What shaped the industry in 2018?

In January, I shared Delta’s Industry Outlook for 2018 noting changes and innovations that we expected to see shaping our industry. In that post, I wrote about how: The use of asset performance management will continue to grow. Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind. Emerging technologies like AR will continue …

In January, I shared Delta’s Industry Outlook for 2018 noting changes and innovations that we expected to see shaping our industry. In that post, I wrote about how:

  • The use of asset performance management will continue to grow.
  • Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind.
  • Emerging technologies like AR will continue to shape the workforce.
  • There will be an expansion of Wi-Fi and a greater proliferation of cloud-based networks.

Looking back on the year, let’s review how these key outlooks are driving the utility industry.

 

Asset performance management
As identified in T&D World’s recent article, Asset Performance Management Comes of Age, “Utilities that have invested in digitizing their grid have positioned themselves to reap significant rewards as a result.” Asset performance management will enable a utility to rationally prioritize capital planning for aging asset replacement.

Further, collaborations like the recent one between Siemens and Bentley Systems show how those in the utility industry can benefit from asset performance management and how APM may evolve to include predictive analytics, necessary for pre-emptive asset actions, in addition to monitoring current performance.

 

Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has remained top-of-mind, but as noted in a recent Smart Energy International article, a persistent attacker will eventually breach critical control systems. The article goes on to discuss the rising threats in utility cybersecurity and offers these important notes:

  1. Insist on systems that require more than a promise and a “handshake.”
  2. Be dynamic rather than static or reactive regarding cybersecurity.
  3. Cybersecurity can always be improved.

At Delta, we’re aligned with these viewpoints and that’s why we’ve made sure our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN) conforms with the latest security protocols to protect network access and data integrity, from the point of device registration through the catalog and retention of cloud-based storage.

 

Augmented Reality
According to ABI Research, total AR market revenues for the energy and utilities industry are expected to grow to US$18 billion by 2022, with platform and licensing, and smart glasses hardware comprising the majority.

Further, a recent Electric Light & Power article, Today’s Reality, Augmented Reality: Improving Field Worker Efficiency, Security and Quality, notes the following:

The maturing and integration of smart glasses, wireless communication, mobile devices and augmented reality software is opening up new solutions to age-old problems that utility operations managers and their field crews encounter every day, such as:

  • An expansive set of field assets that make it difficult for field technicians to be experts with all equipment, increasing maintenance time and exposing potential safety challenges.
  • Lack of time and qualified inspectors to complete the number of required inspections.
  • Safety risks due to lack of experience with the broad array of tools and assets.
  • Pressure to reduce costs while improving restoration times.
  • Inability to easily record field work for further evaluation, inspection, and training.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge due to retirements or attrition.

We at Delta embraced this technology through the development of our PowerVISR™ hardware.  We strongly believe that customer-centric, future hardware platforms will follow this increasing trend for augmented reality integration.  You may read more about how AR is solving utility issues, here.

 

Wi-Fi and cloud-based networks
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, “Wi-Fi is the most commonly used wireless communications technology; the primary medium for global internet traffic; a driver of nearly $2 trillion in global economic value; and growing, with 3 billion devices shipping in 2018 and 9 billion devices in use.”

Additionally, through Wi-Fi Offload mobile operators are able to relieve the congested mobile data networks with additional capacity from unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. This allows them to facilitate combined carrier-class Wi-Fi and mobile services and profit from offering customers a vast service improvement with convenient ‘always-on’ data connectivity.

 

Delta’s technology and business model aggressively supports all three noted principles; Wi-Fi proliferation, Wi-Fi offload and cloud-based networks. Our unique Wi-Fi enabled Delta Smart Grid Network unleashes the power of a truly connected smart city, embracing the most commonly used wireless communications technology, while delivering Internet wherever there is power.

Augmented Reality for Electrical Utilities

A utility field technician’s day is filled with frequent stopping and starting to access and assess the distribution system—and the utility bears the burden of what happens when resources get stretched too thin. How can it make sure that the right data is available to the right person, in the right format and at the …

A utility field technician’s day is filled with frequent stopping and starting to access and assess the distribution system—and the utility bears the burden of what happens when resources get stretched too thin. How can it make sure that the right data is available to the right person, in the right format and at the right time and place in order for the insights from that data to provide practical value? One way is to bring augmented reality (AR) tools to the utility’s field force. By equipping field personnel with AR tools, utilities can streamline things like asset health assessments, service documentation review, repair requirement summaries, repair qualification activities, work order prioritization, location routing and more.

