work in Austin status. Michael has received numerous awards for his work, such as Best Outside the Box Thinker, highlighted in T&D World's "Characters with Character." Michael is also a Certified Performance Technologist, a credential granted by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).