People who manage utilities typically spend far more time in offices than at substations, which can make it hard to truly understand the situation in the field and the work that needs to be done. Council Associate Partner Space-Time Insight is trying to change that by giving managers the substation experience without leaving the office.
At the recent DistribuTECH 2015 conference, Space-Time Insight demonstrated its technology, which combines big data with virtual reality (VR). During the demonstration, managers could walk through a substation to check the status of equipment and take immediate, corrective action when necessary.
Bringing data to life
The managers put on Oculus Rift VR headsets that allowed them to experience a power substation as if they were actually walking through it. Upon arriving at the front gate, they were immediately notified that there were problems inside. Once they walked past the gate, they could see exactly where the issues were.
One circuit breaker showed green gas spewing from its top. Walking over to it, participants could see that a gas leak was detected and that the pressure was very low. Dispatching a maintenance crew involved simply stretching out their arm and touching a button.
At another part of the substation, they could see that a transformer was glowing red. The problem there was low oil levels. With another tap, they could instantly dispatch a crew.
Hundreds of utility executives took part in the demonstration. Most said it made it much easier to spot problems that can be hard to see in a traditional dashboard. Many added that they had never even seen the inside of a substation before.
Delivering valuable insights
While the utility executives seemed to enjoy the ability to experience the data, Space-Time Insight says the benefits go far beyond that. It says virtual reality can help managers see insights that might be invisible on a spreadsheet.
First, as more devices are connected to the Internet of Things, it says most dashboards simply don’t have the space to show you all the data. That’s not a problem with a virtual reality environment. Your data can be as big as the world. And most worksheets and dashboards have data in three dimensions; this environment actually lets you experience that data in 3D.
There’s also something to be said for trying to bring abstract data into the real world. Putting all of that data into an immersive environment that replicates the real world makes it easier for you to see all of that information in context. That, it says, makes it easier for you to correlate and analyze information, making connections that you might not make otherwise.
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