How the Internet of Things May Help Power the Future
Utility poles are the literal backbone of the electric utility industry. With an estimated 180 million or more in the nation’s power grid, it’s not hard to imagine the monumental task associated with assessing and maintaining the integrity of the U.S. power system.
Whether worrying about woodpeckers, vandals, or wind and ice storms, the responsibility to keep poles and transmission systems (Figure 1) healthy falls to a vast team of maintenance workers and inspectors, who will soon have the cloud to thank for making their jobs safer and their findings more accurate.
Utility poles are currently inspected by workers performing tests to check for damage or decay. The tests used to determine a pole’s stability and structural integrity can be time-consuming, expensive, and potentially dangerous. Today, though, with the power of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, utility companies can be more efficient with their inspections. By connecting “smart” sensors to the poles, utility companies can gather previously unavailable data, allowing for real-time decision-making to improve performance and safety.
Ameren, a large electricity and gas service provider in the Midwest, is taking advantage of the IoT trend in its partnership with Atomation, a U.S.-based company that connects assets to the internet with a flexible, robust, and scalable IoT platform. The two companies have launched a pilot program in Champaign, Illinois, that connects utility equipment to the internet, allowing Ameren to be proactive in pole maintenance and repair.
By attaching credit card-sized inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors to utility poles, all movement beyond-the-norm is monitored: left to right, up and down, and back and forth. The customized nature of the measurement is important….