Augmented Reality: Digitized Maintenance in the Electrical Utility Industry

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Digital transformation is already underway in the electrical utility industry, with smart meters and digital applications constantly upgraded to improve services, assets, safety, and the utility operator's bottom line. However, the trend toward digitized maintenance and inspections, two primary functions of the electrical utility industry, has only just begun. The rise of Augmented Reality (AR) technology is especially significant for subsurface infrastructure, enabling precise location, depth, and identification of utility assets before digging, inspection, maintenance, and repair activities. 

Interpreting a camera's view of the natural world in real-time, AR overlays the viewscreen with relevant graphics and information. Digitized maintenance, enabled by augmented reality, facilitates cutting-edge abilities, including:

  • Identify exact work locations without risk
  • Locate specific assets within complex underground systems
  • Conveniently review installation status and maintenance updates
  • Communicate and collaborate in real-time with onsite and remote personnel
What is Augmented Reality?
 Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive 3D view featuring real-time computer-generated elements superimposed upon an accurate world view. AR apps utilize the camera and viewscreen on a smartphone or other mobile device. As a user views the real world on the screen, the picture is overlaid or augmented, with relevant graphics and data, and updated in real-time as the user moves. 

The augmented view may include graphics and data identifying the precise location, depth, and direction of electrical conduits. Although unseen in the user's real-world view, AR can generate and overlay the appropriate 3D graphics and information via infrastructure mapping data and Global Positioning System (GPS) data. 

Benefits of Augmented Reality in Zone 1 Environments 

Digitized maintenance offers significant improvements over the pen and paper documentation methods commonly used by personnel at underground utility worksites. Utilizing augmented reality assists crew members in every phase of their work, facilitating precise location, depth, and identification as described in the example above and having immediate access to appropriate technical data. AR apps designed for planned maintenance projects may also integrate real-time data capture, online reporting, and communication between onsite and remote personnel. 

However, the danger of potential damage to underground utilities during digging, inspection, maintenance, or repair poses severe risks to workers and public safety. Most underground electrical systems are classified as Zone 1 environments in which explosions may occur. Only specialized mobile devices certified as ATEX/IECEx Zone 1-safe are permitted in these locations. A standard smartphone is not acceptable in such an environment because non-certified devices may potentially cause a spark leading to a catastrophic explosion.Aegex Technologies are Zone 1 Certified 

A state-of-the-art digital design and engineering firm, Aegex Technologies LLC offers a full array of customizable enterprise-class, industry-specific digital solutions. With our aegex10TM Intrinsically Safe Tablets, personnel can access familiar Windows10 apps, cloud services, and innovative third-party apps in even the riskiest environments (UL Class I, II, III Div 1; ATEX/IECEx Zone 1).
Utilizing aegex10's GPS function, the Virtualware Maintenance Planning AR app augments the camera's viewscreen with security and underground infrastructure graphics. This app facilitates all aspects of inspection, maintenance, and repair activities, with risk-free worksite location and identification of specific assets within complex subsurface systems, real-time data capture and reporting, and convenient communication/collaboration with onsite and remote personnel. 

Transform Your Planned Maintenance 

Precise 3D models of underground utilities significantly reduce the cost of maintenance and the risks and costs of injuries/fatalities associated with damage during digging. In the electrical utility industry, reducing long-term costs and increasing reliability are the primary objectives of planned maintenance. Now, with cutting-edge AR, Aegex Technologies can help transform your planned maintenance into digitized maintenance. If you'd like to learn more, please contact us here.