Utility Buyer’s Guide

Essential Questions for Intelligent Vegetation Management Software Vendors

From the steep price of manual inspections to countless work plan meetings to review spreadsheets and handwritten notes, utilities have done their best with available technology and ad hoc processes. There’s a lot to juggle within limited budgets.

Vegetation management is costly, with utilities’ spending rising from a reported $24.2 billion globally in 2022 to an expected $39.2 billion in 2029. Frequently the single largest item in O&M budgets, vegetation management can reach $100+ million for some utilities.

Now there’s a new way to manage vegetation management and contain costs.

A whole new software category — Intelligent Vegetation Management (IVM) — optimizes vegetation management for utilities, from analysis and planning to execution.

But not all vendors offer the same IVM capabilities to streamline, optimize, and reduce vegetation management costs. Here are the top questions to ask vendors to ensure that the solution you choose delivers the IVM capabilities your utility needs.

Top questions to ask IVM vendors

CREDIBILITY AND COMPATIBLITIY

1. Has a credible third party validated your solution model’s accuracy?

Vendors will present plenty of product data and claims for you regarding their Intelligent Vegetation Management solutions. It is essential to verify these claims through an independent third party to confirm the vendor's capabilities and results.

AiDash Intelligent Vegetation Management System™ (IVMS™) has undergone rigorous third-party evaluation.

 AiDash IVMS:

  • Was evaluated by Tulane University Law School’s Utility Vegetation Management Initiative (UVMI) in an independent, unbiased study on the effectiveness of satellite technology in improving data accuracy and decision-making.
  • Provided threat level analysis of 1,076 spans of distribution line miles throughout approximately 70 heavily wooded square miles within the Southeastern United States.
  • Showed tremendous accuracy levels:
    • 97% with regard to side growth.
    • 95% or better with respect to vegetation density.
    • 95% in identifying spans that were 10 feet or more from the centerline of the conductors.
    • 97% accuracy when recommending the form of intervention.
  • Presented the ability to detect tree and powerline conflicts that would have been missed by humans — even highly skilled arborists — acting without the benefit of the technology.

2. Does adopting your solution mean I have to learn a new system for planning or field work management?  Can I keep my current systems if I like them?

Change management presents significant challenges, especially when teams must adapt to entirely new systems. Confirm whether the vendor's software can integrate seamlessly with existing systems to avoid unnecessary overhauls. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Integrates easily with existing systems, incorporating satellite, LiDAR, and sensor data and fusing it into  other third-party and utility data, without the need for separate data collection or cleaning. 
  • Prioritizes activities based on risk assessments related to storms and wildfires, enhancing utility resilience against climate impacts. 
  • Was created with a modular design, which means there is no requirement to abandon familiar workflow tools in favor of new ones. 

TOP IVM ISSUES

3. How does your software help to reduce not just storm restoration time but also expense due to vegetation-caused outages?

Effective software should not only predict storm impacts but also manage them efficiently to reduce both downtime and operational costs. 

AiDash Climate Risk Intelligence System™ (CRIS™) integrates satellite imagery with real-time weather data, and span-level vegetation data to enhance preparedness.

AiDash CRIS:

  • Proactively mitigates risks before, during, and after a storm or wildfire, minimizing customer interruptions.
  • Provides reliable outage predictions up to 72 hours before storm landfall.
  • Enables remote damage assessments to prioritize and streamline responses to storms and wildfires.
  • Helps utilities prepare their field, engineering, and operations teams by accurately estimating needed resources.

4. How does your software prevent trees falling into the conductors?

Preventing tree fall-ins near transmission and distribution lines is crucial for maintaining safety and ensuring uninterrupted power supply. 

AiDash works with more than 125 utilities, delivering a 20% reduction in vegetation management expenses and enhancing grid reliability by 10%. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Utilizes satellite imagery and AI to identify and prioritize trees that pose fall-in risks, whether inside or outside right-of-way (ROW) zones. 

  • Evaluates tree health (assessing moisture and chlorophyll content), species, soil conditions, and other factors like protective obstructions, windbreaks, storm frequencies, and previous incidents to assess risks.

  • Maintains a digital log of hazard trees reported by field crews and customers, and uses this data to predict and prioritize fall-ins.

  • Digitizes hazard tree inventories to support work and budget approvals from executives and regulators, maintaining transparency with customers and prioritizing removals based on customer impact.

  • Optimizes workflows for efficiency, intelligently routing crews using integrated systems like Google Maps. 

WORK PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT

5. Can your software create a work plan with budgetary constraints we can use to manage our vegetation management operation?

IVM software should support the operationalization of vegetation management programs, turning rich data sets into actionable plans within budget constraints. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Merges satellite data with ground truth and historical data using pre-trained AI models, to optimize planning and execution of vegetation management operations. 

