The energy and utility sectors have been slow adopters of advanced technologies as there’s always been reliance on traditional methods to carry out work procedures. Also, the implementation of any technology involves a large sum of capital investment, which may not be feasible for every utility company. As the power and utility sectors are starting to realize the benefits of using advanced technologies in operations
companies are adopting technologies
to improve operational efficiency and serve customers better. The use of virtual reality and augmented reality in the utility field have the potential to minimize operational costs, improve safety, and broaden the types of services provided in these industries.
Uses of virtual and augmented reality in the utility field
Augmented and virtual reality are paving the way for simplifying many processes in the utility industry. They are providing an efficient and safe working environment to utility sector employees. The following are some of the uses of virtual and augmented reality in the utility field.
- Employee training
The utility sector faces
enormous challenges in hiring a trained workforce.
Lack of technical skills, training, and experience are some of the major issues faced by hiring managers in the utility sector. Augmented and virtual reality technologies can be employed to train employees and teach them safety practices without exposing them to actual danger. Technicians can be trained to combat situations they may encounter in real at the workplace. Situations can be simulated using advanced computer software and incorporating augmented and virtual reality technologies, although virtual reality plays a more significant role in employee training as compared to augmented reality. Virtual reality headsets place the user in an immersive computer-simulated reality that mimics real-world situations. Employees can be trained effectively and efficiently on how to manage and respond to such situations.
Augmented reality technology can be used to generate 3D models using 2D diagrams of components. 3D models help technicians get a better understanding of the equipment than 2D drawings. The 3D models can also be used to view the internal components of a piece of equipment and explore its inner workings.
The use of VR and AR in the utility field can help organizations improve their efficiency as workers will be better trained and can take control of an unexpected situation quickly. This helps the company to save not only time and capital but also human life, which is more valuable than anything else. AR and VR can help improve situational awareness and the responsiveness of its employees, resulting in a better work environment. Implementing virtual and augmented reality in the utility field can help the industry improve its efficiency while saving operational costs and time.
- Inventory management
The most important use of virtual and augmented reality in the utility field is inventory management
Virtual Reality and augmented reality technologies are going to revolutionize the utility sector by assisting them in their inventory management. AR technologies can be used to superimpose digital information on the real world through a smartphone or a tablet. This information is beneficial in situations such as power outages or damage to equipment. The technicians can capture images of damaged equipment using augmented reality. The data can be used to analyze the exact location and extent of the damage. The on-site technician can request the parts required for performing the repairs. He can request for the crew with the particular skills needed for repair work. This helps save precious time as it will help carry out repairs efficiently and help the restoration of power quickly.
Another area in which virtual reality and augmented reality can be used in the utility field is during the absence of a skilled technician on site. An AR-enabled mobile device can be used to relay data to a subject matter expert who may then guide the onsite technicians without being present on site. This use case has the added benefit of helping lower the impact of a retiring workforce. It can help prevent the potential loss of institutional knowledge by hiring former field technicians in the role of virtual subject matter experts. It can also be helpful to prevent a mishap from happening in the first place. Using AR technology, technicians can determine any deterioration in the structure during routine checkups. Using overlay technology adopted by augmented reality, technicians can determine whether a particular part has deteriorated to a considerable extent. They can arrange for repairs or replacement accordingly. ERPi, Duke Energy and others have utilized virtual reality and augmented reality capabilities to provide an efficient work environment for employees.
- Data generation
Various sources provide data to augmented reality systems. The data from these devices can be analyzed to provide a better work environment for employees and consumers. One such use is a consumer mobile device. Almost all of the mobile devices today have an image and video recording capabilities. Consumers can help notify the utility company of an accident through videos and photos. The utility company can use this data to approximate the extent and location of damage, and start planning for solutions. Site managers can plan for the execution of procedures before technicians are even informed of the situation. The team can also immediately plan the necessary steps required to control the situation. This helps save precious time, as these incidents are hazardous. Social media platforms also help in notifying the utility company in case of such situations or in case of a power outage.
Another source of data is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
UAVs/UASs can generate a variety of visual, infrared, GPS, and other data.
This information can be utilized for further processing and gaining actionable insights. Virtual and augmented reality technologies can be further improved upon using various data sources. As more and more devices become capable of supporting augmented and virtual reality, they will provide new sources of data that can be utilized to improve the technology further. The use of augmented reality in the utility field will become more prevalent as better devices are developed using data from various sources.
Challenges faced in using virtual and augmented reality in the utility field
One of the major challenges faced in implementing virtual and augmented reality in the utility field is the slow adoption rate of technology by big players in this sector. Also, a number of hurdles must be overcome to implement the existing technologies in the workplace. Infrastructure barriers such as access to Wi-fi, a power source, and security needs to be resolved to implement these technologies. The technology manufacturers also face a hurdle in manufacturing devices that can easily be used by the workers. The equipment should have a simple user interface so that the technicians can easily understand the working of the instrument. Form should also be accompanied by function. The hardware of these devices should be designed in such a way that they can easily be employed at the site. Bulky, heavier devices pose problems with mobility, which is critical for devices such as UAVs. These devices should also meet the safety standards set by the companies utilizing them.
Augmented and virtual reality are set to transform the utility sector and will bring in new value to it. The implementation of augmented reality in the utility field is expected to increase the efficiency of the sector. Organizations need to develop effective strategies, allocate capital, and collaborate with experienced professionals to implement augmented and virtual reality in their organization. Leading organizations in the utility sector are implementing augmented reality and other technologies to maximize revenue. Hence, other businesses in this sector must focus on implementing augmented reality and virtual reality to keep their place in a competitive market.