The SAP Innovation Awards recognize the contributions of innovative organisations which achieve unprecedented accomplishments using SAP’s groundbreaking capabilities. The awards recognise companies that leverage those capabilities to disrupt industries and make a positive impact on society. The SAP Innovation Awards chose 25 winners from hundreds of entries worldwide, with NTT DATA’s solution for US energy giant AVANGRID’s network inspection programme winning in the Utilities category.
AVANGRID is a leading sustainable energy company that operates in 24 U.S. states, employing around 7,000 people. Part of the IBERDROLA Group, AVANGRID holds interests in electric energy, natural gas and sustainable energy, and serves approximately 3.3 million customers.
AVANGRID operates various renewable energy generation facilities across the United States, focusing mainly on wind power. The company’s traditional overhead power line inspection programs ran at one-year intervals or more, which was insufficiently frequent since equipment defects and failures can happen at any time. Ongoing inspection and reporting was required if these issues were to be identified and corrected promptly.
Additionally, while predictive maintenance was underway, it was both time-consuming and extremely labour-intensive. Any solution to automate overhead inspection would have to leverage IoT technology and deep machine learning capabilities.
NTT DATA proposed a solution which involved mounting high-resolution, digital cameras with EDGE processing technology to the client’s fleet of maintenance vehicles. The Automated Overhead Network Inspection system automatically detected physical defects in the infrastructure, gathering and processing many thousands of images as the client’s operatives drove between assignments.
As greater and greater numbers of images were processed, machine learning improved the accuracy by which defects on poles, wires and other equipment were identified.
NTT DATA’s demonstration proof-of-concept project explored the use of SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) as the basis of the solution. A centralised SAP Cloud Platform handles the training of the AI models, manages the EDGE devices and stores all the gathered information, but end-user applications can also be applied and the solution is fully integratable with other SAP systems.
With data capture, processing, AI training, analysis and classification all automated, AVANGRID’s engineers were free to carry out other duties. Single-person inspection is now possible, with the time taken for each inspection cut dramatically. Furthermore, the system even provides a percentage of certainty with each diagnosis, using a library of thousands of images as a basis for identifying physical defects.
This solution will provide a 30% increase in inspection process efficiency, 40% overall time savings and a 70% boost to quality service and reliability. There is scope for even greater improvement in these figures with further digital transformation of inspection processes; cameras may be mounted on helicopters or even drones to enable airborne inspection. The more image data the system catches, the better it diagnoses defects, and the greater value it adds to the business.
The solution is described on the SAP Innovation Awards 2022 website as “Cutting-edge Genius”. As a solution, it shows the power of innovative thinking to leverage smart technology and deliver success on a business challenge that has echoes of NTT DATA’s origins in telegraphy in Japan, over 150 years ago.