4 Utility Technology Trends That Are Transforming the Sector
The Future of Utilities: What’s Trending?
The challenging environments that power and utility employees work in require technology that rises to the occasion. Whether it’s sustaining operations during a hurricane, maintaining power in one of the world’s busiest cities, or understanding potential heat and fire problems in real time, the right technology saves time and money — and importantly, helps workers operate more safely.
Panasonic TOUGHBOOK devices combined with innovative applications and backed by professional services provide ideal support for those on the front lines of emergency and disaster response. In a recent webinar, we talked with Panasonic partners about the technology trends and advancements that ensure power and utility companies can always deliver.
Here are four ways creative ways utility sector trends in technology help workers respond to tough situations — and make them a whole lot easier.
Drone Deployment During Hurricane Season
Following Hurricane Irma in Florida in 2017, our partner FLYMOTION completed 650 drone missions to help power and utility companies collect data on damage and better inform their response strategies. By pairing FLYMOTION’s drone technology with TOUGHBOOK devices the organization was able to create maps, videos and photos.
Utility teams used TOUGHBOOK devices to process the data in real time, which allowed field employees to assess the situation in the field and make quick decisions. The devices also enable constant cellular capability, which is critically important during active disasters.
By using their drones and TOUGHBOOK devices together, FLYMOTION was also able to provide Florida utilities with pre-disaster and post-disaster maps and models. The information helped the utilities more accurately assess the damage and prioritize their responses. Plus, using unmanned systems allowed them to cover more ground and monitor progress from a safe distance.
Operational Intelligence That Powers Cities
Utility line workers all over the world rely on TOUGHBOOK devices when they head into the field. For example, UK Power in London had been struggling with an application that caused their TOUGHBOOK devices to run out of battery power at critical moments. The related downtime was costing the workers time — and the company money. So we worked with our partner B2M Solutions to offer our Smart Suite solution, which includes real-time battery monitoring capabilities.
The application allows the organization to see how many tablet or laptop batteries are healthy and how many are having trouble. The company can then assess individual devices to determine the nature of the issue and the right fix. Without this information on hand, some companies simply purchase all new batteries — or even brand new devices — which means they’re spending unnecessarily. Armed with this operational intelligence from B2M and Panasonic means IT can proactively replace failing batteries so line workers don’t need to worry about a device going down right when they need it most.
Since employing Smart Service with its TOUGHBOOK devices, UK Power has reported a 125% increase in user satisfaction.
Thermal Imaging Becoming A Key, On-Demand Utility Technology
Thermal imaging has emerged as a key technology for utility technicians for inspecting panels, switches, transformers and various other assets in the field. While utilities have a few different options available for thermal imaging, most of the choices are either exceptionally expensive, bulky or low cost, but also low-quality. The low-quality options often rely on smartphones and require transferring data to another computer. The bulky ones often require additional hardware, such as a thermal gun that can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $9,000.
Panasonic’s tablets with integrated FLIR thermal imaging technology, however, offer the best of all worlds. For utilities, these rugged tablets provide high-quality thermal imaging capabilities at an affordable price without the added cost or heft associated with additional hardware.
Improved utility technology empowers workers to accurately assess equipment from significant distances. Workers can identify what needs repairs in the field, instead of reviewing data once they’re back in an office. This can save considerable time, and enable organizations to make decisions and fixes with workers on site, instead of delaying them for later.
Smart Meters and Applications Enhance Efficiency
Managing field installations and maintenance across large geographic areas is no small feat. But Itron is helping make it easier for utilities, with applications that enable utility workers to read meters remotely. These applications enable automated meter reading, saving time for field workers who would otherwise manually gather the data by physically reading individual meters.
Companies using this method have been able to reduce their meter reading costs to pennies — one Itron customer even cited a cost of.03 cents per meter. That’s a huge saving for utilities that have millions of endpoints.
Utilities will always face unique challenges in their work, from the sheer scale of their customer base to unpredictable weather events to unexpected disasters. Fortunately, utility technology innovations are tackling these problems and more every day — providing increased efficiency and safety in the process.
Learn more about Panasonic solutions for the energy and utility industries, and how we are meeting current technology trends in the energy industry.