Weathering the Perpetually Changing Storm

Published: 30 May 2020 - 9:38 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

Government agencies, healthcare networks, retailers and supply chains are constantly being tested at the highest level to ensure their business continuity practices are sound.

The utilities and telecommunications industries - and their engineers, field technicians and operations specialists – are helping these organizations by maintaining the necessary critical infrastructure.

No matter the temperature or weather conditions - maintaining this infrastructure is a daily operation that requires a lot of planning. As software, sensor and connectivity technologies improve, each of these challenges can be addressed in smarter ways.

The digitization of data, when captured immediately upon its creation, enables better decisions to be made and the quality of services to improve across these networks.

INDUSTRY CHALLENGES IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Food, water, clothing and shelter have long been identified as the most basic needs of human life, but governments around the globe have also recognized sanitation, education, healthcare and (more recently) internet access as additional needs for a successful livelihood.

The energy and utilities sector touches all of these basic needs in some way – power to keep food preserved and buildings comfortable, internet for global communication and education, water for sustenance and sanitation – leading to understandably high expectations for these services.

When unpredictable events such as natural disasters occur, response times for the energy and utilities sector become even more critical.

With much of our business and commerce moving online in the past decade, telecommunications infrastructure has become even more essential, placing tremendous pressure on service providers to ensure their customers are receiving the fastest internet and highest bandwidth possible.

With researchers at Nokia Bell Labs successfully testing a 1.52 terabit (!) transfer rate, continual infrastructure upgrades will be necessary for consumers to eventually take advantage of these speed increases. Having the right workflows, rugged mobile devices and access to real-time data enables telecommunications and utilities companies to continually optimize their businesses to deliver stable, secure and high-quality service at all times.

THE VALUE OF MOBILE

Equipping field technicians and engineers with rugged mobile devices is one of the most effective ways of improving response times and productivity in the field. A rugged tablet or mobile computer can help technicians navigate to incident locations, access the latest work order with up-to-date information, and provide additional safety precautions needed.

For example, evacuation routes at a generating station or substation site will be different and need to be easily accessible in case of an emergency. Today, 26 percent of companies say they provide at least half of their field-based operators with mobile devices, but that number of companies is expected to grow to 43 percent within the next five years. It’s clear that getting information into the field is a simple, yet effective way to help reduce response times and ensure worker safety.

BENEFITS OF NEW TECH FOR THE UTILITIES SECTOR

As customer expectations increase exponentially with advances in technology, utility companies need to constantly evaluate their operations and leverage the latest mobile solutions. Introducing newer technologies to help ease the pressures on field resources can finally happen in a scalable way.

The use of sensors that can provide remote monitoring capabilities will allow energy and utilities companies to better prioritize their resources. For example, field resources can be directed to areas of highest need, instead of relying on a regular site visit which could now take place only when necessary.

At least 90 percent of companies expect to fully utilize sensor and remote monitoring technology within the next 5 years. Predictive analytics experts can use remote monitoring data to develop models to help dictate when maintenance activities should be scheduled.

Weather, power or water consumption information and other changing factors can be modeled into a work schedule to ensure that resources are allocated appropriately.

With the continued rollout of 5G networks, intelligent network and application services with connectivity to remote sensors will enable the sharing of massive amounts of IoT data transmitting at extremely low-latency. This will benefit companies with field operators who can serve as “remote experts” through video streaming at different locations.

The increased sharing and analysis of data and resources will result in massive productivity gains and optimized resource utilization.

Rapid industry advancements enabling new capabilities and improved service offerings are already happening today based on innovative technology solutions. Energy and utilities companies can unlock even more value from their workforce and better serve their customers by combining sensor and analytics technologies, operations software and field-tested, rugged mobile devices. Is your business prepared to do its part?

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