One of the newest smart applications in the PSE&G toolbox is MEGA, and it is helping improve work processes and safety to deliver more reliable electric service to customers. MEGA stands for Mobile Electric GIS Applications and it works like Waze for drivers, except it helps field crews quickly pinpoint important location and asset information for utility equipment.
The easier it is for crews to find equipment and assess its condition, the quicker it is to make repairs and restore power. When used proactively, such as during reliability inspections, MEGA helps prevent outages before they happen.
MEGA, developed completely in-house, and based on our Geographic Information System (GIS) technology provided by ESRI, is a sophisticated tool that allows users to easily retrieve and input data that provides critical information about equipment – at the user’s fingertips.
MEGA is GPS enabled, keeping the map in sync with the user’s location. Features include turn-by-turn navigation; the ability to quickly view, query and interact with electric assets; precise data such as pole number, circuit and section, and equipment attributes; and, circuit searching capabilities.
Recently, the team has been introducing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) into the tool where users’ actions on the app in the field automatically trigger notifications to responsible groups in the office for action.
There is also a web-based dashboard, which helps even non-field personnel easily view and use real-time data entered into MEGA. The dashboard also will provide a condition score of each circuit, based on what was found and its potential impact on customer reliability. This data will help prioritize repairs and upgrades to improve reliability in the most efficient manner.
Technology Group Product Manager Steve Zinser said the MEGA team started with two people just a year ago creating the first product – a mobile app for the GIS viewer. During a presentation for the new technology, PSE&G Director for Transmission & Distribution Engineering Ed Gray immediately saw the efficiency improvements this tool could provide and asked for help using this smart tech for distribution reliability patrols. The team used the “Agile” development process to quickly build the forms to capture the data in the field and, in a short period of time, the app was ready for field trials. Since inception, MEGA is being continuously improved based on user feedback.
Improves process efficiency and planning
“This technology enables not only process efficiency in identifying and prioritizing repairs of defects on our system but also opens a new level of reliability analytics to help us make informed decisions on programs and investments,” said Gray. “In addition to reliability, we’ll be using the tool to identify, provide visibility and prioritize repairs on public safety issues as well.”
“MEGA is poised to become a vital tool for many areas of electric distribution,” added Zinser. “We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback. It really is just the simple thing of having the GIS on your phone itself, which is a huge help for people in the field who used to have to do everything using stagnant paper maps or a process that required at least three separate log-ins.”
Zinser said the app also improves employee safety, especially in rare yet potentially dangerous situations where work orders do not match the circuit data available in MEGA.
“Not only does it provide information at our fingertips it provides another layering of protection, keeping our people safe,” agreed Al Fuschetti, a principal engineer in Palisades Division who has provided useful feedback on MEGA. “As a member of our Storm Restoration Process Team, I also look forward to utilizing this technology to support and streamline processes to restore our customers more efficiently.”
Mobile app serves many purposes
MEGA is so popular that it is being expanded to serve at least a handful of new purposes including: storm damage assessment and photo collection; help with crews reporting for storm duty; Transmission inspections of specific cables in manholes, overhead foundations and towers; and, a clean energy effort to replace all existing HPS streetlights with LEDs.
MEGA was born out of PSE&G’s Utility Technologies Smart Operations Department led by Damon LoBoi. Bryan Serino, Jay DaSilva and Steve Zinser manage the suite of tools along with Cody Biondi, Ashley Goodman, Chris Marinello and Alan Lawrence.
“It’s been a word of mouth, grassroots effort that made this app keep getting bigger,” Zinser said. “We have an email that any employee can use to make a new use-case suggestion, and we’ll set up a meeting to discuss options. We’re happy to help with what, ultimately, better serves PSE&G customers.”