Utilities Takeaways and Trends from DistribuTECH 2020
San Antonio hosted this year’s DistribuTECH Conference from January 28th through January 30th at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Cleverly nicknamed “DistribuTexas,” this year’s innovation and excitement-filled conference was housed in the perfect setting on San Antonio’s serene River Walk.
My inaugural experience at DistribuTECH did not disappoint. The vast size of the conference and number of booths upon walking into the convention center was quite impressive, reflecting the magnitude of the Utilities industry. I had the pleasure of engaging in enlightening conversation with Olenick booth visitors around transformer setup, as well as examination of poles level and placement. One of the most interesting conversations that I had was with an attendee whose company leverages drone technology to film power lines, then uses augmented reality to overlay the lines with other features; this identifies potential problem areas in lines or meters. The conference was an inspiring environment filled with Utilities industry thought leadership, and practical examples of technology at its best.
As I mentioned, the two trends that I found most interesting were Augmented Reality and AI. DistribuTECH’s keynote speaker was a futurist from England whose speech explored the topic of AI as an ever-growing field, with immense future potential. AI in the past may have conjured mental images of HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey – but the impact that AI is positioned to have on our day to day lives goes far beyond what could have been previously imagined. The quantity of data that AI can mine in seconds is staggering, and the assets of AI are just beginning to be appreciated and integrated.
Augmented reality is similar to AI, in that we are only in the infancy of understanding its potential. Utilities groups working with the technology are discovering exactly how beneficial augmented reality can be to their work, such as its ability to trace electric lines and meters, or even lay out a digital map to the network.
DistribuTECH is also the conference to attend if you are seeking out a specific skill set; there are plenty of software companies – from established brands to start-ups – in attendance. Attendees were presented with the latest technologies from AI & Augmented Reality, to devices for affixing transformers to poles – my personal favorite was the booth across the aisle from Olenick who presented a new technology to create an electric loop without splicing the cable. DistribuTECH really had something for everyone in the energy industry.
Overall, DistribuTECH 2020 illuminated new trends in the marketplace, as well as broadened my awareness of possibilities within the energy industry. It will be interesting to watch the future of energy unfold, and to see once-futuristic concepts (as presented by the keynote speaker) materialize into reality. The Utilities industry is ever-changing, and DistribuTECH spotlighted the diligence of industry professionals to stay ahead of the technology curve. This aligns with one of Olenick’s key goals; to stay abreast of emerging trends, and to incorporate them into our business practices.