Recent improvements in computer processing power have enabled the development of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) to be capable of interpreting a substantial quantity of data at high speeds. The distribution industry is one of the largest users of real-time data during the operation of their energy distribution network and as such, has an inherent need for data processing technology. The development of intelligent devices and communication protocols has given rise to the concept of distribution system automation (DSA). In this paper the major features of DSA development are discussed. A method of communication along with the integration of wired and wireless communication solutions with IED and Mote technology is described. Protection scheme automation is investigated, showing that automated response to network fault conditions is possible. Network reconfiguration is another key aspect of DSA research and two distinct calculation techniques are discussed. The current index (CI) and the load balance index (LBI) calculation methods are presented and the benefits of LBI are highlighted. Distributed generation (DG) is addressed in the context of automation with a demand side management (DSM) program proposed to manage load during peak and off-peak periods. The paper discusses switching DG sources, load deferral strategies and direct load control to effect a reduction in load during peak periods. The paper furthers this load management by load filling during off-peak periods. Finally, conclusions on the effectiveness of the proposed method are drawn and recommendations are made for further research.