ORLANDO — Hydro One says it is using a combination of analytics and mobile technology to create “the utility worker of the future.”
This futuristic Hydro worker will be more autonomous, efficient, and certainly better informed, the company says. Hydro One is planning to create a cutting-edge mobile platform for its field workers that will give them highly visual real-time information about exactly what to expect when they get to a job site.
“We’re introducing mobile technologies to get more information into the hands of our workforce,” said Michael Winters, senior vice-president and CIO of Hydro One, speaking at SAP’s Sapphire Now conference. “A very large contigent of our employees are actually field workers throughout the province. If I can get them the information that they need to more effectively do their jobs, whether it be work history or maintenance history, or condition information on a particular asset that they need to go in and work on, it gives them more context of what they need to do and how they need to do it.”
Winters demonstrated a simulation of what the application could do on an iPad. The main screen displayed images and diagrams of a hypothetical damaged transformer site, as well as an “augmented reality” 3-D representation with alarm signs on the malfunctioning parts.
Not only will a mobile platform make field workers’ job easier, he said, but it could also increase their productivity by automatically assigning them a new task once they’ve completed the first one. For example, after a six-hour job, the system could instruct them to do another hour and a half of maintenance work on the same site.
Currently, Hydro One is running SAP from “end-to-end”, including ERP and analytics software. Hydro One’s current asset analytics system is built on top of SAP Business Objects, and Winters said it is very likely that the new system would also incorporate SAP’s in-memory HANA platform, which Hydro One has already used in a proof of concept. With an estimated 1.3 million “smart meters” transmitting information every 15 minutes, he said, HANA would be an obvious choice to process it.
“The data deluge is upon us,” Winters said. “It keeps me up at night. It’s expensive. Everyone says, ‘Ah, storage is cheap, but you know what, our data is increasing and it’s a matter of turning that data into information, into insight, into intelligence.”
Ken Tsai, director of platform marketing at SAP AG, said HANA is bringing SAP closer to many companies outside of its traditional professional services market due to its versatility and ability to create value in many different areas.
“SAP’s core has been in back-office operations,” Tsai said, “HR, finance, accounting, manufacturing planning. But if you look at some of the customers, their corpus is not accounting or planning of operations, their corpus is in design, engineering, advertising or oil exploration.
“SAP hasn’t traditionally offered any solutions in those areas. But right now, with the HANA technology, we have the opportunity to go innovate with our customers or our partners who are specialized in what we call the core business operations.”
Sapphire Now runs until May 16.