The future of fieldwork for the digital utility

Posted on: October 11, 2017 by Robert Buis

The whole media storm over Pokémon Go has died down a bit. A few months ago, you couldn’t step out of the house without seeing kids looking for dragons and golden eggs in shopping malls.

It never appealed to me as a pastime, but it did get me thinking about applications and augmented reality for field service workers. If you can see a giant purple chicken in a fast-food restaurant, there’s no reason why you can’t see an exploded technical diagram in a pumping station!

I lead a team of Atos GIS specialists in the Netherlands, and we are asking how we can take digital transformation to the next level for field service teams. Working closely with the Atos utility specialists, we are looking for ways to change working practices to directly address the specific challenges of the utility sector.

It’s particularly interesting to think about how by combining mobility, augmented reality and contextual information, we can augment the quality of information support for field service teams.

We’re already experimenting with Hololens glasses, for example, to bring contextual service data and documentation directly from digital archives to the point of use.

Collaborative experience

Just games are getting more social, you can apply the same gaming principles to collaboration and support for mobile service workers.

Imagine you are working, for example, on high-voltage power lines high in the mountains and you come across a problem you’ve never encountered before.

Bringing the documentation to the technician is great, but it’s now just as easy to hook-up with a remote expert able to talk you through details of the job.

These live links are particularly interesting in environments where local service team are perhaps less skilled, or where new equipment is being installed in difficult to access or politically volatile environments.

Pinpoint precision

One area in which our utility clients are particularly interested is in how best to use GIS and IoT technologies to pinpoint the location of underground pipework, and during repair, the precise location of the damage.

This has been a perennial challenge for utility field service teams, and is made even tougher by the frequency with which gas, water, electricity and communications infrastructures overlap without precise mapping.

In some countries, the Netherlands included, it is now a legal obligation to ensure that all pipework is accurately mapped using standard conventions – but there is always room for improvement.

Here too we are working to give field service and job planning teams ever-higher quality of geographical information in usable formats. This is not just about helping carry out repairs as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s also about making shared information available so that, for example, work can be coordinated efficiently between service teams and traffic control to minimize public disruption.

Digging deeper

We are keen to share practical experience in digital transformation in utilities, with a special focus on distributed network models, on new digital workplaces, analytics in customer relationships and cyber-security.

We are eager to explore the latest examples of how Atos is helping field service teams take advantage of digital transformation.

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About Robert Buis
Geo Competence Lead
Robert is a GIS specialist with a background in the utilities sector. Robert leads the Atos team of GIS scientists based in the Netherlands. The team is particularly interested in how the combination of GIS, Big GeoData, Location Analytics and IoT technologies can be applied to business process optimization, with a special focus on reducing risk and increasing productivity for the mobile workforce. Data analysis, 2D and 3D data visualization, and thematic mapping are all specialist areas of interest.