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Using a digital data collection platform for pole inspections can prevent tragedies

March 19, 2024

Securing the integrity of the electrical grid is a paramount task that begins with rigorous inspections of utility poles. These pole inspections are critical for preventing service interruptions and averting disasters. The devastating Smokehouse Creek fire in Texas this February, the largest in the state’s history, starkly demonstrates the consequences of neglect. Affected homeowners allege that Xcel Energy failed to properly inspect and maintain a wooden utility pole, which ultimately splintered and snapped at the base. The utility has not specified the exact cause of the fire, but does concede that it was sparked by a failure in its infrastructure.

This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for advancements in pole inspection methods. The utility sector’s pivot towards digital innovations – digital data collection platforms, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) – is not merely a reaction but a strategic move to prevent future calamities. By enhancing precision, efficiency, and collaboration in inspection processes, these technologies empower utilities to proactively identify and rectify vulnerabilities, thereby safeguarding the grid and ensuring the safety and well-being of communities.

This emphasis on technological advancement paves the way for a critical discussion on the role of digital technologies in transforming utility pole inspections and enhancing grid security.

Digital data collection platforms

Digital data collection platforms stand at the forefront of revolutionizing utility pole inspections by providing several practical benefits, such as:

  • Streamlined data integration and analysis. By enabling the seamless incorporation of visual data and ensuring mandatory fields are completed, digital platforms facilitate informed decision-making and comprehensive assessments. Inspectors are empowered to efficiently capture crucial information, significantly reducing the risk of oversight.
  • Enhanced accessibility and collaboration. Centralizing data within a shared system allows stakeholders, including field technicians, engineers, and management, to access and collaborate on inspection records in real-time. This anytime, anywhere access promotes alignment across teams and speeds up decision-making processes.
  • Efficient workflow management. The platforms streamline task assignments and progress tracking, enabling swift action based on inspection outcomes. Automated workflows ensure maintenance needs are promptly addressed, enhancing asset reliability, and reducing downtime.
A man performing a digital data collection inspection of a utility pole

These features not only enhance pole inspection accuracy and efficiency but also strengthen utilities’ proactive maintenance. Additionally, by leveraging digital data collection platforms, utilities can anticipate and mitigate potential issues before they escalate. This consequently ensures the resilience and longevity of the electrical grid infrastructure.

GIS and AI for deeper insights

GIS and AI further advance inspection processes by offering spatial and predictive insights. Geospatial information technology enables utilities to visualize the geographic distribution of infrastructure, facilitating strategic planning and maintenance prioritization. Simultaneously, AI algorithms enhance this process by automatically analyzing images and data, identifying potential issues before they become problematic. This synergistic relationship between GIS and digital data platforms exemplifies how layered technologies can create a more resilient and efficient inspection process.

IoT for continuous monitoring

Further enriching this FieldTech ecosystem, the Internet of Things (IoT) brings the dimension of real-time monitoring into play. IoT sensors attached to electrical infrastructure constantly send data about their status. This allows for quick identification and response to issues. This capability lets utilities take a proactive approach to managing infrastructure. They use the accuracy and analysis from digital data platforms, and the spatial and predictive analytics of GIS and AI.


Integrating digital data collection platforms, GIS, AI, and IoT equips electric utilities with a comprehensive toolkit for advanced infrastructure maintenance. This comprehensive strategy guarantees both operational excellence and public safety. It also readies the electrical grid for the challenges of a changing energy landscape. Looking ahead, embracing these advanced technologies is crucial for preventing disasters and ensuring a dependable electrical grid.

Digital transformation starts with Fulcrum

Kickstart your digital transformation with Fulcrum! Say goodbye to outdated methods and embrace cutting-edge field data collection and process management for utility pole inspections, vegetation management, and more. With Fulcrum’s seamless integration of GIS, AI, and IoT technologies, electrical utilities can enhance operational efficiency while fortifying grid resilience. Ready to see it in action? Contact us now for a free, personalized demo!