SP Energy Networks has launched a new “industry-first” app that uses smart phone cameras and artificial intelligence to identify and catalogue network assets and customer devices.

The iDentify app was created in partnership with the software developer Minsait as part of an Ofgem-funded innovation project.

Users simply point their smart phone camera at the asset. The app uses artificial intelligence to identify the asset type and the phone’s geo-location to determine its whereabouts. This information is then sent back to the distribution network operator and added to its records.

SP Energy Networks (SPEN) said the app not only allows asset data to be gathered directly via its field staff but also by third parties, including installers of low-carbon technologies such as electric vehicle charging points and heat pumps. It said this information can be used to provide guidance to customers on faults they may be able to rectify themselves such as tripped switches in their fuse box.

Michael Alexander, iDentify project lead at SPEN, said: “As a key enabler to decarbonisation, we focus on modernising our network with digitalisation initiatives, and see a real opportunity for this latest innovation to enable more agile network capacity management and monitoring, with clear benefits to our customers and our network.

“Following our teams innovative work on the initial iDentify solution, we are looking to expand on the learnings so far and are now starting to collaborate with other UK based DNOs and the ENA to further develop the app capabilities, ensuring its suitability for the entire electricity network.”

“iDentify promotes the value of data as a strategic asset,” said Minsait key account manager Beatriz Batanero Rodriguez. “By means of applying AI, we generate greater efficiency in business decisions and operations, in addition to promoting the circular economy and the discovery of new business models.”

She continued: “The use of AI is one of the most significant digital transformation drivers that will allow DNOs to make better decisions as new detailed and accurate data are gathered. This technology will enable early identification of faults or anomalies in power supply network and deliver value to their customers.”

Dan Clarke, head of innovation at the Energy Networks Association (ENA), said: “Every electricity network operator is already supporting the net zero transformation so there’s a real opportunity for the iDentify app to evolve into a standardised method for all installers across the country to use when connecting low carbon technologies to the network.

“Using an automated process like this is a huge leap forward in the digitalisation of the connections process. It provides access to a more comprehensive view of the electricity network and assets connected to it, removes old manual processes and makes it more efficient for installers to deliver the net zero future the public need.”

The project received funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance.

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