Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Tepco and Via project sees big data predict power problems

Steve Rogerson
July 18, 2017

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), Japan’s largest electric utility, and Via Science, a Massachusetts-based company in which Tepco owns an interest, have started a project using artificial intelligence and big data to improve maintenance of power lines by predicting problems in the lines before they happen.
If this works, it would have major implications for Tepco and utilities globally, according to Bruno Rousseau, team leader for data science at Via Science.
“All utilities would benefit from having explanations for their maintenance departments and regulators of why their assets are failing so that they can plan and invest accordingly,” he said. “We are proud to work with Tepco to build a solution with such wide reaching potential.”
An engineer at Tepco’s transmission department said that followed by improving reliability, efficiency and service for customers were always top priorities.
“But in our previous experiences using neural networks to support these efforts, we found we wanted more insight into the why behind the predictions and recommendations,” he said. “Via Science provides that transparency, which is absolutely essential to decisions that affect our customers and our assets.”
The result should be better inspection and repair plans. The data will also enable Tepco to evaluate the feasibility of reducing the cost for inspection and repair of related transmission equipment.
In carrying out the project, Via Science will leverage AI and asset data to analyse the state of degradation of aluminium-conductor steel-reinforced wires, along with the compression joint sleeves that connect the wires. The project will leverage data from installation locations, inspection history and more.
Via Science has been applying this technology to electric utilities primarily in the USA, and in November 2016 Tepco invested in Via Science with the goal of bringing that expertise to its own operations.
Tepco headquartered in Tokyo, has more than 34 subsidiaries worldwide and 32 affiliates in eight countries. It employs around 42,060 people. Consolidated revenue for the fiscal year ending March 2017 was ¥5.3tn.
Via Science creates software applications that identify and prioritise risks to critical infrastructure using a combination of computing, machine learning and causal analytics.
Tepco is to start a pilot of a compact battery storage system from UK company Moixa. The proof-of-concept trial is due to start later this year.