Samuel Bernier, Creative Leader onepoint, visiting the field with a technician Elia
In 2017, Elia, Belgium’s electricity network operator, asked onepoint to study the benefits that virtual and mixed reality could bring in carrying out its missions.
Onepoint and the Elia Innovation Hub teams implemented a co-construction process consisting of two days of field observation, and three days of design thinking, ideation and prototyping workshops. This approach, one of onepoint’s trademarks, helped to identify and select the best project.
“The conception and creation workshop allowed us to rapidly identify a specific application for this technology. Thanks to this workshop, the functions were very quickly defined and 4 months later, we had a workable result.” explains Johan Maricq, Elia’s Innovation Project Leader.
Illustration by Tristan Tabanou, UX Onepoint Designer, as part of the workshops
Virtual reality in service of security and training
From the definition of the issue up to the proof of concept, this process called “Astronaut by onepoint”, ended in Elia choosing the Sarqa VR project.
“This innovative process relies on the empathy of our consultants, the observation of the technicians, and the understanding of their practices. This is paramount in our approach because we want to find User Centric solutions, rather than Techno-centric innovations that ultimately deliver little or no value to our clients” explains Stéphane Meunier, Partner Utilities at onepoint.
Sarqa VR allows technicians to virtually penetrate Elia’s high-voltage stations to prepare future maintenance interventions by adding the right safety beacons. The technology that was developed, combined with a virtual reality helmet, allows to ensure that safety rules are followed, to avoid conflicts with other planned or ongoing work, and to identify and then resolve any problems by visualizing them in the context of the intervention. Thanks to an “approval” mode, the technician will be able to request the approval of a safety officer regarding his plan for the on-site intervention.
“The user experience is astounding; you could really believe that you’re on site.”- Johan Maricq, Elia’s Innovation Project Leader
According to Nico Lambrechts, Elia technician, “visiting high-voltage stations through virtual reality has been a brand-new and surprisingly pleasant experience” that will “certainly help in moving forward regarding safety and the planning of maintenance interventions”. This project could also be used to train new employees at Belgium’s electricity network operator.
A “non-virtual” outcome
Virtual visit and markup before an intervention
The bold vision of Elia’s experts, designers and field technicians in the co-construction process of the project, and onepoint’s expertise allowed the conceptualization and the completion of this ambitious project that could be industrialized within Elia.