Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Thursday, March 4, 2021
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Utilities Turn to AI to Manage Assets, Field Operations 

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Public infrastructure operators are joining a growing list of AI technology adopters as they seek to streamline operations and better manage assets.

Among the latest is the El Paso, Texas, water utility, which this week announced plans to work with AI services vendor KloudGin Inc.

The field service and asset management provider, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., also works with other state and local water and gas utilities along with telecom providers. El Paso Water will use KloudGin’s cloud-based platform for mobile field service and “work management” tasks related to the Texas utility’s regulatory compliance efforts.

The partners said the water utility would deploy KloudGin AI-based management platform to integrate maintenance, inventory and customer information systems that, for example, can calculate excess water usage during droughts and apply penalties to water bills.

In an email exchange, KloudGin CEO Vikram Takru said the company’s AI platform is geared toward managing field services ranging from dispatching a utilities’ mobile work force and contacting contractors to “call before you dig” alerts.

“This is a toolset made for the front-line field workers who may not be up to speed on all the latest technology,” Takru said. “To workers in these industries and fields that are traditionally low-tech or no-tech, AI and machine learning sound complex, but KloudGin’s AI-powered system provides a straightforward means to monitor routes, location of equipment and directions.”

The asset management service also enables predictive and automated maintenance, including AI-based instructions that can be used to train field workers on-the-fly. “This helps increase worker productivity, safety and knowledge, and gets the right assets and workers to the right place at the right time,” Takru added.

The shift to AI-based asset management is accelerating as utilities hustle to upgrade aging infrastructure. That’s especially true for parched southwestern U.S. border cities like El Paso. According to recent reports, El Paso Water has been forced to raise water and wastewater rates. Local media also report the water utility has been disconnecting service to customers who fail to pay their water bills.

Cloud-based AI field services also address the limitations of legacy field service and asset management systems, which KloudGin’s Takru describes as “clunky, old, siloed [and] manually integrated.” Those limitations hinder field operations and modernization efforts.

KloudGin promotes its AI-based approach as a step toward improving operational efficiency via a platform that manages both assets and field workers. “We’re seeing utilities and enterprises expand rapidly with solar farms, wind farms, charging stations and energy storage,” Takru said.

“They’re going to need a platform to manage that, especially with product and manufacturing companies becoming service companies,” he added. “Everything is scheduling, route optimization, appointments and smart assets.”

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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