It's not just grid infrastructure getting overhauled to accommodate technology change -- the equipment used to keep tabs on the grid is getting updated as well.

Last summer, San Diego Gas & Electric became the first U.S. utility to get permission to use drones for monitoring transmission lines. Assuming federal regulators establish clear rules for unmanned aerial vehicles, many expect utilities to integrate them into their operations in a big way.

The same is true for augmented reality technologies, which allow a person to enhance what they see around them with graphics and notifications displayed on some kind of wearable computer.

These wearable computers are now giving industrial workers the ability to evaluate their surroundings and check if equipment is working properly or if an environment is safe. Utilities looking for better ways to monitor the grid are the perfect candidates for the technology.

Over the last few years, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has been testing augmented reality in partnership with utilities and private vendors. In March, Space-Time Insight put on a demo with EPRI at the DistribuTECH conference, proving how data visualization could protect equipment and workers.

No utilities have yet adopted the technology. But EPRI believes wearable computers will become more common as the costs come down, the applications improve, and utilities find clear use cases that save them money. 

What would augmented reality for a utility worker look like? EPRI recently released a video showing how the technology could be used. Watch it: