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Some devices of ElectroCure system. — Dawn
Some devices of ElectroCure system. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: Researchers at the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, have developed a system, which reduced power theft incidence and line losses by 35 per cent in several cantonment areas of the country.

The ElectroCure tested by the Pakistan Army has been developed by the Centre of Intelligent Systems and Network Research (CISNR) and financed by the Ignite National Technology Fund under the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.

The CISNR occupies small premises on the second floor of the UET Electrical Engineering department.

ElectroCure successfully tested in several cantonment areas

A medium-size, dimly-lit hall has several cramped partitions, where young engineers jostle for space while peering into computer screens and circuit boards.

A group of two interns pores over a circuit board in a corner amid hum of wall-mounted fans trying to break the stillness of the hot afternoon.

Inside an unassuming and untidy cubicle is sitting CISNR director Dr Gul Mohammad, the brain behind the centre and solutions it has produced.

Dr Gul began the centre along with another engineer, Dr Sahibzada Ali Mahmud, in 2012.

Dr Gul began teaching at the department in 2004 after graduation from the same university. In 2005, he went to the UK for PhD in artificial intelligence at the University of York.

Dr Gul is also author of Evolution of Artificial Neural Development: In search for Learning Genes, published by the Springer.

Together with another colleague, Dr Sahibzada Ali Mehmud set up the CINSR with the Ignite funding in 2012, which pumped around Rs39 million into the project.

According to Dr Gul, it is the perennial power outages of the city that prompted him to focus on solutions instead of own field, artificial intelligence.

The quest led them to develop ElectroCure, a meter-less innovation, which not only significantly checked power losses through theft detection and load-balancing by detecting anomalies.

They developed the prototype in 2014 and tested it in a residential colony on the university’s campus.

The engineers took the system to the Wapda after successful tests with a plan for installation throughout the country at the cost of Rs750 billion.

However, the power company shot down the proposal citing high cost as the reason and asked them to come up with ‘something less costly’.

Dr Gul said then centre had prepared several versions of ElectroCure and the cost of its nationwide implementation had been brought down from Rs750 billion to Rs125 billion.

The Military Engineering Service tested it as a pilot project in Peshawar and Rawalpindi cantonment areas. It helped bring down line losses by 35 per cent. The Peshawar-based project was funded by the KP Directorate of Science and Technology.

Dr Gul said a Chinese company was interested in initially investing $46 million, which would had been spent to implement the technology to stop power thefts and reduce line losses in the Peshawar Electric Supply Company.

“Amounts recovered in lieu of power thefts would pay the Chinese investment within two years period,” he said, adding that Chinese investors would pull out three more years.

He said the Chinese investment was delayed as the Public Private Partnership Act didn’t cover power distribution systems.

“Now amendments have been proposed to the law to cover the distribution system,” he said.

The Jazz telecom company and GSMA have also agreed to pay £200,000 for implementation of the technology in the Pesco.

Initially, Hayatabad and cantonment areas will have the system with its installation likely to start within a month’s time.

He said the ElectroCure was a meter-less solution and one single device could provide powers to six to 300 houses.

Dr Gul said the system would give transformer level control to power utility company and also provided pre- and post-paid facility and also ensured proper voltage and thus, eliminating the need for power stabilisers.

He said the centre was using 32-bit controllers based card in the system, which was similar to what was used in smartphone.

“We can transform this into a smartphone,” he said.

According to him, when a system develops a fault or there is some other anomaly like theft, the system would generate a text message to the lineman and in case of him not following, it would go up to senior hierarchy until reaches the head of the utility company.

Recently, the UET administration has allotted a 7000 square feet space to CISNR, where 37 engineers and researchers would work.

Ignite chief executive officer Yusuf Hussain told Dawn that the substantial success of ElectroCure in checking line losses during yearlong trial showed that investment into deep technology innovation by the IT Ministry and Ignite could resolve major national problems like energy crisis.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018