Charlie Neagoy, VP Business Development
Librestream Technologies Inc.
The time and distance that separates expertise from turbine assets is an O&M challenge. For example, what happens when a wind tech comes across an unknown problem during a routine turbine inspection? For remote wind farms, it is important to provide quality turbine inspections and fix problems quickly.
At times, additional expert advice is needed and that can take up valuable time. A quicker answer may come from a combination of software and the Internet of things (IoT), which connects onsite and offsite personnel.
Imagine that during a routine wind-turbine inspection, a wind tech hears an odd noise coming from the gearbox. He is unsure of the cause and could use a second opinion to diagnose the problem.
He takes a few photos, completes the inspection, and later emails the photos and a description of the problem to an expert working offsite. The next step may include a few back-and forth emails, maybe a phone call, and potentially another trip up-tower with a borescope. In some situations, the expert may have to travel to the wind site to inspect the problem in person. It is a workable problem, but one that takes extra time and cost.
Fortunately, there is a quicker way. Companies in other energy and transmission industries are starting to diagnose asset and infrastructure problems faster by deploying “collaboration platforms.” Such platforms fast-forward communication efforts between onsite field personnel and offsite engineers or equipment experts. With the help of collaborative features, such as real-time audio and video, field techs virtually bring the eyes and ears of experts into the field to inspect, diagnose, and troubleshoot complex assets.
A quick answer
Now imagine our wind tech with the gearbox problem, only this time he’s equipped with live video-collaboration software that connects his footage and visuals to a remote expert. Instead of taking photos to email later on, he can work with a remote expert right on the spot.
By using a collaboration platform, such as Librestream’s Onsight, the tech simply launches the Onsight app on his smartphone, connects using cellular or wireless networks, and video calls his expert at headquarters.
Librestream is a software and tech company with the goal of helping companies collaborate on work and environments virtually. The Onsight collaborative platform connects workers in rugged environments with experts far away to rapidly respond to issues in the field. Unlike video chat or conference calling, it was built to meet rigorous security requirements and operate in low bandwidth environments.
The software can also integrate within existing workflow processes and provide a saved knowledge base that leverages expertise as part of the IoT. So when a similar problem occurs in the future, the answer is still available and only a click away.
Thanks to an easy-to-access app, the wind technician and equipment expert can initially work together on finding and fixing the gearbox problem. The two can also pass notes, virtually, and telestrate or draw on the video screen. A telestrator is a device that lets its operator draw a freehand sketch over a moving or still video image.
Now, suppose the expert in this case wants to examine the external gearbox via the tech’s video. Next, he might instruct the technician to inspect the inside of the gearbox. With proper equipment onsite, that is possible and easy.
For example, the wind tech would set up his videoscope and a specialized collaboration hub. Librestream’s Onsight 400R Collaboration Hub, for example, is an IoT device that can connect non-destructive test or visual inspection instruments, such as a videoscope, and share live visuals with offsite personnel. The wind tech can plug the videoscope into the hub, insert the scope inside the gearbox, and instantly share images and video with the expert’s smartphone or computer.
If an area is of particular concern, the expert can remotely zoom in or adjust the onscreen lighting from his own computer or smart device. He can also circle or mark areas on the screen that need attention, or capture still images to review later or to develop a recorded knowledge base.
Such collaboration platforms can connect teams from anywhere, at any time, eliminating the challenges that time and distance once imposed. As the offshore wind industry grows in the U.S., so can the reach to global equipment manufacturers.
For example, when a problem arises on an offshore turbine, a wind tech could quickly and easily connect with a manufacturer in Europe for O&M advice. This capability promises to save wind-farm owners costly travel and, most importantly, turbine downtime.