AI's role in remote monitoring rises

By Dominic Ellis
News of Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company's AI pilot program to reduce outages follows IBM and Black & Veatch announcing collaboration

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company, a subsidiary of OGE Energy Corp, has begun a pilot program that uses AI to help reduce outages caused by equipment failures.

As part of its grid enhancement program, OG&E will leverage collaborative AI-powered image recognition technology that enables engineers to complete distribution pole inspections with greater accuracy and helps to reduce manual review of images.

TRC Companies, an engineering and digitally focused consulting firm with expertise in IT/OT solutions, will provide overall program management for the pilot. eSmart Systems will provide the advanced technology used during the pilot, including a best practice called Collaborative AI, with their Grid Vision solution.

The solution is designed to analyse photographic images of distribution poles to identify defects, catalogue asset inventory and identify risk issues that need to be addressed to better maintain reliability.

The solution is expected to accelerate image analysis and improve the inspection process, while increasing efficiency, improving safety, and enhancing overall reliability. The program will initially focus on woodpecker damage as a specific use case. Woodpeckers can and do cause considerable damage to wooden distribution/power poles in a short period of time and this technology allows OG&E to better respond to deterioration and utilise a consistent approach for repairs and replacements.

"We have been excited about eSmart since hearing about them through our partnership with Energy Impact Partners (EIP). Utilising cutting-edge technology in the form of AI to inspect our distribution poles makes our electric grid smarter, improves our business processes and helps to keep the lights on for our customers," said Zac Gladhill, Director of Grid Integration and Innovation for OG&E. "We anticipate this technology will reduce the amount of time our engineers spend sifting through photographs of poles and "triaging" potential damage. We currently anticipate applying the technology to identify additional uses in our transmission and distribution network if the pilot meets performance objectives."

"Helping our clients integrate and fully leverage these types of advanced technologies is at the core of what we do in digital at TRC. The ability to utilize our expertise in grid enhancement to combine technology with solving clients' issues in new and innovative ways is just one way we are expanding capabilities for our clients," said Ryan Renner, TRC's President, Digital Solutions.

Knut Johansen, CEO of eSmart Systems, said he was excited to be partnering with OG&E and TRC to develop a solution that will help to improve the inspection process, increase efficiency, and improve safety.

IBM and Black & Veatch recently announced a collaboration to jointly market Asset Performance Management (APM) solutions, including remote monitoring technologies that combine near real-time data analytics with AI to help customers keep equipment and assets running at peak performance and reliability.

Faced with aging equipment, tightening budgets, increased regulation and rapidly changing market dynamics, operators and engineers require increased visibility into their equipment performance and asset conditions.

The companies are collaborating on solutions combining Black & Veatch Asset Management Services (AMS) and digital analytics with IBM Maximo Application Suite. 

They are also planning to expand the IBM Digital Twin Exchange using Black & Veatch's digital twin asset models. "Digital twins will be a necessary part of the industrial sector's digital future because of the detailed understanding they provide and expert analysis they enable for complex assets," said Dave Brill, Vice President and Director of Asset Management Services with Black & Veatch.

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