Gas, water and electric utilities are using ultra-rugged tablets and PDAs to improve all aspects of their work, including inventory management, real-time asset monitoring, work orders, repair scheduling, safety audits and compliance reporting. With their ruggedness, powerful processing, connectivity and communication capabilities, today’s rugged computers make utility fieldwork vastly more efficient, allowing utility technicians to perform tasks in the field that previously could only be completed in an office.

City utilities departments and utility companies are using rugged handhelds to increase productivity and save time and money in a variety of areas:

Meter data collection
Meter reading technicians travel by vehicle and on foot to collect meter dial data and perform routine maintenance tasks on electric, water and gas meters. Rugged tablets and PDAs can be docked in vehicle cradles to help technicians navigate to job sites or communicate with dispatchers, then can be carried and used to collect field data and send work order status updates. Handheld computers are powerful navigation and data collection tools that feature built-in GPS, wireless broadband connectivity, cameras, and scanners for reading barcodes and RFID tags. Advanced screen technology, touchscreens and physical keypads allow workers to document utility readings in any weather condition, including bright sunlight and rain.

Utilities personnel rely on strong communication tools to convey critical data among dispatch, infrastructure assessment teams, and maintenance and repair crews. From service connection or disconnection requests to outages and disruptions, rugged handhelds produce faster responses and better communication by enabling real-time status updates, work order submissions and subscriber alerts. Rugged mobile devices keep field service workers connected over cellular broadband as well as via BT, WLAN and wired devices such as external antennas —even for gas utility techs working in remote areas.

Infrastructure GIS mapping
Rugged handhelds provide accurate GPS location data and GIS mapping for infrastructure assets such as buried water, power and gas utility lines, telephone wires and CATV cables. Technicians use these tools to easily identify, locate and maintain assets in a variety of urban, rural and remote settings. Built-in GPS, rugged design, sunlight readability and fast processing speed make it possible to view and manipulate detailed maps and visuals even in remote locations. Many handhelds also feature NFC and RFID reader capabilities that make identifying and mapping underground assets even easier and faster.

Asset lifecycle management
A large part of utility work involves managing and maintaining utility infrastructure assets — including infrastructure inspections, scheduled maintenance, damage repair, and asset inventory management. Asset lifecycle management technicians use their rugged tablets and PDAs to schedule maintenance and repair work, identify and resolve service interruptions, track equipment and vehicles, and document asset condition for safety audits and compliance reporting. Data collection and documentation are simple and quick with sunlight-readable touchscreen technology, physical keypad entry, high-resolution camera capture and scanning capabilities. Several connectivity options allow real-time asset monitoring, as well as communication and syncing with office servers, dispatch managers and inventory databases.

Customer service
Scheduling and fulfilling customer service requests has never been easier than now, thanks to technology that allows utility workers to instantly access all their critical information and communicate with stakeholders from a single device. Completing work orders, tracking vehicle locations, navigating to job sites and sending status updates with rugged mobile computers increases productivity and efficiency while improving communication throughout every stage of a technician’s workflow. Using rugged computers, utility service providers have seen massive increases in information accuracy, timeliness of work order completion, and resolution of customer satisfaction issues — all of which save time, money and resources and enhance the customer experience.

Related case studies using Handheld devices

Meter replacement
Field service technicians employed rugged computers to upgrade 220,000 electrical meters to smart technology across New Zealand. At the site of each new smart meter, 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. 

Read the full customer solution: Upgrading old electricity meters to smart technology for meter reading

Infrastructure inspections
A small U.S.A. town used rugged PDAs with custom software to monitor stormwater assets in compliance with federal environmental permit regulations, and went from performing 35 inspections per day to logging 21 inspections per hour.

Read the full customer solution: Handheld computers achieve greater efficiency for a stormwater inspection program.

Workflow enhancement
Utility field workers are working much faster and improving accuracy thanks to ultra-rugged handhelds, by eliminating the errors, lost orders and inefficiency that accompany paper recording methods and manual data entry.

Read the full customer solution: Outdoor-ready, versatile handhelds streamline the work process for utilities

Contact us to learn how rugged handhelds can enhance workflows, speed inspections, improve accuracy and boost productivity for utility fieldworkers.