Sharper Shape: Future-Proofing Large-Scale Asset Maintenance

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Chris Beaufait, President & CEO The U.S. power grid carries electricity through more than seven million miles of transmission and distribution (T&D) lines to millions of customers. As a result, managing the risks associated with operating such large-scale distributed assets has always been a herculean task for utilities.

Staying mindful of the never-ending industry impediments, Californiaheadquartered Sharper Shape has set out to mitigate these with an automated end-to-end utility inspection process enabling effective, insight-driven digital asset and vegetation management.

The basis for either of these particularly challenging tasks is the asset registry which, for most utilities, is accomplished in their GIS system. The GIS system is a graphical database that tends to be large and frequently contains some level of inaccurate data. Sharper Shape is able to start from the utility’s GIS data, and using LiDAR point clouds – greatly improve the accuracy and reliability of it. Sharper Shape can do this using existing utility LiDAR or by collecting a LiDAR point cloud using the firm’s proprietary sensor package system.

Once Sharper Shape has the LiDAR, the team ingests the point cloud, along with any RGB, IR or hyperspectral images to create a digital twin of the utility’s T&D assets and the environment around them. In addition to providing asset management data, Sharper Shape’s analytics using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) determine the number of vegetation encroachments that violate the utility’s radial vegetation clearances. The analytics also determine any vegetation overhang issues as well as identifying which neighboring trees are danger trees – that being trees capable of falling onto T&D lines causing supply disruption or potentially damaging fire hazards.

So, in addition to providing an accurate and reliable data registry, Sharper Shape’s Digital Twin also provides a vegetation management solution. Not only this, but the technology also allows the user to view the data – LiDAR, RGB, IR, and hyperspectral of their T&D assets and the environment around them. Sharper Shape allows the user to see imagery, along with combined data from the AI/ ML insights regarding vegetation radial clearances, overhangs, and danger trees as well as certain component detections and inspections.

“We take a holistic approach to utility asset inspection with our proprietary Sharper Shape Living Digital Twin, helping utilities improve the reliability and safety of critical infrastructure,” says Chris Beaufait, President and CEO of Sharper Shape. The company is harnessing the combined power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automated aerial data collection to facilitate field planning and assignments, remote inspection, automated asset and defect identification, assessment, and reporting—empowering utilities to increase the effectiveness of preventive maintenance.

The Power of Three in One

Sharper Shape’s cutting-edge automated inspection process using the Sharper CORE real-time Living Digital Twin (LDT) acts as a three-in-one solution for utilities, providing an elevated solution to traditional 3D twin models through the integration of multiple streams of live data for real time monitoring.
It can be used as a data management system, visualization & inspection platform, and an actionable planning and reporting tool. Complete with data collection and analytics tools, the LDT is specifically designed for the digital inspection workflow, combining data from aerial (captured with drones, helicopters, satellites, or fixed wing) and ground inspections. Sharper Shape is agnostic to the data source, as long as it meets quality standards. This allows utilities that have already invested in data collection to use their datasources, while providing utilities that still need the data collected an efficient path forward.

For large data collection consisting of thousands of miles, Sharper Shape has a fleet of proprietary helicopter mounted consolidated linear inspection (CLI) tools—the Sharper Shape Heliscopes. These sensor packages allow for one helicopter pass to collect 100-megapixel imagery, hyperspectral imagery, LiDAR and IR imagery. By collecting all of the data in one helicopter flight, the total cost of the data collect is greatly reduced. All images are geotagged and linked to specific assets, making it easier for inspectors to access and interpret the data. Subsequently, Sharper CORE easily links all the data necessary to create AI-powered 3D models of all those observations derived from the captured images and applies simulation analytics. By integrating the AI-supported insights on network component issues and asset deterioration into their existing workflow, the utility inspectors are able to devise a fully prioritized asset or vegetation management plan.


Our ability to combine AI, machine learning, and human workflow through an easy-to-use interface empowers clients to reduce the risk profile of all their distributed assets


What makes Sharper CORE all the more appealing to utilities is that apart from inspecting asset health and planning maintenance operations, they can now seamlessly facilitate an organized workflow through Sharper CORE for preemptive maintenance of their assets and vegetation issues. Equipped with real-time updates on asset conditions, theinspectors can easily call the line crews or vegetation teams to go out in the field while enabling workers in the field to receive orders for site visits with custom inspection criteria. Field crews can also remotely upload images and data into Sharper CORE, expediting real-time synchronization of all completed work. In addition, utilities can make use of the data for post-maintenance audits conducted internally or by third-party auditors.

A noteworthy highlight of the cuttingedge LDT is that Sharper CORE has been built as a browser agnostic platform hosted in the cloud and can be used by anybody. This hassle-free usability of an intuitive user interface and the ability to access Sharper CORE from any browser has proved to be extremely beneficial for even notso- technologically-adept utility inspectors, helping them conduct inspections remotely, anytime, anywhere. “Our ability to combine AI, machine learning, and human workflow through an easy-touse interface empowers clients to reduce the risk profile of all their distributed assets,” affirms Beaufait.
The White-Glove Service

As a company adapting to each utility’s needs and urgencies, Sharper Shape makes sure they can successfully deploy their emergency response services whenever there is an emergency inspection request from the client. In case of fire breakouts or other unprecedented hazards, the team goes all out tasking helicopters, drones and satellites to provide the customer with near real time data.



Further illustrating the uniqueness of Sharper Shape’s service is a line of success stories that substantiate the agility with which the company serves its clients. One electric utility has tasked Sharper Shape with year after year contracts to capture risk data for 25,000 miles of transmission and distribution throughout high fire-threat regions. Using Sharper Shape’s cutting-edge LDT backed by automated algorithms, the utility identified multiple risk factors providing the utility with detailed data as well as high level management dashboards.



The Force Behind the Forces

With the company’s proprietary technology originating in Finland a decade ago, the team of experts at Sharper Shape has been enhancing their competencies through different stages of the company’s maturity. Every employee at Sharper Shape is not only well attuned with the technological knowhow for creating an advanced platform for utilities but also the ground realities of the critical infrastructure sector. The company has over 30 industry veterans with in-depth experience working in the utility sector, where they have continuously dealt with a horde of challenges that utilities face. Unifying their technological prowess and industry application expertise, the team has continued to incorporate more advanced modes of data inspection such as helicopter-based sensor packages, fixed-wing aircraft, satellites and drones, providing utilities with better planning data.

“We take a holistic approach to utility asset inspection with our Sharper Core Automated Inspection Process comprising an LDT, helping utilities improve the reliability and safety of critical infrastructure”

Just completing its Series B capital raise focused on expanding its global reach, Sharper Shape is excited to invest heavily in its LDT technology by incorporating more advanced AI tools to specifically address the prevailing asset management issues in the electric utility sector. “As we keep taking inspection automation to the next level, we will continue to be the helping hand for utilities to make better use of their data and gain a firmer control over their valuable assets so they can deliver power safely, reliably and costeffectively,” states Beaufait.

Company
Sharper Shape

Headquarters
San Jose, CA

Management
Chris Beaufait, President & CEO

Description
Sharper Shape is harnessing the combined power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automated aerial data collection to facilitate field planning and assignments, remote inspection, automated asset and defect identification, assessment, and reporting—empowering utilities to increase the effectiveness of preventive maintenance. Sharper Shape’s cutting-edge automated inspection process using the Sharper CORE real-time Living Digital Twin (LDT) acts as a three-in-one solution for utilities, providing an elevated solution to traditional 3D twin models through the integration of multiple streams of live data for real time monitoring. It can be used as a data management system, visualization & inspection platform, and an actionable planning and reporting tool.

Sharper Shape