Smart city executions need centralized infrastructure

The global trend toward smart cities continues to rise. The benefits of incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into city-wide infrastructure are widely agreed. The best path to converting a city into a smart city though, is more variable. Solution providers presenting different strategies, approaches and techniques vie for the attention of city decision-makers. One thing they all have in common, is the importance of city-wide network to support the IoT devices that make a city smarter.

Only with a singular, scalable network that is not bandwidth limited to form the backbone, will a smart city execution truly yield its highest potential. Being able to use different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information then used to manage assets and resources efficiently is critical. With a singular network, like the Delta Smart Grid Network, it’s possible.

Delta’s solution taps the same strategy as today’s smart phones which innovatively joined multiple purposeful products into one exceptionally capable device—it converges smart grid infrastructure, Wi-Fi mesh networking and consumer-facing digital devices into a singular, standardized and centralized smart city network solution. This resulting network becomes the communications infrastructure by which all IoT smart city devices can connect. Thus, opening the door for an efficient and effective smart city solution.

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 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 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 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.

Applying Innovation to Delta’s Product Development

These days, the majority of companies like to call themselves innovative—almost to the point where the word loses its meaning. But what does it take to be truly innovative? Whether you view innovation as a new idea, device or method, or as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, the premise is the same: it solves a problem. As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” To add value and improve the quality of life for societies around the world, we need organizations and businesses to embrace and prioritize innovative practices. That being said, at Delta we consider innovation to be paramount to our daily activities and a primary driver for addressing our customers’ needs, mitigating their pain points and anticipating their unforeseen delights.

Two fundamental principles that shape our approach to innovation are to think big, start small and move fast and to anticipate step changes. Let’s look at each principle directly:

  • Think Big, Start Small, and Move Fast: Driven by customer intimacy, market intelligence and vision, we differentiate between “wants” and “needs” and identify customer “pain points” through extensive voice of customer (VOC) research. Through this process, we are able to anticipate market shifts and customer delights. Then, leveraging our expertise, we connect the dots between customers, products, technologies, advanced processing, channels and processes.
  • Anticipate Step changes: When we anticipate step changes we ask ourselves two questions: What concepts, principles, and technologies will fundamentally change our product experience and manufacturing capabilities? What concepts, principles, and technologies will replace the fundamental need for our products and shift our industry? Based on the answers, we can align with our VOC research and develop innovative solutions to customer concerns.

Applying these fundamental principles and recognizing the unique opportunity afforded by uniting power distribution with a pioneering, customer-centric network, we developed a singular, standardized, and scalable solution—called the Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™)—that tackles all four elements of a power network: distribution and communication, smart metering, optimization, and installation and servicing.

The innovation behind today’s smart phones paved the way for strategically grouping multiple purposeful products into one exceptionally capable device. Delta’s Smart Grid Network taps the same strategy to innovatively join smart grid infrastructure, Wi-Fi mesh networking and consumer-facing digital devices into a singular, standardized and centralized smart city solution.

The Delta Smart Grid Network™ unites the primary elements of power infrastructure management, Wi-Fi mesh networking, cloud-centered analytics, augmented reality interfaces and consumer-centric digital device capability to build the world’s first, Wi-Fi based, second generation advanced metering infrastructure (AMI 2.0). All while using Delta’s patent-pending hardware, software, networking and cloud-centered technologies.

Readers, how does your organization innovate to meet your customers’ needs? Share your ideas and/or questions with us here.