New system warns of powerline faults before they happen

IND Technology CEO Dr Alan Wong, COO Andrew Walsh and Chairman Dr Tony Marxsen

A multi-award-winning system that predicts powerline faults before they can cause blackouts or bushfires is being scaled up for commercial release.

The predictive Early Fault Detection (EFD) system designed at RMIT University is being hailed as a game-changer for electricity network management.

Following impressive results at early sites in Australia, the US and China, Melbourne-based IND Technology will now scale up the system to deliver it more broadly after signing a commercialisation agreement with RMIT University.

Associate Professor Alan Wong, who led development of the technology at RMIT University and is now CEO of IND Technology, said it would enable more proactive and cost-effective management of electricity network assets.

“The most exciting part is this technology’s success in identifying faults that are about to happen through deterioration before they even happen–which solves the problem of reactive network maintenance once damage is already done,” he said.

Wong said the system was unlike anything else in the market due to its patented sensing method and data processing algorithm, which can even identify the precise location of expected faults down to a 10-metre section of a powerline stretching many kilometres.

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“This level of performance means electrical asset inspection every few years will soon be a thing of the past. With the EFD system, the network owners can now monitor every network asset, every second, 24/7 including during extreme weather when asset failures are likely to first appear,” he said. 

“I’m very thankful the ideas generated at RMIT will now be able to realise their full potential for social benefit globally.”

With an excellent return on investment for the cost of roll out, the system is already generating large amounts of interest locally and internationally.

RMIT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Calum Drummond said the agreement reinforced RMIT’s role in delivering high-impact solutions through research.

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“In this case, the clear benefit of this technology to communities around the world in terms of public safety and continuity of supply of an essential service is the ideal target outcome for RMIT research,” he said. 

“It is great to be able to help a local company turn it into a global success.” 

Under the agreement, RMIT University will retain rights to use the technology for research and teaching purposes.

The IND Technology senior management team is made up of leading research and industry figures.

Chairman of IND Technology and Monash University Professor Tony Marxsen recently chaired the Australian Energy Market Operator was previously lead powerline bushfire safety researcher for the state of Victoria following the Black Saturday bushfires.

IND Technology chief operating officer Andrew Walsh, an RMIT alumnus and current RMIT Executive MBA candidate, has held senior technical and commercial roles in the energy sector, including in delivering the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires.