100 Innovation TURNING THE LIGHTS BACK ON On February 26, 2013, thousands of Missourians woke to cold darkness. Heavy, wet snow had fallen throughout the night before, as much as 12 inches weighing down roofs, power lines and tree limbs, piling on top of snow left from a storm just the week before. Even snow plows were slipping off roads. “Just walking was hard, that snow was so heavy and deep,” a lineman later recalled. Winter Storm Rocky hit Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, based in Tipton, Missouri, particularly hard. At the peak, more than 17,000 customers had no power, representing more than half of Co-Mo’s meters. The cooperative spirit came to the forefront as co-ops in less affected areas offered their help. But the storm also underscored how technological innovations benefit the customer at the end of the line. Just months after the first iPad was released in 2010, NISC began working on mobile applications for workers in the field. AppSuite provides an array of mobile tools, including GPS, mapping software and vehicle tracking, as well as time entry, expense reporting and other functions. SmartTrack, another solution, gives dispatchers a color-coded schedule of tasks they assign. Mobile WorkForce provides an electronic version of service orders and, for telecoms, trouble tickets. “Co-Mo was able to leverage that technology to its fullest to restore power quickly to their members,” says Todd Eisenhauer, NISC Vice President for Strategy and Operations Solutions. As the magnitude of the storm became apparent, about 120 extra workers arrived from 19 other co-ops, ready to navigate still-treacherous roads, clear fallen limbs and trees and restore lines. On monitors in the control center, red dots appeared on the Outage Management System, alerting dispatchers at Co-Mo to outages even before residents called in. The dispatchers set the prior- ities and relayed crew assignments to restore power most efficiently. Being able to hand iPads to out-of-town workers enabled them to find the locations even without knowledge of local roads. Dispatchers tracked the trucks — and even brought the workers hot-cooked meals as a respite. Co-Mo also used the technology to update customers on Facebook with the number of outages remaining. The communication was reassuring. “If you know the exact number [of outages], your Members feel like you know what’s going on,” said Communications Manager John Agliata. “‘We know about you and we knew about your outage.’” When the work was done, Co-Mo pinged their smart meters to ensure that power had been restored — using an electronic signal picked up by the meters. Co-Mo CEO and General Manager Ken Johnson estimates the co-op saved at least one full day because of the technology, which meant happier customers and lower labor costs. “We were able to send people home much sooner than we otherwise would have,” he says. S H A R E D VA L U E S Members are increasingly turning to drones — such as this one being operated by Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in central Missouri — to improve the ability to perform inspections of lines and towers.