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Duquesne Light Company

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Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection

Solutions for monitoring the health of Paper-insulated and Solid Dielectric based cables for underground electrical networks

This challenge is closed

stage:
Phase 2: Proof of Concept – Prototype Demonstration - June 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023
prize:
$750,000

This challenge is closed

Overview

Challenge Overview

Duquesne Light Company ("DLC") is launching the $750,000 "Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection." This exciting challenge is looking for solutions for monitoring the health of Paper-Insulated (PILC), Solid Dielectric (EPR), and systems with a combination of both cable types to enable proactive maintenance of DLC's underground electrical network and provide an ever-safer environment for customers, employees, and the public.  In addition to the prize money, winners will work with DLC on a contract to deploy the technology across an underground electrical grid. 

 

Challenge Overview 

With hundreds of millions of miles of electrical cables worldwide buried beneath our feet, the need to maintain and look after this critical infrastructure is essential to our daily lives. 

As the cables age, it is important to monitor these cables to allow for proactive maintenance and provide a safe environment for those who work to ensure we have the electrical power needed for today's connected society.  

The Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge seeks novel solutions to monitor and detect precursors to failure in underground Medium Voltage Power Cables.  The challenge focuses specifically on monitoring the health of Paper-Insulated (PILC) and Solid Dielectric (EPR) based cables and applications when both types are used and spliced together. 

 

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Image 1: Example of Manhole to be Monitored 

 

We welcome entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, students, and anyone eager to contribute to jump into this challenge and to find a solution.  

The challenge will have three (3) phases over 24 months. Anyone can participate in Phase 1; participation in Phases 2 and 3 are by invitation only. 

In Phase 1, solvers will have to submit technical proposals describing their solution to monitoring Medium Voltage Power Cables. Up to five (5) semi-finalists will receive $10,000 prize money and be invited to Phase 2. 

In Phase 2, up to five (5) semi-finalists chosen in Phase 1 will develop a prototype version of their solution. Each semi-finalist will receive an additional $50,000 to support solution development. Semi-finalists will have nine (9) months to build their prototypes and submit testing data. Up to two (2) finalists will receive $100,000 and be invited to Phase 3. 

In Phase 3, up to two (2) finalists from Phase 2 will be invited to install their solution on a live circuit, and one (1) winner will receive $250,000 and the opportunity for a potential contract to demonstrate their solution across an extensive underground electrical grid.  

Click the Guidelines Tab to learn more about this challenge and help us by joining the Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection. 

 

About Duquesne Light Company  

Duquesne Light Company (DLC) is committed to more than keeping the lights on; we power the moments in our customers’ lives. As a next-generation energy company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, DLC’s 1,700-plus employees are dedicated to providing safe, reliable, resilient and affordable power to more than 600,000 customers across southwestern Pennsylvania, including the City of Pittsburgh. To learn more, visit DuquesneLight.com.

Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines

The $750,000 Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge aims to develop novel solutions to monitor and detect precursors to failure in DLC’s underground Medium Voltage Power Cables (23kV, 12kV, 4kV). The challenge focuses specifically on monitoring the health of Paper-Insulated (PILC) and Solid Dielectric (EPR) based cables, and applications where both types are used and spliced together.   

Existing commercially-available cable monitoring technologies are not focused on underground PILC cables. Available monitoring requires cables to be taken out of service or requires complex expensive equipment to be installed, which is usually for one-off testing and not for regular monitoring of many cables or circuits. The damage when an electrical cable fails can cost time and resources to fix and can impact end-users.  

Cable monitoring equipment is advancing around the world, and the use of technological solutions to monitor and detect precursors to failure in underground Medium Voltage Power Cables is critical to allow them to stay in service for longer and with less chance of interruption of power to the end-users.  

 

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Image 3: Example of Cable (and splice) to be Monitored 

This challenge aims to focus technical solution providers on non-destructive and non-intrusive types of monitoring PILC and EPR based cables, supporting their continued use. 

 

Challenge Structure and Timeline 

The challenge will have three (3) phases over 24 months. Anyone can participate in Phase 1; participation in Phases 2 and 3 are by invitation only. 

There is an expectation that the solution submitted will be implementable at laboratory scale by the end of Phase 2 and able to be deployed for Phase 3 trial period. 

