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Field Technologies Driving Efficiency

Jonathan Everett, VP- IT, Unitil Services Corp
Jonathan Everett, VP- IT, Unitil Services Corp

Jonathan Everett, VP- IT, Unitil Services Corp

Using technology to address challenges in the utility sector
You're right, expectations have risen across the board, particularly for accurate and near real time information. Utilities are meeting these challenges head on with technologies such as GIS to map all assets in the field, laptops and other technologies in vehicles to provide real time views into activities, and iPads or other tablets in the hands of inspectors to provide immediate feedback on asset condition. Meter Data Management Systems are being installed to manage customer meter readings that have grown in many cases from 12/year to 35,000/year per customer with the introduction of smart meters. Facebook and Twitter have become common outlets for customer interaction and Customer Information Systems are being replaced with systems that better support today's regulatory environments and customer expectations.

Using technology to bring in efficiency
It's hard to focus on just one example. Pushing technology out to our field employees is probably the best example of technology driving efficiencies and enhancing customer satisfaction. Through the technologies we've deployed, we can keep the information our employees need at their fingertips and we can provide our customers with timely information. For example, if a customer gets into trouble with their payments, our systems will immediately notify the field when payment has been received, preventing many unnecessary shutoff situations. The customer service representative can see the notification go out to the field and can confidently tell the customer that the shutoff activity has been cancelled.

Providing iPads to our inspectors is another good example of field technologies driving efficiencies. Detailed inspection results are received immediately, including images of any items in need of repair. The technology not only speeds repair, addressing safety concerns, but allows identification of materials required for remediation without an additional truck roll, saving both the environment and our ratepayers pocket books.

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