NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Hello, substation of the future.

"Right now, your substation has a lot of equipment, and that equipment has sensors, and those sensors are constantly providing updated information on operating conditions. Some condition alarms go off for relatively minor things, and sometimes they go off for very major things," said Brian Sloboda with NRECA's Business and Technology Strategies Department (BTS).

That's a problem your co-op can live without. And soon it will. BTS is working with Georgia Transmission Corporation in Tucker and other utilities to bring substations into the modern world.

"What we're doing is creating a dashboard for the operator with prioritization of the information he actually needs to make critical decisions that will improve reliability and reduce outage times associated with equipment failures," Sloboda told an NRECA Annual Meeting forum on "Tools of the Future."

"Georgia Transmission is going a step further. Using that data, they are developing algorithms that will ultimately support responses to certain substation issues automatically, so it will not require human intervention," Sloboda said, calling the work underway "fundamentally groundbreaking."

Augmented reality is another tool of the future, and it's not some toy for the kids. It's a technology that superimposes a computer image over what you're looking at. For example, wearing special glasses, you could superimpose a computer-generated picture of different chairs into your living room to see how they would look before deciding which one to purchase.

It's technology that has value for utilities.

"You can have remote help. People in different locations can work together in real time and provide help and assistance to ensure that the task is done correctly," said Venkat Banunarayanan, also with BTS. "For example, somebody back in the office or a central location can see in real time what you're seeing in the field, and provide specific and step-by-step guidance and feedback."

While it's still expensive technology, Banunarayanan said prices are coming down and the number of vendors offering products in this field and the number of users of this technology are increasing—and the advantages are significant.

"You can do tasks in much less time than before," Banunarayanan said. "There's less possibility of repeat work—you do it right the first time, and that saves a lot of time and money."