Case Study: Electric Utility Company

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Rural Electric Utility Company

A pubic utility company serving businesses, homes, schools, farms, and other establishments in a territory spanning more than 2000 square miles, much of which is rural land, uses a mobile app to gather critical in-the-field information for the installation team.

A pubic utility company serving businesses, homes, schools, farms, and other establishments in a territory spanning more than 2000 square miles, much of which is rural land, uses a mobile app to gather critical in-the-field information for the installation team.

The utility’s field service team can travel hundreds of miles within their service territory to take measurements and install markers indicating where new electrical lines will be installed.

They need to quickly and accurately get this information back to their central office. As a public utility they can’t afford costly inefficiencies, errors, and delays that would require a worker to go back onsite to collect missing information.

The Opportunity

The process of installing new electric power lines starts with laying out the location of transmission and distribution facilities. That includes sending members of their field team to take precise measurements and install markers in the exact spot where new utility poles will be installed.

Information had been collected using an expensive, hand-held GPS device along with a laptop and hand-written notes. Field workers would then travel back to the office and input their notes and upload their data to the corporate servers where it could be processed by the installation team.

However, this process created inefficiencies and risk of errors that would lead to delays. If a mistake was found, or a detail was overlooked, a member of the field team would be sent back to the site, which could be well over 100 miles away, to collect the missing information.

The utility company’s management needed a better way and looked to the mobile phones that their team already carried with them for this solution.

The challenge was that with a rural electric network that covers a geographic area spanning more than 2000 square miles, cell phone towers tend to be spaced far apart, making reliable mobile phone coverage spotty.

What Makes it Smarter

The utility company’s technical services group collaborated with Big Fish Digital to design a mobile solution that would achieve their goals – reduce errors and risk, simplify the process for their field team, and save time and money.

Big Fish designed the solution such that photos can be taken from within the mobile app and notes attached to describe the conditions.

The work order, based on that data, is then uploaded, on the spot, to the team back at the office. This enabled instant access to data collected throughout the day

One major obstacle that Big Fish overcame concerned the many “dead zones” without cell phone coverage due to the largely rural service territory.

Instead of waiting for the utility’s field team to return and enter the information manually, Big Fish designed the mobile app to recognize when Internet access at the installation site isn’t available.

In that case, the collected data is saved and uploaded to the cloud-based corporate servers as soon as the phone is back to an area receiving a data signal.

The app also includes logging GPS coordinates at the push of a button, capturing codes on all installed locator stakes, and large buttons and text that are easy to read when used outdoors.

The app is designed for Android platforms of any type, including devices that can withstand drops, rain, and dust – such as the Kyocera pictured on this page.

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