Category Archives: Industry Focus

Risk. Utility. And location.

GIS gives utilities a repeatable means of mitigating risk and minimizing surprises.

The probability that something bad will happen makes us think of our protectors: insurance companies. Insurance companies accumulate the combined risk of policyholders. Insurers lose money if bad things happen. They make money if bad things don’t happen.

Some say utilities are risk averse. It’s true that utilities historically are conservative. They avoid taking actions that could trigger unwanted consequences. The problem is, the cost of remaining conservative rises constantly. Given recent economic troubles, utilities must learn to avoid negative consequences while also avoiding overspending to do so. The situation gets worse when you consider utility infrastructure ages faster than many utilities can afford to replace. So as facilities enter disrepair, hazards abound. Reliability suffers.

What happens? Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | 2 Comments

Before Time Runs Out: An Ocean of Information for Climate Resilience

Recent innovations in information, analyses, and science-policy linkages  can help guide the planet towards a more resilient future.

For many of us when we think about the ocean, it’s a situation of “out of sight, out of mind.” In our limited awareness of the ocean, we see only the surface and think only of vast expanses of lifeless water, not realizing all of the complexities at play.

In fact, the ocean provides over HALF of the oxygen that we breathe. It regulates ALL of our weather patterns, it feeds us, and it provides for our energy and economy.

The ocean is a champion at absorbing human-derived (anthropogenic) CO2. Around half of all carbon dioxide produced by humans since the industrial revolution has dissolved into the world’s oceans. Coastal habitats store five times more carbon than do inland tropical forests. This has all helped to slow global warming.

So in reality, the ocean is vital to all of us, no matter WHERE we live. Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Fuel Eat Fuel World

Advanced location analytics assist gas utilities in the face of growing demand—and growing competition. 

Natural gas and electric distribution utilities compete to bring energy to homes and businesses for heating purposes. Today, these utilities continue a long-running battle to gain market share at the expense of each other. Stakes are high. Generally, the winner supplying energy for heating has some competitive advantage in supplying energy for hot water and cooking. But not necessarily.

At times, executives responsible for customer growth in natural gas distribution envy their peers in water and electric distribution. Virtually every household and business needs water and electricity for some purpose. That’s not the case for natural gas.

Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | Leave a comment

3 Clicks to Public Works

Three clicks to public works? If you read about the Internet of Things, there is a theory that everyone wants information in three clicks or fewer. I read an interesting rebuttal to this theory, suggesting that it is not the number of clicks that is important but whether users are getting the information they need along the way. At Esri, we are working hard to get you the information you need in as few clicks as possible. Truth is, many public works challenges cannot be resolved in three clicks, but at least we give you the information you need in each step of the business process.

I recently gave an overview of the water industry from the public works perspective at our inaugural Esri Water Conference in Portland, Oregon. I was privileged to reflect on how water infrastructure challenges were faced in the past versus now. Several years ago, as the asset management manager of Colorado Springs Utilities, I helped our organization fight water main breaks with a myriad of tools, including Esri’s very own ArcGIS, pre-platform. I say “pre-platform” because we did not have ArcGIS Online or configurable web maps and apps that run on any device, anywhere and at any time. We did have a state-of-the-art enterprise GIS back then, but let me tell you, there were lots of moving parts and many button clicks. We spent as much (or more) time managing the technology as we did fixing water main breaks. And don’t get me started on managing all that data.

Now, enter the platform of ArcGIS. Today’s ArcGIS has all the traditional components — desktop, server, and mobile capabilities — but has been improved with a common thread of web services and web maps served up through ArcGIS Online, backed by the Living Atlas of the World, with thousands of datasets useful in public works decision making. These components have become inseparable and offer a true collaborative platform for delivering information to field and office personnel on any device, anywhere, anytime. The ArcGIS for Public Works solution suite offers a configuration of the platform to jump-start your public works department.

ArcGIS is not your father’s GIS anymore. Three clicks? We are getting closer every day.

 

Posted in Industry Focus | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Ways to Modernize Utility GIS

Take a hard look at your GIS.  It’s probably time to modernize.

