Building a Technology BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE
Upgrading old electricity meters to smart technology for meter reading required a solution with the same features meter-reading has always demanded: accuracy, speed and the ability to work in all conditions.
Quickly find and pair a combination of customized software and rugged field tools that will allow field technicians to begin upgrading 220,000 electrical meters to smart technology across New Zealand.
Custom-configure the Con-X software platform from e-merge Data Solutions to create a streamlined workflow process for field technicians, and use the Nautiz X5 rugged handheld computer to capture and transmit data from the field in real time.
Field workers are able to work step-by-step through the meter upgrade process, delivering accurate data and producing reports in compliance with work requirements and industry regulations.
It’s a perfect example of a technology bridge between the old and the new: Wells Technical Metering Service needed to upgrade more than 200,000 old electricity meters to smart technology – but to pull this task off, they needed to send workers out into the field, just as meter-readers have previously done. To do it right, they needed a solution with the same features meter-reading has always demanded: accuracy, speed and the ability to work in all conditions.
Thanks to a combination of the powerful, configurable Con-X software platform and rugged Nautiz X5 handheld computers, Wells was able to make the best use of cutting-edge technology to perform traditional field work.
A daunting task in the field
Wells Technical Metering Service employs technicians across New Zealand installing, servicing and maintaining smart meters and advance metering infrastructures. A recent project to upgrade 220,000 electricity meters came with immense needs: Wells would need to develop a customized software solution, load it onto tools rugged enough for the task and conditions, triple the size of their field staff, and deploy workers with the assurance that they would perform tasks and collect data with the highest levels of accuracy.
And because Wells had pressing project deadlines, they needed a workable solution in about a week.
Con-X: A flexible platform that’s perfect for field activities
Wells chose the Con-X software platform from New Zealand mobility software specialists e-merge Data Solutions, based on its easy configurability and customization. Using the Con-X web tools, Wells created a meter-replacement workflow consisting of safety, quality and compliance tasks. By adding custom text boxes and dropdown lists, they were able to customize and streamline the data entry process. They also built in validation checks to ensure all necessary tasks were completed in order.
Nautiz X5: A versatile, rugged performer in all conditions
Previous experiences with consumer-level smartphones and corporate PDAs convinced Wells that a rugged device was needed. Ordinary handhelds had problems working in the rain, accumulated dust behind the screens and were easily broken when tossed into a toolbox. To address the challenges of working in the field, Wells chose the Nautiz X5, a rugged handheld with a winning combination of functional versatility, tough performance and exceptional value. The Nautiz X5 has built-in barcode scanning to reduce entry errors, a high-resolution camera for capturing photos at job sites, GPS capability, wireless connectivity to synchronize photos and in-the-field job data, a high-capacity 4400 mAh battery for long-workday performance, and an IP65 rating for ruggedness in extreme work and weather conditions. Wells ordered belt holsters for their Nautiz X5s, to make them ergonomically comfortable for field workers.
Streamlining a comprehensive work process
Using Con-X and the Nautiz X5, at each meter site Wells field technicians complete safety checks, take site photos and capture GPS information, perform electrical engineering tests, check for an adequate cell phone signal for the smart meters, and capture a signature at the completion of each job.
Because Con-X integrates with third-party databases, Wells is able to bulk-import new jobs from their client’s database and send completed job information back to it, without the client needing to make any changes. In addition, e-merge designed a suite of tailor-made field-data and quality assurance reports so Wells is able to convert all the real-time data into something both timely and useful in the real world.
Results that speak for themselves
Based on the straightforward Con-X online configuration tools and the ability to easily and quickly load the software onto the field-ready Nautiz X5, Wells was able to deploy a complete field solution in a matter of days.
Communicating critical job data and photos in real time means technicians and office staff can complete more jobs, more accurately. Technicians don’t have to return to the office each day to upload photos, and any errors they make can be identified while they’re on-site, reducing return trips. Automated electrical-test results provide accurate and meaningful data faster.
The combination of the customized software and the rugged computing tool brings peace of mind to project managers. “I can make process changes rapidly and deploy them to the field with Con-X and have the confidence that they can reliably be performed in some of the most demanding and harsh conditions with the Nautiz X5,” says David Boyle, operations manager for Wells.
Adaptability going forward
Thanks to the versatility of both Con-X and the Nautiz X5, Wells is prepared to adapt to changes going forward. Using the online Con-X tools, Wells can add, change or remove any task from the workflow on the Nautiz X5, keeping up with the most current performance, compliance or regulatory standards.