ARLU—the Right Event at the Right Time

EPRI is proud to collaborate with the AREA on the first ever Augmented Reality in Leading-Edge Utilities (ARLU) this July, where we will lead the industry to discern a disruptive technology and anticipate and solve issues through collaborative effort. In fact, ours is the only industry we know of where Augmented Reality as a disruptive innovation is being openly discussed. This isn’t going unnoticed.  Other industries are pointing at utilities and saying “Hey, look what they’re doing.”  Utilities are rarely perceived as having an active role in exciting new trends.

Three in One

The ARLU event is, in fact, three events in one.  First, it’s a meeting where EPRI and utilities industry representatives will present their Augmented Reality research and projects to vendors developing applications for the utility industry.  Vendors will see where utilities are placing emphasis in their development efforts and learn about the issues they‘re encountering.  Requirements such as size, weight and battery life of wearable technologies will be explored through the presentations, and will impart to participants a deeper understanding of the issues facing introduction of Augmented Reality in utilities.

Next, vendors will present their latest technologies for immediate feedback from industry experts. Not all technologies fit every utility situation and discussions around fit for purpose of presented technologies will be lively and informative. Finally, a workshop on gaps in existing standards will bring multiple perspectives to the problems of creating safe, comfortable and interoperable AR experiences in the utility space. 

Thought Leaders

Having subject matter experts together in one room is the one of the key objectives of this meeting. As we’ve been preparing the ARLU event, we’ve invited some of the brightest people in the utilities and utilities software industry to mix with thought leaders in Augmented Reality. We expect that the impact will last much longer than the two days in July because new ideas will emerge in the weeks and months that follow as the participants who meet in Charlotte continue to develop relationships.

We expect to capture some of the ideas these thought leaders generate and to share the outcomes of discussions with the broader community so that many others can also benefit.

Time is Right

We feel this is the right time for such a conference. Today, judging a technology for what it can do right now is the wrong way to look at it.  Advances occur almost daily and it’s better to first define what’s needed to build a future state of the technology. That’s where Augmented Reality is today. Practical applications are just now being introduced but an explosion of functionality is coming. By the time the average person notices the ubiquity of Augmented Reality, many of the issues we are going to discuss in Charlotte will already have been settled.

Wearable technologies with Augmented Reality are at a stage where real utility applications are possible. At the same time, shifting demographics at utilities are bringing in younger, less experienced workers—as older, more practiced workers are leaving. There needs to be an orchestrated “changing of the guard” where institutional knowledge, gained by years of hard work and experience, is transferred to a younger, more tech-savvy generation. The technologies presented at ARLU will deliver remote expertise and put information at the fingertips of crews composed of less seasoned individuals.

The wise man says it’s better to act on a lightning flash than wait to hear the thunder. That’s why we planned this event in 2015 and look forward to seeing many of the readers of this blog at the first ARLU event.

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