Top 5 Mobile Tech Features for Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) Workers

The era of massively centralized energy sources is giving way to highly distributed renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and even hydrogen cells. Centralized energy production from the likes of coal, gas and nuclear sources are managed as large single entities that distribute electricity. However, distributed energy resources (DERs) need to be managed in new ways that have the capability to control thousands of individual energy generation units and coordinate their output, maintenance, and reporting with more agility than traditional power generation systems. Overall, this means an increase in operational efficiency on the part of energy companies.

The Smart Grid

Electric power grids have gained intelligence through the addition of control points that monitor performance of the distribution system. The addition of DERs has brought new types of intelligence that puts computerized components at every generation point. This population explosion of data means more robust reporting and control but brings with it more responsibility to support and manage the grid and its components.

Smart components that incorporate communication technology allow them to be managed remotely for routine functions. However, they also require hands-on maintenance – meaning workers need to be able to get to them, identify which parts need attention, and perform diagnostics and repair procedures in the field. This requires solutions that can manage increased data workflows with reliable performance in a variety of different environments and conditions.

Key features for managing DERs using mobile computing

Field technicians need to be equipped with durable and robust mobile computing devices that can perform reliably under demanding conditions whether indoors or outdoors. Here are the five most important features every field technician’s mobile computing device must have to assure their ability to manage DERs.

Built-in durability – Protective cases add bulk and don’t adequately protect tablet screens and the electronics inside. Look for laptops and tablets that are built to be tough and withstand not just drops, but extreme temperatures.

Screen visibility in both darkness and bright sunlight – Most tablets deliver great visibility indoors and in shaded areas, but DERs and the smart grid are built around outdoor components. Field technicians need to be be able to see what is on their screens even if they are working outdoors in bright sunlight. Look for mobile computing units that deliver screen visibility at all levels of brightness.

Water and dirt immunity – Rain, snow, and dirt are part of working on smart grid components and technicians are tasked with getting components working regardless of weather conditions. Look for tablets and laptops that can withstand rain, and whose keyboards and screens can be washed when they get dirty.

Long battery life – Mobile computing batteries need to continue to perform for an entire shift and beyond. When emergency repairs are needed technicians don’t have time to recharge their batteries. Look for units that perform for full days and have swappable batteries for those extra long days away from charging ports.

Communicate under adverse radio conditions – Smart grid devices may be located in remote areas with poor cellular coverage, but technicians rely on having full time robust connections to their offices to access documentation and management systems. Look for mobile devices that include specially designed antennae that can maintain communication even under poor reception conditions.

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