  • Proactively identifies vegetation risks to prevent grid damage. 

  • Plans vegetation management strategies years in advance, enhancing the efficiency of both pre- and post-trim inspections. 

6. How will your software help us with work planning and work management — to help me prioritize my work?

With fixed budgets, utilities must maximize efficiency — and do more with less. Software that streamlines planning and enhances data utility can transform vegetation management. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Automates the creation of work plans and bid packets, tailored to specific budgetary requirements and planned years in advance.
  • Enhances workflow management by documenting all historical and current data, and supporting work planning with AI insights.
  • Offers a user-friendly mobile app that features map and street views for accurate job location and fosters clear communications with field personnel.

BUDGET

7. My budget is fixed, and I need to maximize every dollar we spend. How does your software help?

Expect IVM software to enhance operational efficiency and ensure that every dollar spent is justified, maximizing the return on investment. 

AiDash:

  • Continuously refines predictive models to enhance accuracy in vegetation management plans, turning data into strategic actions and operational efficiencies.
  • Improves pre-planning based on AI analysis, reducing costs associated with unnecessary site visits ("truck rolls").
  • Calculates natural prune cycles at circuit and subcircuit levels to optimize cycle trims.
  • Detects and monitors tree health and wildfire risks both within and beyond ROWs before they can cause grid damage.
  • Boosts efficiency in pre- and post-trim inspections and automates audits and regulatory reporting processes.
  • Demonstrates a return on investment within the first year of deployment through strategic cost reductions and efficiency gains. 

8. How does your software help me get the best pricing and quality of work from my vegetation contractors?

With contractor service costs rising, utilities must ensure they are getting the best value for their money without compromising on service quality. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Provides a “should cost” model, helping utilities understand the fair market cost of work based on various factors, such as vegetation density, access types, equipment needed, access, and labor costs.
  • Creates detailed bid support packets that outline the scope of work for contractors, eliminating guesswork and preventing inflated bids.
  • Supports precise vegetation assessment, enabling accurate work planning and quick evaluations of completed work to maintain high-quality standards.

BUSINESS RESULTS

9. What business results have your customers been able to achieve?  Please show me customer results on your website, not just customer quotes.

Tangible results from existing customers can validate a vendor's claims about their technology's effectiveness. 

AiDash:

  • Features a comprehensive collection of customer success stories on its website.
  • Reports significant efficiency gains for major clients like National Grid, where IVMS has:
    • Unlocked millions in efficiencies — over $5 million per year.
    • Improved SAIFI by around 5%.
    • Enhanced routine maintenance efficiency, optimizing  line miles by 16%.
  • Delivers consistent results across all utility clients, typically achieving a 10% improvement in grid reliability, a 20-30% reduction in inspection costs, and a 15% decrease in storm-related power outages.

TECHNOLOGY STRENGTH

10. How many utility miles of T&D lines are you live on, and how many miles is your AI model trained on?

AI offers the most benefits when it is constantly ingesting new datasets and learning. This training is a key factor in AI accuracy.

AiDash IVMS:

  • Is operational on more than 1 million miles of T&D lines.
  • Has processed and analyzed more than 3 million miles of T&D lines using its AI engine.
  • Uses a data set that spans 48 of the 50 U.S. states, ensuring comprehensive coverage and learning from a wide array of geographic and environmental conditions. 

11. Can you use the LiDAR data we already have?

The ability to integrate existing LiDAR data can save costs and leverage previous investments in high-resolution imaging technologies. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Prioritizes the use of satellite data but remains agnostic to data types, incorporating a wide range of inputs. 

  • Can assimilate and synthesize data from diverse sources, including LiDAR, aerial imagery, weather monitoring systems, land assessments, and general utility information like outage records and customer counts. 

12. Does your software have a patent that protects users from liability risk associated with patent infringement in the fast-moving AI industry?

The legal robustness of a technology, including patent protection, is crucial for ensuring its long-term viability and protecting users from potential infringement disputes. 

AiDash IVMS:

  • Holds a U.S. patent for its system and method of intelligent vegetation management, ensuring that it stands on solid legal ground. 

13. Are you SOC 2 Type 2 certified?

Compliance with SOC 2 Type 2 is essential for affirming a system's security and reliability, safeguarding sensitive data, and adhering to high standards of privacy and operational integrity. 

AiDash:

  • Demonstrates a strong commitment to data security, maintaining SOC 2 Type 2 certification for two consecutive years.
  • Has achieved STAR Level ONE, highlighting its adherence to stringent security practices.
  • Supports secure access management, customer data segregation, and encryption, and maintains robust audit logs and high system availability. 

