3 Utility Trends to Transform Field Work & Decision Making

Utility companies, out of necessity, always have disaster plans. Each year, our world experiences wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, and other natural disasters. In fact, 2020 and 2021 alone were the worst years on record for the most natural disasters. In the wake of these events, communities and businesses depend on utility and field service workers to resume power and provide critical support year-round.

With this in mind, we identified three trends that will transform fieldwork and decision making in 2023.

1. Real-time data for enhanced situational awareness

95% of power companies view digital transformation as a top priority given the opportunity to create value from data. Real-time data, in particular, is central to a utility worker’s ability to quickly recognize, respond to, and resolve grid problems, especially in an outage scenario.

When surveying areas impacted by an extreme weather event, information about the location of downed power lines or rising water gives field workers a complete snapshot of the area they’re operating in before they arrive. This information gets sent to a mobile device – like a laptop or handheld – at the worker’s fingertips.

Mobile access to geographical information systems (GIS) provides workers with a descriptive map of the configuration of a utility network. The system compiles data from various sources, such as satellites and power equipment, so workers can visually see the area they’re working in via a single data repository. This view helps workers gain visibility of the exact condition and location of affected power lines and poles, pinpoint further outage risks, and determine how to best navigate any potential hazards. With real-time data, workers have the information they need immediately.

2. 24/7 wireless connectivity for conducting services and support

In 2021 alone, major power outages impacted at least 350 million people, which is more than 4% of the global population. With power outages reaching record highs, utility companies rely on wireless connectivity to transmit status updates about an outage between teams and estimate restoration times, so customers are in the know.

During unplanned outages, customers are probably checking the status of your utility on a mobile app. The same goes for planned maintenance and the projected time of restoration. Customers expect information delivery anytime, anywhere, so they can plan accordingly and hold their utility company accountable.

To do this, solutions used by field service workers must have a vast range of network capabilities from cellular to Bluetooth to GPS. This keeps workers connected to the utility company regardless of external infrastructure issues, minimizes downtime, and eliminates barriers to productivity. The more connected workers are, the more utility companies can meet customer needs and expectations.

3. Increasing mobile tech adoption for plant operations

Successful technology adoption is one of the top challenges identified by maintenance teams, and having the right mobile devices is a key starting point. With mobile technology, plant operators in charge of large plants or multiple sites can better manage maintenance rounds, quickly identify assets for inspection, and ensure personnel schedules are planned effectively – all in a day’s work.

Mobile technology on the job also helps reduce labor-intensive manual data capture. In a shift, workers can use their tablets or handhelds to take and send pictures of assets, quickly transmit information, access asset history from a central database, and determine the next steps. This reduces data errors and improves compliance so workers can proactively determine maintenance decisions and extend equipment life.

As we near 2023, these are the three trends we’ll keep an eye on. Visit our website to learn how Panasonic Connect solutions for utilities can support your operation.