“In an LV (low voltage) case, there is nothing to do from the control room,” confirms Teemu Suvela, Operations Engineer at Elenia. And truly, the operators in the Elenia control room can take it easy at daytime, as the contractors handle the LV outages from start to finish, independently. “We only alarm the contractor to go to the fault location and repair the fault,” Teemu explains. There is also less and less need for phone calls, as the mobile solution Utility To Go allows for the field crews to see the needed information directly in the field, and the well-integrated smart services tackle 98% (!) of the potential customer phone calls, ensuring that the utility offers excellent customer service via multiple channels with transparent outage information. Highly beneficially, the smart systems have also allowed for the utility to fine-tune its cooperation with the contractors, resulting in very effective and straightforward processes.
Elenia is the second largest electricity DSO (distribution system operator) in Finland, supplying electricity to 425 000 homes and businesses, and covering over 100 municipalities vast across the center of the country. The usual fault causes are thunderstorms and risky trees falling on the power lines, and, as Elenia invests heavily on underground cabling, one common cause has become excavators when digging goes wrong.
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.
Insights into the software development for electricity distribution in the form of interviews with the most inspiring industry experts.