The reason for the ever growing number of images is the increase in smartphone use. Almost every network planner and maintenance inspector carries a camera in their pocket on the field. The image quality is already good, storing capacity is not an issue and sharing of the images is made easy. If, for example, an inspector visits a site, the images shot during the visit can be utilized afterwards for determining the required repair action or in something completely different like network planning. The cost savings are self-evident when something can be checked from the image data at the office and a time consuming trip onsite can be avoided.
The strength of traditional pictures is in documenting details. For example, a picture taken of the nameplate of a transformer allows the data to be recorded in the system when back at the office. Typing it in with a mobile device is risky for errors which can thus be avoided. Also a picture taken of a detail of a damaged component can aid the person working at the office to determine which kind of repair is required and the equipment necessary to fix it. The limitations of a traditional picture are met when the image fails to provide essential information to identify where it was taken or if there are not enough pictures to create an overview of the location. Most current phones however, allow taking panoramas which enable capturing the surroundings of a network object from a single point. The panoramas can offer a good overview but are not great in documenting details where the traditional pictures still hold their position.
The information provided by images is taken to another level when several panoramas from one location can be combined and enhanced with geographic information. There are already camera systems on the market which take high quality 360-degree panoramas with a push of a button. By combining and processing several of these panoramas from different locations you can get a full view of a substation and its surroundings, just to give an example. As a result, you get an experience of virtually being right there while fluently moving between imaging locations and being able to observe the surroundings around them. The most advanced devices are able to produce 3D models and point cloud data based on the imagery. With the use of photogrammetry the exact location of objects and distances between them can be measured directly from the images. This kind of data can be used, for example, to measure whether a new larger main transformer would fit to the same location as the current, or whether the truck delivering it would fit through the gates of the substation.
Extensive and diverse image and 3D material combined with network information can provide significant benefits for network asset management. Not only do they extend the coverage of the network documentation, but they can also create benefits for the use of different processes of the network company. Considerable amounts of data are already available, so the next step is to recognize the appropriate fields of application and, above all, to provide easy and efficient access to the data.
So what would be the useful fields of application for the data and how should it connect with network information? Share your ideas with us or join our 3D Asset Management seminar in Helsinki in June to discuss the topic. In the event, you will also hear about the opportunities provided by current technology for collecting asset management data.