How AI can support better health – for people and power systems

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Just as fitness trackers can help us look after our personal health, AI-driven analytics make it possible for businesses to manage their electrical assets more efficiently.

AI is transforming the world in many ways – including how we manage our health. In the traditional model for healthcare, regular expert consultations play a central role. We visit a doctor, perhaps on an annual basis, for a check-up where they assess our health based on measurements like blood tests and scans.

Following this, the doctor might conclude that everything’s in good order, with no specific actions needed. Alternatively, they could recommend further measures – whether that’s more diagnostics, surgery, medication or adopting healthier habits. After a set period, we’d visit again for another review.

The growing popularity of health and fitness trackers – including smart watches, rings, and other devices – changes the dynamics of this process. They mean that at any time, the wearer can quickly get an accurate reading of metrics such as their heart rate or daily steps. Information gathered by the devices can also be used to create accurate models – like whether we’re awake or asleep, our general cardiovascular health, or what kind of activity we’re doing. We can supplement this rich resource by adding our own information – for example, about what we eat or drink. And all of this can be analysed further, using statistical modelling and AI-based algorithms.

Together, these capacities for monitoring and analytics allow us to begin managing our health in a very different way. In contrast to annual doctor visits, wearable devices can provide daily personalized recommendations, based on our individual context, to encourage healthy behaviour and improve our quality of life. In doing so, they pave the way for us to make more effective use of doctors’ expertise. A fitness tracker could, for example, offer an early indication of a potential problem, prompting someone to schedule an appointment more urgently. Or it might encourage them to make lifestyle changes that reduce the need for serious medical intervention.

At Schneider Electric, data and AI are helping us improve our services in a similar way. Our customers rely on electricity to run essential assets such as factories, transport services and offices. This is provided via complex power systems involving many different electrical components. And keeping these in good condition is critical to organizations’ performance and reputation.

Until recently, these businesses have relied on routine maintenance inspections to help them look after their power systems – allowing them to identify where repairs are needed and spot potential risks. To support this process, in many cases we’ve also installed sensors on electrical equipment. Depending on the sensors used, these can collect a wide variety of data, whether that’s environmental (including temperature, humidity, and gases) operational (such as when circuits open and close, or the current switches) or electrical

(voltage and current levels, for example). Whatever is being measured, the system can generate alerts when the readings aren’t what they should be.

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Sensors installed on electrical equipment.

These approaches provide a solid basis for identifying concerns and reducing the likelihood of disruptive power failures. But they are always one step behind, reacting to issues instead of anticipating them. So, in recent years, we’ve been developing a different way of working: connecting our sensors to the cloud and developing AI-based algorithms to analyse the continuous data they provide.

Our experience in manufacturing electrical equipment gives us a deep understanding of how different components function, and the issues that can affect them. Over the past decade, we’ve drawn on this expertise to develop sophisticated ways of modelling the condition of these parts. We can now provide accurate insights on the health of our customers’ power systems through these analytics, reducing the need for manual inspections. Our AI-powered digital services, such as EcoCare*, continuously refine their assessments based on real-world data from sensors. And they distil the findings into index readings that can be understood immediately.

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Schneider Electric AI-powered Service Agent

In this way, Schneider’s predictive analytics act as a fitness tracker for our customers’ power systems – an early warning system to help them detect emerging issues and take targeted action to address them before they become severe. They allow businesses to move on from playing catch-up and keep their equipment in consistent good health.

Over the past decade, AI has helped our customers transform the way they monitor and maintain their electrical assets. As Schneider’s chief AI officer Philippe Rambach explained on a recent podcast, implementing AI-powered services means businesses are likely to experience fewer faults, extended equipment lifetime, lower maintenance costs and reduced risks for staff. As with the new dimension that fitness trackers bring to healthcare, it’s not just about having more data. It’s about different data and deeper insights – and above all, converting those insights proactively into more efficient ways of managing and maintaining power systems.

The importance of AI will grow in the coming decades as new challenges emerge. As the world moves towards net zero, we will all increasingly depend on electricity. But switching to renewable sources will make its supply more complex and intermittent. Meanwhile, growing demand and more extreme weather will put further stress on power networks. In this context, AI will be a “key enabler” in helping customers optimize their energy use and increase their sustainability.

The ongoing provision of data in near real-time from our digitized power systems means we can always be on the lookout for new anomalies and changes, ready to respond quickly as this unpredictable future unfolds. And as our technology develops, so will its uses. We’re currently exploring the opportunities that generative AI brings, for example, to develop exciting new services.

Of course, wearing a smart watch doesn’t mean we will never need a doctor. Doctors offer unique capacities – the ability to carry out a physical examination, take an X-ray or just listen – which a wearable device can’t. The fitness tracker is a tool to help both the doctor and the patient manage health more effectively. With our AI-driven services, it’s the same: the technology makes it possible for everyone to perform at their very best.

*Please verify the availability of EcoCare in your region through a local services sales representative. If EcoCare is not yet available, you can start leveraging EcoStruxure Service Plan.

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