PG&E reduces wildfire risk with AI

The California utility is using high-resolution aerial photography and computer vision to enhance and accelerate asset inspections.

In 2018, a wildfire caused by a faulty electric transmission line owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) tore through Northern California's Butte County, killing 85 people and destroying nearly 19,000 buildings. In June of this year, PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson, on behalf of the utility, pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire in Butte County Superior Court.

In the wake of the fire, PG&E, which serves 5.2 million households in Northern California, set out to develop an AI technology suite that leverages computer vision to help it identify high fire-risk areas. Dubbed Sherlock Suite, the solution has helped PG&E automate inspections of its field equipment.

"The Sherlock Suite allows desktop inspectors to mark up potential equipment problems on high-resolution images, further training computer-vision models to automatically detect potential issues and adding metadata to enable searchability of these images across the enterprise," says Kunal Datta, product manager for the Sherlock Suite at PG&E.

The Sherlock Suite has earned PG&E a CIO 100 Award in IT Excellence.

Automating inspections

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