 

COMPANY STRENGTH

14. How many utility customers do you have?  What’s the breakdown between IOUs and coops?

Understanding a vendor's customer base, including the type and diversity of its clients, can provide insights into its market acceptance, whether it has focused expertise in the utility industry, and the applicability of its solutions across different segments of the industry.

AiDash: 

  • Serves more than 125 utility customers in 48 of 50 U.S. states, and on 5 continents — including the majority of the top 10 IOUs and many leading co-op customers.
  • Highlights customer experiences and insights through dedicated sections on its website, which includes case studies, interviews, and educational blogs. 
  • Actively participates in industry conferences and workshops, such as DTECH, IEEE, and Trees and Utilities, collaborating with customers to share knowledge and best practices. 

15. How stable are you as a company? Tell me about your funding, headcount, and who is on your Board of Directors.

The stability of a technology provider affects its ability to deliver consistent service and support over time. Understanding a company's financial health, leadership, and growth plans can provide confidence in its long-term viability. 

AiDash:

  • Is well-established, with more than 150 customer accounts, worldwide — a scale that is 5x larger than many of its competitors.
  • Attracts  significant investment from major industry players, including: Lightrock, SE Ventures, G2 Venture Partners, Benhamou Global Ventures, National Grid Partners, Edison International, and Shell Ventures, securing $50 million in its Series C funding round (for a total of $83 million).
  • Employs nearly 300 people, with plans to double our team in the next 2 years to help meet increasing demand.
  • Benefits from the expertise of a diverse board of directors comprising executives from National Grid Partners, Lightrock, G2 Venture Partners, Benhamou Global Ventures, Edison International, Shell Ventures, and SE Ventures. 

16. How constant is your C-suite? How much of your C-suite has turned over in the last year?

Instability in the C-suite can bring increased risk as new leaders alter directions to meet differing visions. In fact, if things are going well, shifts in the C-suite can destabilize the efforts of a successful workforce. And the heavier the turnover, the more the company’s vision, mission, and success are in jeopardy.

AiDash:

  • Has experienced zero C-suite turnover, with all executives strongly committed to our brand promise: We help core industries be more resilient, efficient, and sustainable with satellites and AI.

17. Do you have leadership and employees who are utility veterans and understand utility problems?

The presence of industry veterans within a company can significantly enhance its ability to address sector-specific challenges and develop solutions that meet the practical needs of utility operators. 

AiDash:

  • Includes utility veterans in its management team, board of directors, and advisory board, ensuring that its solutions are grounded in real-world utility experience. 

  • Employs professionals who have previously worked with leading organizations such as Schneider Electric, National Grid, Entergy, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E), Oncor, and the Davey Resource Group, bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and expertise. 

18. What are your hiring plans to keep up with growth and deliver on customer commitments?

A company's staffing strategy, particularly in growth phases, is crucial for maintaining high levels of customer service and innovation. Ensuring that there are sufficient resources to handle expansion is key to sustaining performance and service quality. 

AiDash:

  • Maintains a robust team of nearly 300 employees, with virtually no turnover in its executive ranks, demonstrating strong internal stability and commitment. 

  • Aims to double its workforce in the coming 2 years to support its growth trajectory and continue delivering high-quality solutions and services to its customers. 

     

BUDGET IMPACT

19. Can we capitalize our software purchase?

Understanding the financing options available for purchasing new technology is essential for budget planning and financial management. Checking whether a vendor offers both operational expense (opex) and capital expenditure (capex) options can provide flexibility in how investments are accounted for and managed. 

AiDash:

  • Offers flexible financing options, accommodating both opex and capex models to meet the diverse financial needs and preferences of utilities, whether they are investor-owned or cooperative. 

With Intelligent Vegetation Management in play, everybody wins — utilities, the public, and our planet.

Utilities: Typically, utilities using IVMS will see their reliability increase by 10% while experiencing a 20% average reduction in vegetation spend. In a large part these benefits are satellite and AI driven.

Public: The public will see fewer outages as IVMS helps reduce these incidences by 10% to 20%, which boosts grid reliability by 10%. Plus, the public will see their utility carefully managing expenses — achieving ROI for IVMS within one year.

Planet: Benefits to the planet come in the capabilities of IVMS to mitigate wildfire risk and reduce carbon footprints. At the same time, IVMS guides utilities toward maintaining ecosystem resilience.

IVMS gathers data, via our SatelliteVision™ or other remote sensing technologies as well as historical info, in one place. Our VegetationAI™ blends and analyzes the data and provides insights to inform planning, including bid packets and intuitive work plans that reduce risk, and add efficiencies to work execution, as well as lowering vegetation management costs. With these leading-edge components in our Intelligent Vegetation Management System, AiDash brings utilities end-to-end IVM capabilities and confirms its place as leader in Intelligent Vegetation Management.

AiDash is the leader in Intelligent Vegetation Management

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