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RFID Markers, GPS Data Track Underground Lines in India

Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd. is cutting in half the amount of time for each maintenance visit to its underground lines, thanks to UHF RFID readers built into handheld devices, along with GPS to link underground markers with a specific geographic location.
By Claire Swedberg

With RFID and GPS mapping technology, identifying the route of underground power cable networks above the ground level becomes easier. In turn, that shortens the fault-finding time period. TPDDL first mapped out 1,200 cable routes using GPS technology, then installed 1,000 RFID-tagged markers as the first phase of the project. The collected data is then linked to the existing Geographical Information System (GIS) network.

At the center of the new solution is a rugged electronic ball marker known as the RFID Ball Marker, connected to the cable splices via a cable tie during any new cable installation, or in the course of operation and maintenance activity. The sealed ball contains an active UHF 3M 1400 Series iD Ball Marker. Relevant information, such as the make of a joint, the date of installation and the joint depth, are written to the RFID Ball Marker at the time of installation, using the handheld 3M Dynatel Locator reader, known as an RFID Detector. The location data is then updated in the software by linking it to the GPS Mapper's longitude and latitude.

For maintenance personnel, the system automates the collection of data related to joint maintenance history, including the date of installation, the make and type of the joint, and the depth at which it is buried. This helps with joint health monitoring and condition-based maintenance.

When a field worker goes to the site of a particular cable, he or she first tests the cables and then captures the fault length with the use of a cable fault locating system. The person verifies the fault in the GPS mapper software in order to know the exact location of the fault point, with the help of GPS Mapper. Once the fault is located and resolved, the new joints' attributes are written to the RFID marker. Following preparation, all relevant information regarding the new joints is stored in the company's GIS database software.

To date, the company has found that the technology cuts maintenance times in half. "Shorten time length in finding the cable fault is the key benefit," Singh says. It follows, he adds, that "Time saving in finding the fault is directly linked with the reliability of power supply, as well as the customer satisfaction."

For TPDDL, the next phase will involve equipping all additional cable routes with the RFID markers. This is the first time any power-distribution company has implemented the technology in India, Singh says. "We continuously innovate," he adds, with the intention of providing "world-class services to our consumers." The GPS and RFID system, he adds, will not only ensure efficient fault location, but also ill help to improve on reliability.

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