In the latest of our Q&As with the innovators selected for Energy Australia’s inaugural Startupbootcamp program, we talk to Oleg Roizman, managing director of IntellPower. Using sensors and software, Roizman’s company hopes to revolutionise the way power companies maintain their distribution infrastructure.
In broad terms, what are you trying to achieve?
We’re on a mission to change the way energy-distribution businesses – the ones who own poles and wires and cables – operate and manage their assets. We provide an intelligent diagnostic platform enabling electrical utilities to, number one, prevent failures well before they happen; number two, lower maintenance costs; number three, extend the life of assets; and finally, to boost hosting capacity for renewable generation. We have a deep understanding of how electrical equipment works and why it fails.
What’s the problem with the way these distribution businesses currently manage and maintain their assets?
Simply, it’s out of date. Many of these companies are still working the way they worked 80 years ago. It’s called time-based maintenance: on a regular basis – say, once or twice a year – you go and inspect your asset, and fix problems at that time. But we want to know about failures in a timelier fashion and to a deeper extent. The only possibility for that is to install sensors. Every transformer, every power line, every cable should have sensors measuring voltages, power, temperatures, pressure and so on.
Let’s talk about cost. Will companies get a return on their investment if they install all these sensors?
Absolutely. Let me put it into perspective: the average life of a transformer in the Australian grid is currently 30 years, but with our technology we can double its life expectancy. There’s also the benefit of failure prevention: these sensors can help prevent a loss of supply and therefore maintain revenue for the power companies.
Still, this sounds like a significant upfront cost for an uncertain return. What are you saying to energy-infrastructure companies around the world to convince them?
We believe the future will be digital, not manual. And it will be smart. Today, everyone uses smartphones, but 10 years ago there was resistance to them because they were expensive, and their value hadn’t been demonstrated. We believe the methods we’re promoting will become common in the energy sector in the very near future, and it’s up to individual companies not to get left behind.
You’ve apparently been a very enthusiastic contributor to the Startupbootcamp [SBC] accelerator program. What do you think makes it special?
I see SBC not simply as an accelerator but as a community of like-minded people who become a family by the Demo Day. And, in my view, it makes the impossible possible. Something that you don’t believe you can do is not only doable but achievable in a very short period of time. SBC is an ABC of life where persistence and perseverance pave the path to success.
That’s a very neat way of putting it.
Oh, thank you! That’s my SBC phrase: I always say that to people.