Drones assist with inspections, allowing workers to safely view and assess the damage. Using drones can reduce the need for multiple bucket trucks and allow the utility company to gather video feed information for additional analysis that can be used to optimize repairs.
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Sponsored by:

Panasonic: Using Mobility to Transform Utilities

INTERACTIVE WHITE PAPER

Using Mobility to Transform Utility Operations & Maintenance

Key Takeaways

  • Mobile technologies are already improving utilities operations information exchange.
  • Smart solutions lead to safer work sites through faster, more accurate data.
  • Mobile-enabled OMS/WMS predicts and minimizes outage restoration times.
  • Rugged mobile solutions improve productivity in critical scenarios.
  • Rugged mobile devices are a solid investment for utility companies.

Utilities customers want more reliable service, and more than ever before, expect dependable and detailed responses when outages occur. To meet this demand and increase general operational efficiency, leading utility companies are deploying mobile computing devices to monitor supply lines, and other assets, decreasing the time to recognize, respond to, and repair outage. At the same time they are optimizing customer responsiveness and improving customer satisfaction.

This interactive white paper provides you with information to better understand how mobile solutions can help utility companies achieve operational excellence by transforming the way workers communicate and respond in the field.

Mobile technologies are already improving the outage information exchange.

Information is central to a utility company’s ability to quickly recognize, respond to, and resolve grid problems, especially in an outage scenario. While the smart grid framework incorporates multiple lines of communication to gather this information from and share this information with participants in the electrical flow—bulk generation, transmission, distribution, and the customer—mobile technologies are adding a new path for information sharing.

Customers have started using their smartphones to take photographs of downed wires, poles, and other safety and outage issues and are sharing them with their utility companies. This is helping the operations team quickly visualize the situation without sending workers out to the site and make initial assessments.

Utility companies are also starting to look at new technologies, such as drones, smart tablets, and augmented reality (AR) that can safely provide field workers with a more in-depth view of the situation.

Conceptual Model*

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Figure 1: Interaction of roles in different smart grid domains through secure communication.

—  Secure communication flows    – – Electrical flows

Examples of New Technologies

Drones assist with inspections, allowing workers to safely view and assess damage. Using drones can reduce the need for multiple bucket trucks and allow the utility company to gather video feed information for additional analysis that can be used to optimize repairs.

Drones

Smart tablets allow on-site repair crews to gather more information during assessment that can speed up repairs. Crews can use tablets to view a digital overlay of the pre-damaged site to see what the actual damage is and what replacement components may be needed. They can query for and request inventory in real time and enhance productivity by ensuring the right employees are onsite with the right tools in hand.

Smart Tablets

Augmented Reality (AR) will enable repair crews to gather information by looking at the damaged site with a set of AR glasses. AR is still in the experimental stage, but researchers like the Duke Emerging Technology Office foresee AR helping repair crews gather detailed information from feeder maps and substations, sending pictures to the outage management system (OMS), using image recognition to draw in what’s missing due to damage, and requesting missing parts from the nearest warehouse.

Augmented Reality

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the rise of big data, advanced analytics and smart sensors allow utilities/energy companies to capture and share real-time analytics across their mobile workforce to ensure efficient, effective decision making in tough conditions. As utilities transform into more connected and distributed grids, their mobile workforces must transform as well. Conversations around the Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Cities often focus on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, but we also need to consider how these efforts will better connect utility mobile workforces.

The Internet of Things

*Source: Updated NIST Smart Grid Framework 3.0, Feb 2014.

Case Study

SeekOps pinpoints gas leaks with space age tech and panasonic rugged tablets.

SeekOps, a leak detection service provider for the energy industry based in Pasadena, CA, successfully set out to transition NASA miniature methane sensor technology from a proven prototype to a commercial service — based on the technology the founders first demonstrated mounted to a drone for oil production surveys and gas utility safety inspections. The SeekOps solution can detect leaks faster than traditional manual inspections and provides significantly more high-quality data than other methods, which translates to more effective, accurate and sensitive leak detection and localization.

The founders of SeekOps paired their methane detection drone with a Panasonic Toughbook FZ-G1 tablet, a purpose-built, rugged device for energy professionals−from oil rig technicians to utility workers. The 10” form factor, daylight readable screen, long battery life, and rugged durability can provide natural gas field teams with immediately actionable information.

A three-person SeekOps team−a drone pilot, safety observer, and ground control operator armed with the Toughbook FZ-G1−can set up and begin inspecting a wellpad in less than 15 minutes. With a real-time view of streaming data from the drone, the team can detect a problem, pinpoint its exact location, and assign a severity grade−providing a faster, cheaper and smarter way to reduce methane gas leaks.

There’s really nothing on the market that could contend with these devices, and we knew when we took it out into the field, that we had made the right hardware choice.”

Andrew Aubrey, CEO, SeekOps

Mobile-enabled OMS/WMS predicts and minimizes restoration times.

