Field Force Data Visualization
Investor prototypes for connecting the nations utilities with powerful new technologies
Prototypes For Investors
What they can’t see costs billions of dollars annually. A persistent problem for the nation’s power companies is the inability to easily visualize the power grid’s infrastructure — or to share it with other utilities when responding to major storms and power outages. Most of the nation’s utility maps are hand written and locked away in a basement. Or painstakingly digitized and saved within a custom proprietary system that is incompatible with other utilities. That leads to wasted time and resources — particularly when multiple utilities are called upon to respond to a major outage. Field workers may not know what tools to bring or lack the needed information to make the repair. The problem gets worse when you factor in the inexperience of a younger generation joining the work force. Inefficient operations are bad for all business and utilities are no exception.
That’s why a national power research organization decided to investigate developing a software system for field workers that incorporates emerging open system mapping standards along with augmented reality to solve the problem. They called it FFDV for Field Force Data Visualization. Since a project of this magnitude is a massive undertaking in time, dollars and technology, they needed a proof of concept demo to demonstrate the value to their funders. We worked closely with our client to determine which features were the most time effective and would have the most impact on investors looking to fund the project. We facilitated the distribution of the iPad app and other marketing materials such as demo videos and sample networks to the sales force so that they could have the best chance at bringing in investors.
When you think of placing objects on a map you may think all you need is a latitude and longitude. However, what you often find is the GIS data in other systems uses different reference points, projections or the data is just missing or invalid altogether. For example, underground cables or pipes might have their depth recorded relative to the ground which can cause problems when the earth shifts during natural disasters. And it’s not just points and lines that need to modeled on the map, often you find complicated polygons that represent building footprints and other areas of interest.
Working With Modern Standards
We worked closely with our client to choose the correct standards for modeling the data. That means the code we write has the highest chance of working with other systems and not needing to be re-written down the road.
A major component of the FFDV project was exploring cutting edge ways for utilities to visualize the data. Imagine a utility worker could put on a pair of smart glasses and see the cables and pipes hidden underground before they start digging. Imagine a utility worker having handsfree wiring diagrams and repair manuals at their immediate disposal. Imagine an experienced senior utility worker back in the office having a two-way video call with the field worker and highlighting, documenting and sharing their expertise without the need to drive hundreds of miles.
We’ve been working with AR since 2011. We’ve seen firsthand how rapidly this technology is evolving and have lived through frameworks coming on the scene only to be bought out by a different vendor and disappearing from the market. Being able to adapt in the fluid world of cutting edge technologies is what makes us experts. By making smart implementation choices, the less code we need to rewrite. Overall projects are more cost-effective and it takes less time to complete them.
Source: The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. Used with permission...