This special interest group covers mobile technologies and approaches that are helping utilities do business today. 

WARNING: SIGN-IN

You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.

Post

It’s time for Utility Workers’ Mobile Devices to be as Smart as the Grid

image credit: © Arthon Meekodong | Dreamstime.com

This item is part of the Grid Modernization - Special Issue - 06/2020, click here for more

Today’s field worker in any electric utility depends on a reliable mobile device to do their job remotely. Where just 15+ years ago, these workers relied on paper to do almost everything in their daily routines, we’ve evolved quickly from a “mobile first” with paper backups if something goes wrong, to “mobile only” where any outage on the mobile device can stop a worker from being able to do their job.  If that work stoppage causes a worker to have to return to base to swap a mobile device or battery, it may mean delays in deploying new services, or repairing issues in the field.

Put simply, issues with mobile devices and applications are costing utilities a fortune each year – but sadly most of these costs are hidden.   According to the work by VDC Analytics and others, issues with workers’ mobile devices may be costing utilities as much as 80% or more of the Cost of Ownership of that mobile device over a 5 year period.  The costs include worker productivity losses, IT support costs, replacement costs and more.

So if this is costing companies so much annually, why not adopt new ways of spotting workers’ problems quickly and fixing them before the worker is impacted?  Historically, this has not been possible, as mobile devices are relatively “dumb” devices when it comes to self-reporting any issues and allowing issues to be centrally monitored in real-time.

There are similarities of course to the electrical grid.   Outages on the grid are extremely expensive to repair, and result in increased costs, and potentially lost revenue and incurred penalties.    And until smart-grid technologies came about which allow utilities to focus on fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR), repairing an outage meant reacting to problems as swiftly as possible by deploying field workers.

Much as the utility industry has adopted Smart Grid technologies to automatically isolate and resolve any issues, it’s time the same level of visibility should now be available to field workers. The right solutions are available to alert IT teams quickly to mobile issues, isolate problems, and provide real-time actionable insights to allow IT teams to better support workers in the field. 

These solutions report on battery health, reboots, utilization, data usage and other key metrics which give a real-time view of the device, applications and usage patterns.  

Armed with these insights, Utilities can adopt a similar approach to mobile devices in the hands of their workers as they do to the grid:  fault location, isolation and service restoration.  And with these tools, they can proactively restore productivity to the workers as well as well as even preventing and predicting future failures.

One large UK-based utility, UK Power Networks, adopted a real-time solution from Panasonic which gives them the visibility needed to quickly isolate and repair problems.   The results have been transformational, with IT able to eliminate many of the chronic issues for field workers’ mobile device batteries, network connections and other issues which consistently impacted their ability to do their job.

It’s time for the mobile devices in utilities to get as smart as the smart grid, enabling them to self-report issues as they occur.  It’s time to give utilities this level of assurance for their field workers to ensure their devices are not the “dumb” link in the evolution of the smart grid.

Gary Lee's picture

Thank Gary for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 24, 2020 9:48 pm GMT

Definitely not talked about as much as other grid modernization issues, but when it comes to keeping the lights on most efficiently and affordably it's a great point that field worker tools need to be modernized as well. "because we always did it this way" can no longer be an excuse not to adapt to new potential practices!

Gary Lee's picture
Gary Lee on Jun 25, 2020 4:43 pm GMT

Thanks Matt.  They key is raising awareness these solutions exist.  As we all know, we blink and the technology around us has changed 5 times for the better!    Mobile device usage grew extremely fast, and the management solutions for these mobile devices, apps and users has lagged behind the dependency businesses and workers have placed on them.  These new real-time analytics solutions, which offer real-time visibility into the health and utilization of mobile devices and applications are changing all of this.   It's a brand new space and an exciting one.   Happy to discuss 1:1 if you have further interest.

 

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »