Innovation in sustainable utility infrastructure with Bentley Systems' Cyndi Smith

Cyndi Smith, utilities and communications solutions executive at Bentley Systems, discusses innovative pipeline infrastructure solutions, the virtues of app technology and the prevalence of BYOD (bring your own device).

Innovation in sustainable utility infrastructure with Bentley Systems' Cyndi Smith

Cyndi Smith is responsible for establishing Bentley's solution strategy for Energy Transmission and Distribution Networks and Communications Networks.

Based in Tulsa Oklahoma, US, she has many years' experience in the oil and gas industry and has previously worked for Intergraph, Amoco and Conocophillips.

Heidi Vella caught up with her at Bentley Systems' annual Year in Infrastructure 2013 conference in London last week.

Heidi Vella: What challenges currently face utility pipeline infrastructure?

Cyndi Smith: The diverse pipeline industry faces a broad range of challenges, with perhaps the most challenging being the ever increasing level of regulations, particularly in North America.

However, I think the same requirement and capability applies across the board in the pipeline industry. The gathering systems, which gather the gas or the oil into the process plants and then pass it along the transmission lines, which take it out to distribution systems, all have essentially the same problems; they are all dealing with corrosion problems, equipment wearing out, and the need to perform risk based inspections and perform condition based maintenance - and you see similar requirements in other industries, such as the power delivery industry.

HV: How do Bentley's products aid the building and designing of pipeline structure?

CS: A significant part of our pipeline market share is on the plant design side of the industry, so pipeline companies are using our plant design products (OpenPlant and AutoPLANT) for the design of process plants, pumping and compressor stations. In fact, our Be Inspired award winner in the transmission and distribution category last year was a company in Oklahoma City, Enogex, for achieving a high return on investment for compressor station design with our AutoPLANT product line. Enogex achieved an 85% increase in productivity with AutoPLANT.

Our Bentley Map products, as well as our civil products, are used by design firms and owners in the pipeline industry for mapping the corridor and the civil products in the process of actually designing the pipeline, so we do a combination of things. Our AssetWise offerings are also used on the operations side of the industry.

HV: Does Bentley have software designed to deal specifically with disaster management?

CS: We don't specifically have disaster management software in my industries [electric and gas utilities, pipelines and communications]. However, our geospatial applications are often used to aid in disaster recovery. A good example is one of our 2011 Be Inspired finalists, Rainbow Design, where our communications products were used in the recovery on April 27 2011 of an F5 tornado that cut a half-mile-wide, five-mile-long path of destruction through Tuscaloosa, Alabama [US].

Some of Bentley's software offerings are keeping track of the individual assets and detailed information about them which will support a disaster management process. Sometimes, in the infrastructure world, companies create drawings at design and construction time but do not necessarily keep them up to date over the lifecycle of the asset. Bentley's AssetWise software allows owners to track the changes that occur on the asset over the life of the asset, and that is essential in supporting a disaster management process.

HV: Tell us about Bentley's mobile app technology.

CS: In the utilities industry our mobile apps can enable a field technician to go into the field and have all the information they would normally be lugging around in a paper map book on a tablet or other mobile device.

They are also able to interrogate that information in the field as well as capture additional information about the condition of the asset or other relevant information. Our apps are ideal for inspections; but can also used for analysis and diagnosing problems in the field.

If you're considering a facility such as an electric substation or a gas compressor station, where information tends to be more 3D model and drawing-based instead of map-based, our apps allow users remote access to ProjectWise and the ability to browse, interrogate and mark up models and drawings in the field, as well as capture information in forms based inspection applications.

Another thing we are doing in this area is offering a software development kit and the opportunity for companies to join a programme and develop their own apps. We are seeing a lot of interest from consultants and from owners who are interested in doing that. The world is truly changing, virtually everybody has a mobile device these days and field workers are no exception.

HV: So, would you say it's a growing trend in the industry?

CS: There is a lot of talk about BYOD (bring your own device) and somebody asked me about that the other day and I said I wasn't sure if utilities are going to want somebody's personal device accessing their systems and data. Perhaps some will not.

However, I was at a relatively large public utility meeting a week later and I asked them what they thought about it and they indicated they were already allowing it.

So it does definitely seem to be a growing trend. The public utility indicated that a lot of the applications their workers need to use so they can be more efficient can be accessed from a mobile device, and for certain types of workers they're able to buy them tablets, but for those for which budget does not permit supplying them, they will allow them to bring their own devices to work.

HV: Does Bentley take inspiration from the Be Inspired Awards finalists, who have been identified as utilising Bentley's technology in innovative ways?

CS: Absolutely, however, I think we take inspiration from our users across the board. Not necessarily just the users that get to come to this event [Be Inspired Awards] and win awards for innovative projects. One of my jobs is to specifically deal with users as much as possible, so I look across our product lines in the energy world and try to determine if we 'are we actually doing the right thing?' I try to ensure we are taking inspiration from our user base. We wouldn't be doing the right things if we didn't would we?

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