Keeping the Lights on for the Energy and Utilities Industry during COVID-19

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Keeping the Lights on for the Energy and Utilities Industry during COVID-19
Samrat Bera Associate Vice President, E&U and O&G, IoT WoRKS™ | April 21, 2020
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We need to understand the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on the energy and utilities (E&U) industry. An industry that has been mostly focused on local businesses and residential customers must now understand the global impact of the coronavirus situation. Necessary changes need to be made to keep the essential infrastructure and operations run without interruption and to safeguard the future of energy and utilities.

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Smart meters collecting data

Leadership in both Federal and State governments has mandated the utility industry to avoid any power shutdowns and ensure customers in hardship can avail of a deferred payment option. The result of these mandates is that the utilities will have an impact on their revenue. At the same time, on the same token, they are expected to keep their operations at best, which would include early detection of failures/outages, whereby predicting the possibility of line failures. These are the need of the hour even more so than it was in the past.

As we all know, to inspect, detect, and restore operations, technicians are required to be on the field to locate the problematic device or problem location. They then diagnose the problem, fix the problem, and restore the system to normal. COVID-19 makes it difficult to run these operations.

Here are a few options that need to be put in place to eliminate or reduce such manual interventions involved in troubleshooting that must function with efficacy during the coronavirus pandemic and ensure the health and safety of utility workers and the communities they serve.

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Electrical grids and wind turbines leveraging IoT

This might be an appropriate time for the industry to look into the best practices and learnings from other industries. An excellent example of that could be leveraging intelligent asset management using sensors and field devices using mobile-based remote operations and solutions that include a combination of wearable devices that can help in remote asset tracking, analytics, and real-time insights to perform decisive actions to keep the grid reliable and resilient.

E&U industry to focus on understanding the impact of Covid19 and running the vital operations run without interruption

Some organizations are leveraging technology such as AR/VR technologies coupled with drones and smart sensors to see how those linear assets, poles, and other assets, which span across deserts, forests, rivers, mountains, and seashores are viewed from centralized grid operations or control rooms.

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Drone surveillance over pipelines

With all this said, the new norm would be some of the following:

  • Remote operations, alerting, and notifications: Platforms designed and built to remotely discover, collect image/data, and continuously monitor the health of devices, sensors, and equipment. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems will allow monitoring, controlling, and configuring systems while being remote and far from the equipment and assets.
  • Remote service and control: When possible, service a piece of equipment by securely monitoring it through remote visualization with minimal need to go to the equipment or the site. When you must, send the right resource or people with the right capability, the right tools, and the right spare parts to fix the problem correctly the first time.
  • Predictive and preventive maintenance: Using pattern recognition and anomaly detection based on real-time and historical data, and leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models to predict and prevent potential failures.
  • Intelligent servicing: Using actual equipment usage, seasonality, cyclicality, population density, equipment age, equipment failure patterns, and a host of signals to determine when and how to service equipment. No more servicing should be based simply on static schedules.
  • Compliance and Security: Auto-mapping data into compliance insights and reports with even more focus than ever before on cybersecurity. As more assets and devices go online, they will be more vulnerable to attacks and security policies would need to be put in place to thwart any covert operations.

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Leveraging AR/ VR on the field

IoT WoRKSTMby HCL Technologies is helping clients tide through these difficult times by not only helping them keep their businesses afloat but also by enabling them to think creatively so that they can continue doing their jobs in the most effective and efficient way possible. A good first step is to have a virtual design thinking session to discuss immediate challenges threatening business continuity and co-create solutions that will ensure the desired business outcomes.

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Asset management and tracking in a warehouse

With the advent of 5G technology, the cost of implementing these solutions and scaling them would potentially become more attractive as it would cut down the infrastructure and the network-related access points if required in the solution.

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Smart technology leveraging AR/VR being tested

Times are challenging. There is no denying that. But this is also an opportune moment for the E&U industry to take some robust measures which will not only help solve immediate challenges but also ensure that the industry can safeguard itself from any future business disruptions created by a crisis such as COVID 19.

Should you be interested to have a chat with us, please drop us a note with your contact details to iotworks@hcl.com.