Circuit Breaker Maintenance by Mobile Agent Software Technology
Published on July 18, 2016
Circuit breakers are crucial components for power system operations. They play an important role in switching for the routine network operation and protection of other devices in power systems. To ensure circuit breakers are in healthy condition, periodical inspection and preventive maintenance are typically performed. The maintenance schedules and routines usually follow the recommendation of circuit breaker vendors, although the recommended schedules may be conservative.
Circuit breakers are crucial components for power system operation. The currently adapted time-directed maintenance strategy and the emerging new condition-based strategy require a flexible information processing technique and software architecture. In this paper, mobile agent software has been applied in implementing circuit breaker maintenance and repair tasks. Several potential application scenarios have been described and the relevant software features have been discussed. The benefits of using the mobile agent techniques are discussed at the end.
New maintenance techniques and methodologies are emerging, while the circuit breakers keep improving in their designs and functions . As an example, some new circuit breakers have embedded monitoring instruments available to measure the coil current profiles and the operation timing . The recorded information can be used to monitor the condition of breakers during each operation. In this case, it may be more appropriate to replace the time-directed maintenance by condition-directed maintenance practice .
When applied properly, both the size of the maintenance crew and maintenance cost may be reduced greatly with this approach. Since the number of circuit breakers in a power system is usually very big, a small maintenance cost saving per each circuit breaker can accumulate to a considerable benefit for the whole system. A more systematic solution is Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), which can be used to select the most appropriate maintenance strategy.
During the maintenance or repair work, the maintenance crew will need to access information distributed across the utility and stored using different data formats. By equipping the crew with new information access methods to replace the old paper-based information exchange and logging method, the efficiency may be improved since less time will be spent on preparation, reporting and logging. An information access method that is capable of handling heterogeneous information sources will be helpful to achieve the above goal. Also, the new information access method should be secure and able to work on unreliable public networks. The mobile agent software provides a flexible framework for mobile agent applications.
An agent application program can travel through the internet/intranet to the computers where the mobile agent server or transporter is running. The mobile agent software also supports Distributed Events, Agent Collaboration and Service Bridge. Compared with client server systems, an agent can process the data locally and thus reduce the network traffic. Besides, the Java platform encapsulates the network layer from the agent, which makes the programming easier. The mobile agent software may fit very well in the circuit breaker maintenance scenario. In this paper, we considered how mobile agent software might be applied in circuit breaker maintenance and monitoring from the viewpoint of the maintenance crew.
Circuit Breaker Maintenance Tasks
The maintenance of circuit breakers deserves special consideration because of their importance for routine switching and for protection of other equipment. Electric transmission system breakups and equipment destruction can occur if a circuit breaker fails to operate because of a lack of a preventive maintenance. The need for maintenance of circuit breaker is often not obvious as circuit breakers may remain idle, either open or closed, for long periods of time. Breakers that remain idle for six months or more should be made to open and close several time in succession to verify proper operation and remove any accumulation of dust or foreign material on, moving parts and contacts.
The circuit breakers mainly consist of the interrupter assembly (contacts, arc interrupters and arc chutes), operating mechanism, operation rod, control panel, sealing system, and breaking medium (SF6, oil, vacuum and air). To ensure the performance of a circuit breaker, all the components should be kept in good condition; therefore time-directed preventive maintenance has been widely adopted. The preventive maintenance tasks include periodic inspection, test, and replacement of worn or defective components and lubrication of the mechanical parts. The maintenance intervals are usually determined using experiences or following the recommended schedules provided by the vendor or standard.
The maintenance practices can be divided into three categories: corrective maintenance, preventive maintenance, and predictive maintenance.
MOBILE AGENT SOFTWARE
There are different definitions of what is a software agent. An agent is a proactive software component, which is capable of acting reasonably to accomplish tasks on behalf of the user. An agent should be autonomous and have sound intelligence. A good software agent should be able to adapt to the changing environment; it may also be helpful to have the ability to exchange knowledge with other agents. Agent-based programming offers greater flexibility and adaptability than component-based programming. Compared with object-oriented software engineering, agent-oriented software engineering uses a set of high-level, flexible abstractions to represent systems. Agents communicate with each other by passing messages or by synchronization. Depending on their functions, we can classify agents into several categories:
Personal agents, mobile agents, collaborative agents, etc.
Mobile agents are small software entities that can travel around the network, performing their functions on behalf of users. As the next generation middle-ware infrastructure for developing distributed applications, it meets all the requirements mentioned above. Since the mobile agents travel to the locations of the data sources and process the data locally, the network bandwidth consumption has been minimized. The built-in support for security, event notification, and agent collaboration can greatly improve the programming efficiency.
As shown in Fig. 1, the mobile agents can travel to devices that have mobile agent servers or lightweight transporters running. The mobile agent server can run on any platform where the Java runtime environment is available, and the devices without Java Virtual Machine (JVM) are supported through a communication node. The communication node can use any proprietary protocol to talk with the mobile devices. As long as the communication node has the mobile agent server running and exposes the communication functions to the agent through some programming interface, the agent can communicate with the mobile devices. Since the Java environment cannot cover the whole range of devices, the mobile agents need to know the programming interface in order to communicate with certain mobile devices.
Since the mobile agent software is built on Java platform, other functions supported by Java platform are also available for the mobile agents. Among them, the Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) interface to access database, the Remote Method Invocation (RMI) for distributed objects, and the Extensible Markup Language (XML) support are most notable.
Utilizing mobile agent techniques, the convenience and speed of accessing and generating maintenance data will be improved. With increasing complexity of circuit breaker equipment, more information is needed to perform the maintenance work, so an efficient data communication exchange becomes very important. Mobile agents can process information locally with less network bandwidth consumption. Also its ability to provide reliable transmission on disconnected or low quality networks is an important merit.
Mobile agent computing easily facilitates the integration and automation of the maintenance process, starting from the generation of work orders to the completion of the
maintenance report. The entire process may involve multiple entities and steps. Thus, an automated procedure is highly desirable. With the ability to collaborate and update agent
itineraries adaptively, the mobile agent software provides an ideal framework for modeling and supporting the maintenance workflow.
Furthermore, mobile agent computing also provides the means by which real-time and off-line data can easily be integrated into a single distributed maintenance management system. Using real-time monitoring data, the maintenance system can evaluate the condition of devices, which makes predictive maintenance possible. The integration of real-time data may be utilized to improve the maintenance management decisions. The platform independence feature of mobile agents provides interface and support for great variety of devices.
In this paper, mobile agent software has been applied in circuit breaker maintenance. Several representative application scenarios have been described. Mobile agent
software may be suitable for applying in circuit breaker maintenance practice due to its support for heterogeneous systems, security, distributed events, low-bandwidth usage,
etc. Using the mobile agent software, the development work can be greatly simplified. Also, agent-based software architecture makes the application more flexible and upgradable.
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