One example of using AR to improve efficiencies is demonstrated in a 2017 proof of concept between the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Duke Energy which tested the use of augmented reality in assessing storm damage. In the project, field workers wore a heads-up display (HUD) units incorporating a monocular screen that provided key information to keep assessments accurate and consistent. This screen overlaid information on the user’s field of view, enhancing their capability to real-time visualize actionable date on that subject matter at hand. The field crews were very positive about their experience and Duke Energy calculated that for a typical, 4-day outage impacting 250,000 customers, using AR would save around 12 hours of restoration time—or $8.25M for customers with an average power consumption of 900kWh per month.

Another way AR could be used is for general servicing and repair. Augmented reality would be able to overlay key performance data into the field of vision for a service technician allowing him or her to immediately assess the health of an asset. For example, being able to see the load, temperature and oil level of a transformer simply by looking up at it with an AR device would expedite identification of any issues. This AR capability would instantly allow a field technician to prioritize service actions against multiple assets within their field of view, all without opening, powering and inquiring using traditional keyboard centric field devices.

It’s important to note, according to EPRI’s 2018 literature review of human factors issues in the Electric Power Industry, there is still a shortage of human factors and occupational safety research for AR devices. Therefore, guidelines for the appropriate amount of time for safe and effective AR usage are lacking. This being true, as the technology progresses and electric utilities continue to experiment with using it more information will become available and, similar to other adjacent markets, we anticipate pick-up in adoption of this exciting user interface methodology.

Industry Outlook for 2018

With the start of an exciting New Year, what changes and innovations can we expect to see shaping our industry? Let’s review some of our key outlooks and what we’re projecting will drive utilities in 2018: Use of asset performance management will continue to grow We saw the use of asset performance management growing in …

With the start of an exciting New Year, what changes and innovations can we expect to see shaping our industry? Let’s review some of our key outlooks and what we’re projecting will drive utilities in 2018:

Use of asset performance management will continue to grow
We saw the use of asset performance management growing in 2017, and that will only continue into 2018. The majority of utilities will be using some form of APM innovations and tools to manage their critical operational assets to help improve operational performance – as well as their customer’s experience. In fact, a recent IDC report, “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Utilities 2018 Predictions” echoes this, indicating that as many as 75 percent of gas, water, and electric utilities will have implemented APM by 2019.

Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind
With the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the wide variety of devices and products that are now vulnerable to cyber-attacks, cybersecurity was increasingly a topic of concern for utilities in 2017. A report from Accenture, “Outsmarting Grid Security Threats,” showed that 76 percent of North American utility executives believe their country faces at least a moderate risk of electricity supply interruption from a cyber attack on electric distribution grids in the next five years. That focus will only grow in 2018, with utilities modifying their approaches to security to include both cybersecurity and physical security solutions, as well as privacy and data protection. Deloitte’s latest “2018 outlook on power and utilities” indicates this as well, with utilities increasingly working together and with the U.S. government to detect, prevent, and prepare for these risks.

Emerging technologies like AR will continue to shape the workforce
“Big data” has been the buzz word for utilities for some time now, but the next step moving into 2018 will be making that data available to the right people at the right time using new, emerging and immersive technologies. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and even mixed reality (MR) will start to play a more important role in the utility landscape, especially from a safety, speed and efficiency perspective. This article in POWERGRID International provides a key use case in the situation of a utility responding to an outage with a professional “on the ground” at that location. The lineman would be able to use a mobile tablet to capture images of the damaged equipment and, with AR, an overlay of data would show everything from product number to maintenance history. This capability will help utilities to expedite repairs and restore power more quickly than the typical manual response.

Expansion of Wi-Fi and the greater proliferation of cloud-based networks
Many of us are accustomed to the regular advancement of Wi-Fi technology in our consumer lives. With 2018 we’ll see a continued advance in enterprise Wi-Fi and industrial applications. The focus will be reviewing and, in some cases, implementing the latest IEEE protocol, which includes MU-MIMO, or multi-user multiple-input, multiple-output technology, and 802.11ac. Furthermore, we’ll continue to see a shift toward cloud-based networks that can reduce operating expenses and improve reliability and availability. This article in Network World further forecasts the specifications and expected trends in networking.

Readers, do you agree with some of these outlooks for 2018? Share your thoughts and questions with us here.