This report discusses possible technologies that may lead to increased efficiencies while lowering implementation and operational costs for deploying field crews. By utilizing commercially available tablet technology, open standards, and open source software, utilities may be able to improve data capabilities of deployed field crews with modest investment in technology.
Utilities have been investing heavily in communications and information technology (IT) infrastructure in the past several years. While strides are being made in the back office to integrate systems together and associate and analyze information from different sources, little attention has been made to the personnel in the field. The information requirements of the deployed workforce are just as critical as those in the operation center. There are vastly more personnel deployed in the field, so a low-cost but reliable solution must be developed to address these demands. Utilizing commercially available tablet technology along with leveraging the same messages being used in the back office between applications promises to fulfill these requirements.
The objective of this research was to develop a prototype tablet application to bring multiple streams of data into the field in a low-cost but reliable manner.
It was decided that a basic work management scenario would be used for the prototype development. This selection was based on the availability of some of the CIM messages that were needed as well as the general applicability of the scenario.
The iPad 2 was chosen for the initial hardware development platform. This was done due to the availability of a rich set of development tool from Apple for their hardware and operating system, iOS. Other platforms were investigated for development purposes, including Google's Android, RIM's Blackberry, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.
First, XCode—Apple’s development tools and integrated development environment—was freely available and provided a rich, mature development environment. Next, Apple's decision to limit the number of products eliminated the potential for incompatible hardware that happens when multiple products from multiple vendors are introduced. This project required a wide range of integrated sensors (GPS, magnetometer, camera, and gyroscope) to achieve the objectives of the project.
The result of this project include historical and geographical information regarding assets in the field using commercially available tablet technology. A rugged, low-cost platform was developed to also provide "real time" access to electric and gas network data and utility asset information by displaying an augmented reality view, overlaying electric and gas network information over the real-time video stream from the camera.
Applications, Value, and Use
The application described in this report is intended to demonstrate the possibilities of using commercial technology, along with open source software developed around open standards. This report would be of value to anyone in the IT, operations, or technology evaluation areas in a utility.