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Con Edison Reduces Risk of Power Failures and Accidents via IoT Solution

The cellular-based sensor solution, provided by CNIguard and Plextek, enables the New York-based utility company to remotely monitor conditions under its manholes so it can detect problems before a power failure or a dangerous explosion can occur.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 20, 2019

Con Edison is the first utility company to deploy an Internet of Things (IoT)-based solution from CNIguard—Critical National Infrastructure and U.K. consultancy Plextek that is intended to prevent failures, damage or explosions involving underground electrical infrastructure. The system consists of approximately 4,000 wireless, cellular-based sensors installed in manholes throughout New York City, which are used to identify conditions that could potentially lead to an event such as smoke, fire or an explosion.

An underground fire or explosion, for example, could pose a risk not only to the equipment beneath a city street, but also to the safety of those on the street above. With the sensor solution, the utility company is remotely monitoring gas levels, along with temperature and voltage related to equipment in the utility's underground locations. The firm can view data regarding those conditions on a daily basis, as well as generate alerts if conditions fall outside of acceptable thresholds, says Stanley J. Lewis, Con Edison's section manager for distribution engineering.

Con Edison is deploying CNIguard's Sentir system in New York City to remotely monitor conditions under its manholes.
The utility began deploying sensors in 2017 and has since been expanding the technology to more of the company's 266,000 manhole covers. "The monitoring has been able to indicate to us that a cable or connection is in need of attention or repair," Lewis says. In this way, the technology has helped Con Edison to improve system safety and reliability.

Manhole covers provide access to workers who maintain underground equipment, such as sewer systems and electrical services, while also providing a release point for heat and gas in the event of an explosion. Although it doesn't happen often, explosions can occur, and they create the risk of a cast-iron manhole cover launching into the air, which could result in property damage or injuries.

Compromised electrical cables, under the right circumstances, can generate combustible gases that can cause such accidents. When gas is exposed to an electric arc or a short in the manhole, "You get an explosion that could be the strength of 30 sticks of dynamite," says Edward Klinger, CNIguard's CEO, "and the first thing that will go up is the manhole cover."

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