Artificial Intelligence to drive the Smart Metering Programme

The Challenge

The Smart Metering project is a major programme of work that will see every electricity meter in Ireland being replaced with a Smart meter. In doing so this will facilitate the delivery of a range of energy services which will be central to the transition to a low carbon future. There will be 250,000 smart meter installations completed in 2020 with 500,000 installations every year from 2021-2024, a total of 2.2 million meter replacements.

ESB Networks requires 4 images to be taken of every smart meter exchange – a total of 10 million images to be checked and verified. These images are used to check and audit that the installations are completed correctly and that they are compliant with our safety procedures. The volume and speed of installations means that ESB Networks is unable to stand up enough personnel to check all the images. This task is repetitive and manually intensive and ESB developed an innovative AI technology to assist with the checking and auditing of images.

The Solution

The AI technology allows each meter replacement to be checked and validated using images from the installation and to identify images that may need to physically checked. The tool that was developed to host the Artificial Intelligence was built in the cloud, using an agile delivery approach. The AI engine is Microsoft Cognitive Services in the cloud solution and mobile applications were built to capture images from ESB smart meter installations.

In order to enable the system to distinguish between a correct installation and an installation that did not meet the standard, thousands of images were uploaded to the system to enable the software to analyse and gain artificial intelligence. The system was also “thought” how to read, identify and record digitally key pieces of information required as part of the meter exchange process.

The Benefits

As part of the meter replacement programme, meter exchange contractors working on behalf of ESB Networks simply upload images from their phone or i-Pad of the old electro-mechanical meter and the new Smart digital meter at each site. The AI platform compares each image against its library of stored images and provides a confidence level as to the level of compliance with the standards required as well as recording key pieces of information automatically from the image. This simple process dramatically reduces the manual effort involved in auditing over 2.2 million meter installations and streamlines the entire process. Over the next 5 years of the Smart metering programme over 10 million images will be processed in this way delivering multiple benefits for ESB Networks and our customers.

The Future

This is a ground-breaking digital project for ESB which will enable us to deliver more digital solutions using Artificial Intelligence tools across the business. There are many more use cases in ESB that are interested in using this technology and we expect the further development and use of AI to continue and grow over the coming years.