 

Phase 1: Ideation – Concept & Initial Design  

Launch 14th December 2021 – Submission Deadline 15th March 2022 

Solvers will have three (3) months after the challenge launch to submit technical proposals describing their solution, including expected performance on effectiveness criteria, durability, maintenance requirements, installation requirements, and the approximate cost.  

Solvers must submit the detailed technical proposals online, after which a judging panel will evaluate the solutions and determine the semi-finalist(s). Up to five (5) semi-finalists will be selected to receive $10,000 prize money and invited to participate in Phase 2 and develop a prototype version of their solution. 

 

Phase 2: Proof of Concept – Prototype Demonstration 

Launch June 1st 2022 to January 31st 2023 

The semi-finalists selected in Phase 1 will have nine (9) months to build and test their prototypes. Each semi-finalist will receive $50,000 (split into two payments) to support their Phase 2 effort. Samples of the PILC cable used by DLC will be sent to semi-finalists for their own testing. Semi-finalists will need to submit their testing procedure in advance, including how the tests will generate the precursors required in the technical requirements. Once the test plan is accepted and confirmed, the participants will need to complete the development of their prototypes and all the tests on their equipment at their test location. Up to ten (10) hours of subject matter expert time from DLC will be provided during the Phase 2 process. 

Following the submission of the technical design and the test results in Phase 2, a judging panel will evaluate the results and determine the finalist(s). Up to two (2) finalists will receive $100,000 and be invited to Phase 3. 

 

Phase 3: Live Field Testing – Pilot Deployment  

 May 2023 – November 2023 

Up to two (2) finalists will be invited to install their solution to monitor a live circuit in the DLC grid or other appropriate location for an agreed period (min 90 days).  Finalists will need to submit in advance the proposed installation procedure. Once the procedure has been accepted and confirmed, the finalists will work with DLC to complete the installation and monitoring.  The solution output will then be monitored and documented. DLC will work with the finalists to share the results of the testing with a wide audience in their industrial partners including other electrical utilities.  

The judging panel will evaluate the solutions, and one (1) winner will receive $250,000 and the chance of a contract to install their solution across an extensive underground electrical grid. The winner is expected to be announced in December 2023. 

 

Phase Submission Timeline Judging and Award Prize Amounts Total Prize Amount 
One (1) Launch 14th December 2021 – Submission Deadline 15th March 2022   

Judging 16th March to 30th May 2022  

Award announcement – 31st May 2022 

$10,000 *5 $50,000 
Two (2) Launch 1st June 2022 - Submission Deadline 31st January 2023   

Judging – 31st January 2023 to 15th March 2023  

Award announcement – 31st March 2023 

(Support $50,000*5) $100,000 * 2 $450,000 
Three (3) May 2023 – November 2023   

Judging – November 2023   

Award announcement – December 2023 

$250,000 $250,000 
     
Total    $750,000 

 

Technical Requirements of the Challenge 

Please review the detailed technical requirements before submitting your solution in the Technical Requirements tab.  

If you have any questions or queries, please post in the challenge forum

Below are the areas that the technical requirements cover: 

  1. Cable Type Information
    This covers the types of cables we need the solution to work with.
  2. Circuit Information
    This covers the information on the circuits the solution needs to work with, including voltages.
  3. Cable Access Environment 
    This covers the environment that the solution needs to work with.
  4. Monitoring Technology
    This covers the types of monitoring technology and what the monitoring needs to be able to detect.
  5. Usability of Solution 
    This covers the installation and day to day management of the solution, including how will frontline staff collect and use the information from the solution.
  6. Costs of Solution
    This covers the way the costs will need to be presented for the solution.
  7. IP Management 
    This covers what information and certification will need to be provided about IP.

Intellectual Property Rights 

Innovators who are awarded a prize for their Phase 1 submission must agree to grant DLC a royalty-free license for any information included in the submission. The terms of this license are available in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.  

It is DLC's preference that innovators commercialize their own technology and make it available to DLC through a commercial contract, or other terms.  

Nonetheless, DLC may seek a license to intellectual property contained within either Phase 2 or 3 winning submissions.  These licenses ensure the DLC has access to further develop the technologies if they are not further developed by the participants/innovators themselves.  

 

How do I win? 

To be eligible for an award, you must: 

  • Submit all elements described in the Submission Form sections below by the applicable deadlines
  • Meet or exceed the Minimum Score in each Phase, as described below
  • Address all the Judging Criteria described below
  • Rank higher than your competitors!

 

Phase 1 Submission Form 

All elements of the Phase 1 submission must be completed and submitted by the deadline: 15th March 2022. 

1. Proposal title: Title for the technical proposal that may be displayed on the challenge website or in promotional materials. (max 300 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

2. Video Elevator Pitch: Brief and compelling video pitch to the judging panel describing the:

  • technical approach
  • how/why the approach is better than current technologies
  • where did the solution originate from

(Max five (5) minutes in length. Please upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo and then copy the link into the submission form)

3. Team: Provide the relevant experience of the team and the laboratory the team has access to support the development of the solution (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

4. Explanation of the Solution: Narrative explanation of the monitoring solution (design and operational process), detailing where the solution has evolved from and what is different about the solution from what is currently on the market, please include:

  • Information on the type of technology
  • What precursors it will be able to monitor for
  • Any limitations in the solution
  • Safety benefits of solution

(max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

5. Usability of the Solution: Narrative description of the useability of the solution, including:

  • How the solution will present its output
  • What level of training will need to be provided to the operators 

(max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

6. Maintenance Requirements of the Solution: Narrative description and supporting documentation describing the maintenance required after the solution is installed, including:

  • Annual maintenance required (if any)
  • Please detail the lifetime of the solution including maintenance and service requirements
  • Any specialized expertise or tools needed to conduct maintenance at any point over the lifetime of the solution

(max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

7. Installation of the Solution: Narrative description of how the solution would be installed, including:

  • Installation on the cable including within:
    • Multi-cable manhole.
    • Site with high groundwater.
  • How the solution can be installed while the cable is operating.
  • How the solution will be powered.
  • How the solution will communicate.
  • Estimated duration of installation for the different cable types.

(max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

8. Cost of the Solution: Narrative description of the expected costs over the lifetime of your solution. Be sure to include a discussion of major cost elements including installation and maintenance. Include all costs such as materials, licensing, and labour. If you are unable to provide an informed estimate for any or all cost elements, please provide a discussion of the potential costs and associated uncertainty.

(max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

9. Development Plan: Narrative description and support documentation relating to the:

  • Current maturity of the solution.
  • Plan for developing the technology to sufficient maturity for testing in Phase Two.
  • Risk assessment of technical and other factors and proposed mitigation strategy.
  • Description of any anticipated challenges with testing the prototype.

(max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

 

Phase 1 Judging Criteria 

In Phase 1, solvers will be judged on the submission elements described above.  

The judging panel will consider how well each submission element addresses the goals of the challenge (as described in the Technical Requirements section of these guidelines) and the completeness and credibility of each element. Solvers will receive up to a maximum score for each element, as described below.  

To be eligible for a prize purse, solvers must meet or exceed a Minimum Score of 60 points

Element  

Maximum Points  

(100 total) 

Elevator Pitch 
Team  10 
Explanation of the Solution 35 
Usability of the Solution 20 
Maintenance Requirements of the Solution 
Installation of the Solution 
Costs 
Development Plan 15 

 

Phase 2  

At the start of Phase 2  

  1. Phase 2 – Test Plan: Detailed explanation on how precursors to each fault type will be generated in the testing process and how the solution should detect each type and what the output will be. (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  2. Phase 2 Mid-Point Milestone: Description of a proposed technical milestone for the Phase 2 mid-point (31st July 2022). The second instalment of Phase 2 support money will be issued at the Phase 2 mid-point upon successful completion of a mutually agreed-upon technical milestone. (max 2,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

 

Phase 2 Submission Form 

1. Video of Testing Process and Output:  Video of parts of the testing and output of the solution and how the data is presented

  • Please upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo and then copy the link into the submission form

2. Output of the Testing: Narrative description of the output of the testing of the prototype including the: 1) successes and failures of the prototype (if any); 2) any limitations in the solution (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

3. Test Results: Data and output including your analysis of the results of the testing

  • Please upload a zip file of the results, no files upload should require specialist software to view the results or data

4. Update on the Solution: Provide an updated narrative description of the monitoring solution (design and operational process), including any modification that occurred prior to or during the testing and the rational for the modifications. (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

5. Update on Installation Procedure: An updated narrative description of how the solution would be installed for Phase 3, including:

  • Installation on the cable including within:
    • Multi-cable manhole.
    • Site with high groundwater.
  • How the solution can be installed while the cable is operating.
  • Estimated duration of installation for the different cable types.

(max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

6. Update on the Maintenance Requirements: An updated narrative description and supporting documentation describing the maintenance required after the solution is installed, including:

  • Annual maintenance required (if any)
  • All maintenance required over the expected lifetime of the solution
  • Any specialized expertise needed to conduct maintenance at any point over the lifetime of the solution

Technical Support details: A narrative description and supporting documentation describing the technical support available during and after the installation, including: 

  • Resource requirements to provide support during pre-installation, installation, and after-installation 
  • Extent of technical support given for solution 
  • Length of time technical support will be available post-installation 

(max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

7. Update on Costs: An update narrative description of the expected costs over the lifetime of your solution, including installation and maintenance. Please provide a cost estimate of installation and monitoring of cable for 12 months ($ per mile of cable or manhole or an alternative you propose) (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

8. Development plan for Phase 3:  A detailed project plan for how the solution will be deployed for field testing, including:

  • Development - what still needs to be accomplished prior to a field trial
  • Budget - please detail how the project will be funded (and explain including how the $100,000 Phase 2 prize will be used).
  • Timeline – proposed timeline for installation and resources needed to support the installation

(max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

 

Phase 2 Judging Criteria 

In Phase 2, solvers will be judged on: 1) the submission elements described above; and 2) the performance of their prototype.  

For the submission elements described above, the judging panel will consider how well each submission element addresses the goals of the challenge (as described in the Technical Requirements section of these guidelines), as well as the completeness and credibility of each element. Solvers will receive up to a maximum score for each element, as described below.  

To be eligible for a prize purse, solvers must meet or exceed a Minimum Score of 50 points

Element  

Maximum Points  

(100 total) 

 Video of Testing Process and Output 
Output of the Testing 45 
 Update on the Solution 10 
 Update on Installation Procedure 
 Update on the Maintenance Requirements 
Update on Costs 
 Development plan for Phase 3 25 

 

Phase 3  

At the start of Phase   

1. Phase 3 Deployment Plan: Detailed plan of the proposed technical installation of the solution into the agreed circuit/circuits. (max 2,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

2. Other Supporting Data and Documentation (Optional): Solvers may submit up to three (3) additional files (e.g. data, modelling, illustrations, or other documentation) to support the descriptions and claims of the technical proposal. This submission element is optional. Each file can be no larger than 20MB. Any document containing additional narrative may be no longer than five (5) pages.

 

Phase 3 Submission Form 

1. Output of the Deployment of the Solution: Narrative description of the output of the test deployment of the solution including the:

  • Successes and failures of the testing (if any)
  • Any limitations in the solution

(max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed) 

2. Update on the Usability of the Solution: An updated narrative description of the useability of the solution (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

3. Update on the Maintenance Requirements of the Solution: An updated narrative description and supporting documentation describing the maintenance for the solution (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

4. Update on Installation of the Solution: An updated narrative description of how the solution would be installed across the whole grid; (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

5. Update on Describe the Cost: An updated cost estimate monitor cable for 12 months per mile of cable (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)

 

Phase 3 Judging Criteria 

In Phase 3, solvers will be judged on: 1) the submission elements described above; and 2) the performance of their prototype from the test results and independent analysis of the data submitted.  

For the submission elements described above, the judging panel will consider how well each submission element addresses the goals of the challenge (as described in the Technical Requirements section of these guidelines), as well as the completeness and credibility of each element. Solvers will receive up to a maximum score for each element, as described below.  

To be eligible for a prize purse, solvers must meet or exceed a Minimum Score of 50 points

Element  

Maximum Points  

(100 total) 

  
 Output of the Deployment of the Solution 25 
Usability of the Solution 20 
Maintenance Requirements of the Solution 20 
Installation of the Solution 20 
Cost 15 

 

Rules 

Participation Eligibility: 

The challenge is open to all adult individuals, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. Teams may originate from any country. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.  

No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of cable inspection is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.  

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

 

Registration and Submissions

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before 5:00PM ET on March 15th, 2022. No late submissions will be accepted. 

This challenge allows multiple submissions per individual/team as long submissions are materially different. Should you have multiple entries to submit to this challenge, they will be considered separately. Whether or not multiple entries from the same individual or team may be chosen for a prize is up to the discretion of the Challenge Sponsor. You are not required to submit multiple entries if that option is available. 

