Virtual Glasses Provide Innovative Inspection Solution During Pandemic

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, TVA EnergyRight for Business and Industry has maintained a goal of providing safe, virtual inspections for project sites. Adapting to mask wearing happened early on, but another unexpected accessory proved to be helpful in stopping the spread.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, TVA EnergyRight for Business and Industry has maintained a goal of providing safe, virtual inspections for project sites. Adapting to mask wearing happened early on, but another unexpected accessory proved to be helpful in stopping the spread.

Vuzix Blade Augmented Reality Glasses integrated cutting-edge technology to audit and inspect sites, such as state buildings, while allowing team members to follow social-distancing protocols and travel restrictions. The glasses allow designated personnel to walk through a site while a TVA engineer sees their view through the glasses and remotely instructs the wearer on areas to evaluate, such as energy-efficient lighting.

“When the pandemic hit, both TVA and our customers halted in-person site visits. An important step to finalizing our energy projects is verifying that upgrades were installed to appropriate codes and standards. Since it wasn’t possible to perform this critical function in-person, our team had to get creative to find a safe, innovative and virtual method to keep our programs running and ensure participating businesses could receive their upgrade incentives,” says Chris Boehm, energy analyst for TVA EnergyRight.

Through beta-testing, the team concluded that conducting inspections via augmented reality glasses improved the customer’s experience thanks to increased communication, immediate feedback and safe, hands-free ability. The smart glasses are safety rated, and the software application allows for up to 10 remote users to see what the wearer is seeing, talk with them and even point out or circle items in the wearer’s field of vision. Documents or videos can be remotely shared too, to allow the wearer to receive instant feedback or instruction. This enabled local power companies, contractors and other stakeholders to virtually sit in on the inspection, allowing for quicker exchange on projects’ progress.

The University of Memphis was a pilot site for the use of the augmented reality glasses. The university learned of the program through their participation with EmPower TN, an organization that partners with TVA to focus specifically on providing funding for energy efficiency projects within state buildings. EmPower TN accelerates the adoption of efficient and sustainable technologies, while reducing energy costs at the state level.

The installation of improved lighting on campus not only provided the student body, staff and patrons of the university with a better sense of security, it also improved their overall quality of work life. They can now control light levels and scheduling in individual zones of the campus through a central control system. By utilizing the new glasses for the virtual inspection, TVA helps keep businesses, like the University of Memphis, operating successfully and efficiently while improving energy performance.

TVA EnergyRight for Business and Industry has loaned the glasses to other TVA business units over the past year in an effort to share the technology and methodology to aid in innovation and safety. For instance, a TVA Nuclear maintenance department borrowed a pair of glasses last year to test their effectiveness when performing maintenance with a virtual team.

In addition, the virtual inspection program offered by TVA EnergyRight was selected as an Honorable Mention recipient of the Association of Energy Services Professionals 2021 Energy Award for Resiliency.

For more information about this program, please contact Chris Boehm at cjboehm@tva.gov.