AI is the future for utilitiesPublished: 13/08/18
Automation and the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) within customer services has certainly made an impact on utilities. In a recent knowledge article, we explored both the benefits and concerns surrounding AI's role in customer relations. For power companies, AI also has huge potential to address the increasing complexities of managing energy requirements.
Human ingenuity and efficiencies have, until now, met the growing demands of 21st century energy use. However, managing increasingly fragmented resources and maintaining infrastructure in remote locations pose new and evolving challenges. Intelligent, automated solutions are needed to keep services running as efficiently and effectively as possible.
AI's domain is the mundane
Although in its infancy, AI is already transforming utility companies' approach to planning and undertaking network maintenance. We've previously examined how power firms use digital technology to analyse grid infrastructure, and to predict or discover faults before they become a problem. AI has the potential to further enhance this process.
In the US, GE is harnessing the power of AI to help with the dispatch element of maintenance work. Engineers were previously selected by human dispatchers, who relied upon their own understanding of an engineer's strengths and weaknesses. Today, GE is developing its own 'intelligent dispatching' solution that analyses each engineer's work history to predict which technician will be most suitable for any given task.
Give AI data and watch it learn
According to GE, "the new AI-driven suggestions will offer details that most people wouldn’t be able to remember, never mind calculate, together with all the other parameters to consider, such as a field worker’s skill set, time available and distance to the site."
Developed by ServiceMax, a software firm acquired by GE in 2016, the intelligent dispatching solution can work in tandem with Predix, GE's app development platform for the industrial Internet, which includes an Asset Performance Module that can help predict when components such as turbines or generators will next need repair. Working together, GE's analytics can take data from both the component and the engineer to learn from and inform future maintenance plans and events.
Using tech to win trust
Across the Pacific, troubled Japanese energy firm TEPCO is turning to AI, among other technologies, to help it become more efficient and regain the trust of its customers.
Globally, TEPCO is most clearly associated with the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Having lost the trust of millions of people, the company is looking to rebuild, with new technologies at the heart of its efforts.
This summer, TEPCO has launched an AI-driven pilot programme it hopes will predict maintenance events before they actually occur, reducing network downtime and providing a better service to customers. By inputting an enormous range of data - including weather, sensor and temperature data - TEPCO expects its AI software to be able to effectively predict breakdowns.
Jendev - staying on top of tech
This kind of tech-driven thinking is becoming the norm in the energy sector, as companies seek to improve their performance and keep customers onside. As a supplier of billing software to small and medium sized energy companies, Jendev is committed to staying abreast of technological advances, whether they impact directly on billing or not.
As Business Lead Stuart Murphy says, "Utilities large and small realise that the most effective way to cope with the increasing complexity of energy markets is to embrace new technologies. As a committed partner to energy firms, Jendev will always work with our customers and their tech partners to ensure energy users get the very best service at all times."B a c k t o K n o w l e d g e