 

Selection of Winners

Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the highest votes from the Judges. 

In the event that none of the submissions meet the Judging Criteria for each of the phases, the sponsor will award the following consolation prizes to the competitor(s) that score the highest: 

  • Consolation Phase One (1) Prize: $5,000 for the best solution submitted by the deadline.
  • Consolation Phase Two (2) Prize: $25,000 for the test successful (complete) testing and test data submitted to DLC submitted by the deadline.
  • Consolation Phase Three (3) Prize: $50,000 for the solution that has a successful deployment on to a live DLC circuit completed by the deadline.

 

Awarding of the Prize: 

The Individual Submitter or Team Captain is automatically designated as the Recipient of the prize monies. The Individual's or Captain's name must also match the Authorized Person on the receiving Bank Account. No changes are permitted to the prize Recipient after the Submission Deadline date. If you wish to change who would receive the prize monies, those changes must be completed prior to the Submission Deadline. View our Knowledge Base article here for how to change Team Captains. 

 

Additional Information 

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to adhere to the HeroX Intellectual Integrity Policy and promises to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.
Timeline
Updates18

Challenge Updates

Announcing the Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection Phase 1 Finalists!

May 31, 2022, 2 p.m. PDT by Andrew Owsanski

Duquesne Light Company has selected the following finalists to share the Phase 1 prize money of $50,000 and move on to prototype their solutions in Phase 2. The finalists are:

  • Real-Time Infrastructure Monitoring System, submitted by SENTIR
  • Out the pit: Smart Cable Guard monitors the grid , submitted by SCG
  • Shining a Light on Duquesne’s Underground Cables, submitted by Hyperion
  • Integrated Cable Condition Monitoring, submitted by Kinectrics
  • AI Enhanced Cable Failure Prediction via RF, submitted by Top Solvers

Next the finalist teams will participate in Phase 2: Proof of Concept - Prototype Demonstration. Over the next 9 months they will develop and submit their test plans and then build and test their prototypes.  They will then submit their technical design and test results to be evaluated and up to 2 finalists will then move forward to Phase 3: Live Field Testing - Pilot Deployment. 

Congratulations once again to our finalists! Stay tuned as we update you on the progress of this challenge.


 


Winners Announcement Update

May 6, 2022, 1 p.m. PDT by Andrew Owsanski

Due to the addition of new judging partners, we are extending the winners announcement to May 31st. All other dates will be moved out by 2 weeks and can be viewed via the link below. We look forward to taking next steps and announcing the winners on the 31st!

https://www.herox.com/DLCCableChallenge/timeline


8 Hours Remaining to Submit!

March 22, 2022, 6 a.m. PDT by Lulu

If you're still assembling your submission, you have exactly 8 hours left to complete it! 

Here's a Tip: HeroX recommends innovators plan to submit with at least a 3-hour window of time before the true deadline. Last-minute technical problems and unforeseen roadblocks have been the cause of many headaches. Don't let that be you!


Two Day Warning

March 20, 2022, 2 p.m. PDT by Lulu

That's right, the Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection will be closing this coming March 22nd at 4:59 pm Eastern Time (New York/USA).

Please be sure to complete your submission form well before the exact cut-off time. 

At exactly 5 pm ET, we can no longer accept new submissions! 

Got questions?

Now is the time to speak up! Comment directly on this update with any questions about the submission process and we'll get back to you right away!


Five Days Left to Submit (TIPS)

March 17, 2022, 2 p.m. PDT by Lulu

We are quickly approaching the final days open for submission to the Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection. The deadline is March 22nd at 4:59 pm Eastern Time (New York/USA.) 

Here are a couple of last-minute tips for a smooth entry process:

1. Begin your submission process several days before the cutoff time. This allows you to ensure everything you have been working on can be seamlessly integrated into the form.

2. Your submission will not be reviewed until you click the orange "Submit Entry" button at the top of the final review page. Please remember to do this! 

3. Review the Challenge Guidelines to ensure your submission is complete. Pay particular attention to the judging criteria which will be the scorecard used to evaluate your entry.

4. Have any questions? Head over to the challenge forum and we would love to help you out. 

Thanks so much, and good luck to all!


Forum12
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Press
Technical Requirements of the Challenge
Meet The Winners