- Mobile field data collection and inventory of field assets
- Automatic Meter Recording (AMR)
through meters equipped with wireless modems
- E-mail and instant messaging
for field technicians and project staff
- CAD applications used to dispatch
- Sending real-time
information through wireless networks on customerís orders, repair requests and existing
maintenance contracts to field staff
- Wireless network monitoring of
- Water and Waste Water Management
Utility companies are using mobile computing for
collecting and updating inventory information about field assets such as transmission
towers, transformers, etc., which is then uploaded to head office computers. Previously,
this information was brought back from field trips in paper form and only then entered
into computers. On-the-spot data entry updates information in databases more quickly,
reduces errors and improves productivity. There is a strong business case
for this application.
Gas companies are now able to send real-time service
requests to field technicians.
As well, field technicians and project staff are now able to stay in
touch with head offices through e-mail and messaging applications, while CAD applications
are used to dispatch service representatives to repair sites.
Several companies have implemented automated meter
recording through wireless networks.
AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) Application
Status - as of mid 2001
According to a press report attributed to Howard Scott of Cognyst
Consulting LLC (a utilities consulting company) as published in the
InternetWeek magazine of June 25, 2001, the number of AMR devices in
US homes increased substantially with one third of 31.3 million
homes in US having been fitted with such devices. Nicor Inc., an
Illinois-based utility will start an AMR project with 10,000
households in August 2001. If pilot is successful, it will roll it
out to two million households.
Nicor will use device technology from
NexusData. Pricing model for NexusData AMR implementation is
based on one-time cost of around $50.00 for each transmitter (as an
add-on to existing meters) plus $1.05 to $1.40 per meter per month
service charge. Other AMR device vendors are American Meter, Itron,
Schlumberger, DCSI, Hexagram, Hunt Technologies, and Innovatac.
NexusData devices are 3x5 inch boxes containing an RF device that is
integrated with existing meters that connect dials in existing
meters with corresponding dials in the NexusData device. As such,
new device can read data from old meters. In the case of Nicor
project, data will be sent by CDPD wireless network to a data center
run by NexusData as an outsourced service. NexusData can send
data collected from these meters to utilities' in-house information
systems through FTP, EDI or other data transfer mechanisms.
In a new environment of increasing energy
costs and deregulation, utilities want to analyze customer energy
usage data through data-mining techniques. AMR is the first
step in this process.
Wireless CRM and Sales Force
Automation in Utilities Industry
A more recent variation of sales
force automation is also called wireless front-end to CRM application. We
call it wireless CRM. CRM applications have certain characteristics that are
common across all industries - hence are classified under horizontal
applications. On the other hand, there are certain vertical
industry specific features that are unique to business processes of that
industry. As an example, Intersect Technology of Massachusetts, USA
has developed a modern version of Sales Force Automation application for
Customer Case Studies: A good example of a utility company exploiting mobile computing is
the New Jersey utility, PSE&G. They have saved millions of dollars by equipping
750 field-service workers with pen-based computers that send and receive information via a
wireless network. The network allows field workers to receive real-time information on
customers orders, repair requests and existing maintenance contracts. Once a job is
completed, details are entered into a pen-based computer and fed in real-time to the main
computer. The dispatch system is based on a client/server paradigm.
Other utilities (e.g. Graininge Energy in Sweden) have implemented
transmission component monitoring procedures through wireless networks. From high powered
operators can view distribution systems at many different levels, from an overall view
showing all high voltage lines to detailed views of individual transformer stations.
Boston Editions sales force has implemented e-mail from
anywhere in the metropolitan area, thereby improving efficiency and timeliness of
California Water Service (CalWater) is installing 100
Itron handheld computers equipped with radios and necessary gadgetry to
collect meter readings as you pass the unit against the meter (4Qtr 2002).
Itron, Sony (Clie) and Palm for handhelds
Toshiba Pocket PC
Pendragon Software - Utilsuite Palm-based software collects test and repair data for hydrants and valves - 700
test data can be entered into older Palm V (2MB RAM) - new
versions of Palm (Tungsten) units could handle much more.