Today, utilities already use a variety of mobile solutions for various activities, like work order management, filling in data such as meter identification at a changeout, work hour reporting, safety and quality reporting, and even managing the surveillance cameras at substations. On top of those, there are the services for the utility customers, for example, for checking their consumption data or reporting an outage. Also - and quite importantly - many of our customers have their field crews bring the network to the field in tablets or smartphones with Utility To Go, using it, for example, in network planning, maintenance including component inspections, and operations both by in-house technicians and contractors.
Especially with the mobile solutions becoming more and more popular for field work where the working conditions can be extreme and unhandiness soon leads to linemen returning to the pen and paper, ensuring the tools and devices are easy-to-use and support the user workflows is more important than ever. For that, user experience specialists play a very important role in designing the solutions to fit their purpose - work that goes way beyond the user interface.
I had the privilege to participate in a really cool workshop with representatives from the biggest Finnish electric utilities from all over the country, held last month during the Finnish Trimble User Days. The workshop went by the name of 3D and augmented reality for distribution utilities, but it actually focused mostly on mixed reality - combining and positioning virtual and real objects with one another - and finding ways for utilities to make it beneficial, for real.
Teemu Heusala, product manager at Trimble Energy, has put a lot of thought into the maintenance processes, studying the current workflows at utilities and discovering ways to streamline them. “The problem with the traditional maintenance planning is,” Teemu explains, “that even though the foreman tries to optimize the field work efficiency, he or she doesn’t have all the information that is available in the field.” There might be field groups on different assignments at locations where there are also maintenance needs, or, at worst, a field crew is assigned a maintenance task only to realize they were just there. This causes idle driving, which, as we all know, gets expensive.
Since, indeed, the battle has touched us, too. “It's like a religious debate, both sides have their strong arguments,” Otto laughs.
Insights to the software development for electricity distribution in the form of interviews with the most inspiring of industry experts.
A Trimblean for 10+ years with a never-ending hunger for knowledge from a less technical viewpoint to the most technical of matters.