Technology is an instrument of change. It can be disruptive, enabling, subtle or timely, but recent technological leaps have affected not just research and development (R&D), but the way companies think about R&D in industries as diverse as power, mining, automation and oil & gas.
In a roundtable discussion at ABB Customer World in Houston, several technology officers shared their fears and their triumphs in the face of the continuing waves of technology advances.
“In the utility sector, we’re facing some huge changes with how we’re producing and using energy as a society,” said Terry Oliver, chief technology innovation officer at Bonneville Power Administation (BPA). “Electricity used to flow one way in the system. Now customers have photovoltaic systems, and we’re seeing two-way flows on systems that were designed for one-way flows.” To monitor the quality of these new power flows, BPA is using a technology developed in the 19th century to look at the grid 60 times a second—a significant adjustment to a technology that was used once every two seconds when first introduced.