The global electricity business is poised for a transformation given the recent innovations in the smart grid technologies. The major elements of this transformation will be initiated by a wide scale deployment of net-zero residential generation, demand driven community micro-grids and cost efficient commercial renewable energy. This change presents fresh opportunities for local utilities to extend services by exploiting existing customer base, vendor relationships, processes, systems and fieldwork technologies.
The service model in a local energy market will be competitive, driven by cost and service levels as opposed to the existing field work in a regulated utility. The existing systems and processes are configured to timely schedule fieldwork to comply with regulatory or other service level criteria. This model FITS the current utility structure extremely well but will not scale to meet the commercial needs of the emerging utility market.
Emerging technologies are poised to revolutionize fieldwork solutions, specifically in the areas of fieldwork gear and vehicles. Integrated technologies provide a unique opportunity to enable a fleet of work vehicles to act as a self-sufficient hot spot to enable both guided and independent work completion.
A fleet vehicle, such as an outage management truck used in day to day restoration, should be equipped with a low cost computing platform housing field applications that can run in connected and disconnected modes. This vehicle, will also implement a communication platform architected with advanced radios, which can seamlessly manage a wide spectrum of available networks ensuring high availability and low operating costs. It should also integrate advanced telematics that can measure, monitor and report a variety of useful measurements such as location, speed, vehicle condition, fuel status, boom angle etc. In short, I think, every fleet vehicle can be turned into a cost effective technology platform to address essential fieldwork computing requirements.
The crew productivity can be tremendously improved by strategically employing wearable technologies to expedite work completion. The next generation work helmet will include a camera, GPS, poisonous gas sensor, accelerometer, temperature sensor and induction sensor.
Most digital grid devices incorporate powerful processors and several components like data validations etc., of an end-to-end business process can be executed right within the device. Many such business processes can be functionally de-componentized and distributed across grid devices, the vehicle computing platform and back office.
Essentially, this leads to a component architecture that is functionally distributed as opposed to stove-piped service architectures. Utilities must extend the existing application portfolio to include both field and back office components so that they seamlessly align and deliver fieldwork capabilities. Crews will be empowered with specialized apps that can provide individualized customer experience in order to effectively improve customer satisfaction
As smart grid and other digital evolutions mature in the electric industry, accelerating local market structures, utilities can expand their service resulting in higher customer satisfaction and retention rates. Smart utilities can leverage their existing customer base and advance the growth agenda by employing emerging field technologies.