Need plant data? Just ask your smartphone


If a co-worker in Enel’s Global Thermal Generation Division needs to track down some piece of data on a thermoelectric plant, he or she can now simply ask their smartphone, including using voice commands. They’ll then get their answer in under second either on the screen or by voice message. 

This is made possible by the Crystal programme, which was developed by Italian startup iGenius and is now being used by Enel’s Global Thermal Generation Division. The technology’s efficiency has also been acknowledged by a prestigious award, the Prize for Innovation in services to the Energy Sector at the SMAU (Office Machines and Equipment Show), Italy’s leading information and communications technology fair. The award was accepted by Antonio Crisol Puertas, Head of Operational Performance Optimisation at Enel Global Thermal Generation, during the SMAU Live Show in Milan on 25 October. 

This means that Enel’s thermoelectric power stations are now very much part of the whole interconnected and digitalised Industry 4.0 scene. The project chimes perfectly with our vocation for constant innovation and, more especially, for technology, an area in which we are focusing specifically on digitalisation, which is revolutionising the energy world too. 

Crystal is also facilitating change in the way we do our day-to-day work. Now, in actual fact, both our operational and management staff can easily access daily plant management data (such as generation capacity, temperature and pressure levels) and functional indicators. This is something that previously would have involved a complex search on a desktop computer but can now be done by simply speaking a phrase into a cell phone regardless of where the user is. 

This improved efficiency is an answer to a specific need. In a company as large as Enel, which gathers an enormous amount of data, 80% of work time on average is spent tracking down information, evaluating its validity and then analysing it. Only the remaining 20% is left for drawing conclusions and taking suitable action. This new tool, which can process data from different databases (including non-homogeneous ones), speeds up the analysis phase, leaving staff more time to devote to decision-making activities, i.e. those which cannot be delegated to Artificial Intelligence and still need to be done by humans. 

Before being implemented, the software will be prepped using machine learning algorithms to “familiarise” it with the kind of data it will be encountering and the sort of questions our co-workers will be asking. That said, Crystal will keep learning and gradually adapt to the needs and characteristics of its users. So if, for instance, at a certain time each day, it is asked to show a certain piece of data, after a few days it will automatically do so without any explicit request being made. If the user pronounces a certain word (such as a foreign term) in a non-standard way, the programme will learn to recognise that pronunciation and not ask for the word to be repeated again.

Crystal was used initially in the Granadilla, Candelaria and Punta Grande thermoelectric power stations (in the Canary Islands) and will shortly also be extended to the rest of the Global Thermal Generation Division in nine different countries. In total, it will be made available to around 300 employees in the Group in five different languages. There is already talk of using it later on in other business lines. Because it is so versatile, Crystal can be adapted not just for different users in different languages but also operational areas with different data categories.  

The Crystal project is just one tool that our company is investing in in the area of digital technologies to help it achieve its business goals in an innovative and sustainable way. Digitalisation is an enabling factor that is allowing us to hone our workforce’s skills and make our machines more efficient. It’s a challenge that isn’t just technological, but also cultural and organisational.