Utility companies are required to inspect their grid on a regular maintenance cycle. Traditionally this work would be done by walking along, or flying helicopters over the power grid. Inspection and maintenance of power lines used to be tremendous and tedious work, not to mention extremely dangerous.

Even though most utility companies have moved over to image-based inspection, they have trouble sorting through the vast amounts of images. It is estimated that one expert can sort through 50 000 images per year.

Thanks to a Norwegian tech company, eSmart Systems, based in Halden, Norway, this tedious job can now be done faster, more accurate, more cost effective and a lot safer.

Images are imported into their software, Grid Vision, which uses collaborative artificial intelligence (AI) to detect faults in components. eSmart Systems estimate their solution can help utilities companies save inspection costs by 40 per cent.

In stress tests, eSmart Systems have been able to process 180 000 images an hour, more than three times the amount of what a human is capable of processing in a whole year!

Our solutions help utilities thrive in an evolving landscape and optimize infrastructure inspections to reach better decisions quicker and at a lower cost.

Erik Åsberg
CTO, eSmart Systems

More precise defect detection

Åsberg ensures that Grid Vision is not created to make the detection experts redundant. The approach used in Grid Vision is Collaborative-AI, where the expert’s feedback on the recommendations made by the AI to raise the quality of their work, and free up time, that they can use to improve their service to their customers.

–  As the experts work with the AI, it learns, gets smarter and even more precise. With faster image processing, the utilities can detect defects earlier and resolve any issues before they become a problem. The experts can even move their attention to predictive maintenance, says Åsberg. 

eSmart Systems has one of the largest qualified data sets in the world. They have expanded their suite of solutions to create synthetic images. In graphic engines like Unreal, they create 3D models of digital components and add faults to give the AI more data to learn from.

– The utilities get more objective inspections and a better foundation to plan their maintenance budgets. Deeper insight and better documentation in the infrastructure can really make a difference ahead of the wildfire season for example, says Åsberg.

Industrial scale through the cloud

eSmart Systems currently serve utility companies across Europe and North America and have helped inspect more than 100 000 kilometers of transmission and distribution overhead lines and analyzed more than 3 million images. All because their solutions are built with the purpose of being scalable in Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure.  

eSmart Systems is a certified independent software vendor (ISV) partner with Microsoft. The entire solution is hosted in Azure.

– Our solution was born in Azure. We have never owned a server on our own. On a technical level, Microsoft and Azure has been totally crucial for our ability to scale, Åsberg explains.

The partnership has been fruitful on a commercial level as well.

– All our leads are generated through Microsoft’s ecosystem. It can be difficult for a small company from Norway to get the contracts with enormous utility companies on our own. The path to a meeting is much shorter when it is a technology giant like Microsoft that makes the call, says Åsberg.

Industry lead for power and utilities in Microsoft Norway, Tor Inge Åsen, underlines that the partnership is mutually beneficial.

– While we can supplement eSmart Systems thanks to our brand, they validate us in an industry where we have no solutions that are directly applicable as well. They give us a way into a vertical we would’ve struggled to get a foothold in without a partner with expertise in the field, Åsen confirms.

Tor Inge Åsen, Industry Lead Power & Utilities at Microsoft, Erik Åsberg, CTO at eSmart Systems and Vibeke Nordlie, Partner Development Manager at Microsoft.

A solution for the future

The energy grid is the largest asset in the world, and a necessity if our society is to have any chance of making the green shift into a more electrified world.

– Our software will play a huge part in how utilities will prioritize investments. Maybe they can even defer infrastructure investments and focus on high-risk assets only, because they will be in more control over the maintenance needs. This gives eSmart Systems a higher purpose, and makes our job more meaningful, says Åsberg.

Contact us today and see how Grid Vision is transforming the way the world’s leading energy providers inspect and maintain critical infrastructure.

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