I hate the word “selfie.” But this new concept is everywhere. Over the past year or so, everyone seems to taking pictures of themselves and tweeting them. This seems awfully self-indulgent. Yet, maybe it’s a good thing to take a hard look at yourself once in a while. Maybe taking a selfie gives you a chance to re-invent yourself.

Utilities need to reassess their practices, too, particularly in this age of rapid change touching everything from climate and renewable resources to technology. One technology utilities might want to take a hard look at is their GIS. After all, utilities have been using GIS for ages. So it’s probably time to modernize. Here are my seven ways utilities can modernize their GIS.

Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | Leave a comment

Et tu, Juno?

Catastrophic weather is no longer a one-off event. How can we be better prepared?

Popular opinion pointed to the 2014 Polar Vortex as a one-time event. The wind, ice, and snow brought by that harsh winter weather was responsible for $1.7 billion of the $2.3 billion in insured losses in the affected states that year, according to ISO’s Property Claim Services.

Then Juno, the blizzard of 2015, struck. While not affecting as many communities as first predicted, the storm dumped up to two feet of snow and caused flooding in homes and businesses across New England. Once again, people are bracing for loss.

It seems that again, the impossible happened. How can we predict the unpredictable and help our communities get back on their feet faster? Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | 3 Comments

Hacking Location: The Future of TV Analytics

The way people view movies and television is changing. How can the industry keep up?

When Kevin Spacey pitched House of Cards to broadcasters, they asked him to do a pilot.

When Kevin Spacey pitched House of Cards to Netflix, they did not ask him to do a pilot.  They wanted to know many episodes he wanted to produce.  Netflix was able to ask that question with confidence because they already had knowledge from data and analysis that would support their decision to air the show.

Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | Leave a comment

Knowing When Your Lights Will Come Back On

Knowledge is power. Does your utility have enough of the right spatial intelligence?

“More information is always better than less.” — Simon Sinek, Author

Sinek would never agree that “less is more.” The author went on to describe the value of more information: “When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly,” Sinek stated. “Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.”

When I worked for a power company, it was my job to make sure people were not in the dark—literally. When people were out of power, we figured out why: A snow storm had drizzled ice on the power lines. Or some drunk had crashed into a utility pole. Or else some stupid (now dead) squirrel had climbed onto the lines and forgotten that his tail was a very nice conductor. Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | Leave a comment

Teaching Geography in the Twenty-First Century

New Tools Are Available to Teach Geography in More Engaging, Dynamic, and Effective Ways

Geography is considered one of the world’s oldest disciplines. It was first defined and formally established by Eratosthenes in 250 BC and has a rich tradition of scholarship extending from 2,000 years ago to the present. As a scientific discipline, geography has always embraced new technologies, research practices, instructional methods, skills, and content.

Teaching geography in the 21st Century includes working with mobile and online mapping tools, in addition to traditional focuses such as physical and cultural geography, fieldwork, and understanding landscapes.

Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | 4 Comments

What is up with the Weather?

Climate change is here, and geospatial tools are already helping us adapt to the “new normal.”

It is hard to believe that as the Polar Vortex returns to North America bringing snow and subzero temperatures, meteorological offices in the UK, Australia, and other countries around the world announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record. Records dating back to 1659 tell us that eight of the UK’s top ten warmest years have occurred since 2002.

Soaring temperatures and high winds in Australia last year fueled some of the worst bushfires in more than 30 years. According to a recent report by Climate Council, a climate change research group based in Australia, changing weather, a growing population, and the proximity of vulnerable assets in bushfire-prone areas have increased the risks to lives and property. The cost of these bushfires is estimated to run into hundreds of millions of dollars each year. It is expected that Australia needs to double the number of firefighters by 2030 to cope with this threat.

Ironically, record warm weather like Australia’s dry spells and drought in California are mirrored with increasingly severe wet weather, including cyclones, in the Pacific and Atlantic hurricanes. Continue reading

Posted in Industry Focus | Leave a comment