Utility companies face multiple operational challenges, including unpredictable outages and interrupted service that impacts millions of people annually. With mobile-enabled operating management systems (OMS) and work management systems (WMS), they can help predict and minimize restoration times, which can be communicated to the customer.

Despite the drive to prevent outages, the unpredictability of severe weather—the top cause of outages—means service interruptions will continue to happen. Utilities can use mobile-enabled OMS/WMS systems to improve customer satisfaction during these challenging times by staying connected with the customer.

Even when dealing with outages caused by other means, such as natural disasters, physical attacks including sabotage and vandalism, fuel supply deficiencies or other transmission disruptions, it’s critical that field crews have easy access to up-to-the-minute information and can capture and transmit accurate data efficiently and safely.

Severe Weather Outages*

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*Source: Analysis of DOE Annual Summary of Electric Disturbance Events (OE417) from Jan.2017 – June 2018.

Mobile devices are critical to overall productivity, as well as ongoing reliability improvements, better outage responsiveness, and customer satisfaction.

Rugged mobile solutions improve productivity in critical scenarios.

Utility personnel often work in harsh environments, making them ideal candidates for mobile solutions that use rugged devices, which are typically built to meet military standards for toughness. As non-field personnel move to mobile notebooks, tablets, and handhelds rather than remaining at a stationary workstation, rugged computing devices are being used to improve productivity by better connecting and servicing utilities customers.

A consumer-grade mobile device can’t stand up to day-after-day conditions utility field workers experience. If something goes wrong with a laptop in the field, it’s not easy to fix. Putting unreliable or delicate, consumer-grade computing equipment in the field can potentially risk:

  • Ongoing business operations.
  • Productivity, both for the workers in the field and the IT technicians.
  • Increased operational costs, including device repair and employee downtime.
  • The safety of workers.

Valuable Features
The rugged computing device features required for utilities go beyond protective rubber casing to deliver toughness built inside and out. When evaluating mobile rugged devices, be sure they are:

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Field Ready
Fully loaded and tested prior to reaching workers, including Wi-Fi and GPS with immediate connectivity.
Built Tough
Not only to withstand harsh conditions like drops, spills, dirt, temperature changes and constant motion, but also engineered with enterprise-grade security.
Reliable
Manufactured for exceptional connectivity reliability and reach.
Rock Solid
Including access to support/software updates, warranties, exchange & repair service, and more.
Powered
Powered to keep running, with extended battery life of at least 10 hours and options to swap the battery without turning off the device.
Resilient
Designed to work in extreme conditions, including conditions requiring gloves, high-glare situations, potentially explosive environments and wet/dusty settings.
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The Extreme Office: Why Rugged, Field-Ready Mobile Devices are Critical

Download more details about these key capabilities & learn more about how the Panasonic Toughbook meets these needs.

Choosing the right rugged device.

With the right rugged devices utilities gain both business efficiency and customer service benefits.

Benefits of the Right Rugged Device

  • Lower computer failure rates means higher worker productivity.
  • Strong security protects data and network.
  • Software and deployment solutions help deliver real-time data and analytics and automate manual processes.
  • Vehicle docking solutions improve driver safety and optimize usage.
  • Support for multimodal communications such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, 4G LTE Advanced, and optional GPS provides flexible ways to access data.
  • When paired with AR technology, improves the ability to locate and monitor assets in the field, identify outages, provide repairs and locate & track mobile workforce teams, helping to improve operational efficiency and worker safety.
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When technology fails, it costs time and money. Adopting reliable, rugged tech protects your investment and can save you money over time by reducing repair costs, minimizing downtime and increasing productivity.

When failure is not an option.

Panasonic devices are over five times more reliable than the average laptop used by businesses across America.* They simply last longer which also contributes to a lower total cost of ownership.

Industry Average Laptop Failure Rate*

Annualized Failure Rate
Industry Average - 11%

*Chart compares actual 2018 Panasonic service records for Toughbook family of devices to PC Magazine reader-reported data for competitors.

When Tech Breaks, Productivity Drops

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Rugged mobile technology:
a smart investment.

Mobile devices are critical to overall productivity, as well as ongoing reliability improvements, better outage responsiveness, and customer satisfaction. Still, device failure is a significant problem for utility companies.

When technology fails, it costs time and money. Adopting reliable, rugged tech protects your investment and can save you money over time, reduce downtime and increase productivity.

In addition, even though rugged technology may have a higher cost upfront, it can pay for itself over a relatively short period of time, especially since the devices stay in the field longer.

The Average Cost of Repairs*

Average Repair Cost
$3,400

Laptops

Average Repair Cost
$2,462

Tablets

Average Repair Cost
$3,087

Handhelds

*Repair costs are estimates that factor in out-of-pocket expenses, lost end-user productivity and the time it takes IT to make the repair.

Recoup Rugged Tech Investments

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