There is Simply Nothing Like On-The-Job Experience – OK Boomer! AI Part 1Posted to Esri
image credit: Used with permission.
- Jan 27, 2020 6:45 pm GMT
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When I was first assigned as a district engineer, the utility company wisely put me right to work on a power line crew. A fresh college graduate on a line crew? Yes, I loved it. A tie to the real world opened my thinking to the way things actually work. Now we can make some of those ties without spending decades on the job. This blog series will look at modern data techniques like artificial intelligence (AI) and how utilities can leverage impressive new capabilities in straightforward ways.
That summer I worked for Gene, the crew supervisor. He enjoyed breaking in the new engineer - correctly. He gave me experiences alright -- digging plenty of pole holes over six feet deep by hand. Gene had 20 years on the job and had set hundreds of poles all over the district. We both recognized the value of his experience.
He knew where native rock made it very hard to dig a deep narrow pole hole. He knew where he would need the heavy-duty digger truck or a jackhammer. He knew where he would need additional employees to flag traffic and extra tree trimming. He had experience. Gene accumulated data in his mind and used it well.
As the utility workforce ages, gray-haired experience is walking out the door - the silver tsunami! Boomers are digital immigrants. They learned their way before the widespread use of digital technology. They distinctly recall solving utility problems with graph paper and pencils.
“OK Boomer” is an amusing catchphrase that gained popularity. It is used to dismiss stereotypical baby boomer views like those surrounding decades of experience. “You can’t be a good crew supervisor until you’ve had 20 years of experience!” … “OK, Boomer!”
Today, employees with less experience are being promoted earlier than their boomer predecessors. They need to be set up for success. As digital natives, they grew up with information at their fingertips. They do not feel the same glory in decades of trial and error experiences.
Astonishingly, some of Gene’s valuable boomer insights can now be gained with contemporary digital techniques. Many are found by simply bringing data together, correlating it, and visualizing its meaning. For example, GIS easily uses abundant soils data to shed light on the digging equipment needed for a particular work order, even if the crew had no direct experience in that region. The opportunities to apply GIS to straightforward applications like this are nearly overwhelming.
Now, trends are enabling AI to surge. AI crunches data with a computerized mathematical approach to find patterns and make predictions. Many of these approaches (algorithms) are open-source making them readily accessible. Current cloud resources allow anyone to essentially rent a supercomputer for a few seconds and analyze mountains of data. Analytical capability skyrockets. If you have data, you can use it to solve problems!
AI is extremely promising – think self-driving cars, more accurate labor estimates, and optimized renewable integration.
AI can also sound a little menacing to some. This blog series will help unpack AI, make it more approachable, and answer some questions.
- What is it?
- What can it do for utilities?
- What about data?
- How do you actually use it?
For over 100 years, experience has been the holy grail of utility work. Will AI replace knowledgeable employees? No. Yet, AI is causing a shift -- adding new ways to discover insights formerly only available through experience.
Remember this – AI is all about data, and location is absolutely crucial for utility data. It is compelling to include location technology in the AI process. There is no better way to incorporate location and exploit AI than with ArcGIS. AI can help utilities address their many challenges. See new ways to use data, discover its meaning, and enable people to work better together by downloading our free ebook.