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.

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Learn More and Earn More

“Do your homework, study hard, and make good grades.” We all probably heard those instructions many times during our school years. When viewing the relationship between educational attainment and earning power, this advice can be validated by cold, hard facts. According to the 2014, 4th quarter report, The Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time workers age 25 and older with no high school diploma earned a weekly median wage of less than $500, compared to $664 for high school graduates with no college, and $1,224 for those holding at least a Bachelor’s degree. Continue reading

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Three Ways Open Data is Already Benefiting GIS Users

Adoption of ArcGIS Open Data has big implications well beyond the Esri user community.        

According to Esri’s 2014 Open Data  year in review,  more than 750 organizations around the world have joined ArcGIS Open Data,  publishing 391 public sites, resulting in 15,848 open data sets shared.  These organizations include more than 100 cities, 43 countries, and 35 US states.  At the beginning of 2015, the organizations represented included 390 from North America, 157 from Europe, 121 from Africa, 39 from Asia, and 22 from Oceania.  More than 42,000 shapefiles, KML files, and CSV files were downloaded from these sites since July 2014.  Recently, we wrote about one of these sites, the Maryland Open Data Portal.  Another is the set of layers from the city of Launceton, in Tasmania, Australia. Continue reading

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The Spatially Enabled Enterprise

Using location data, mapping, and spatial analysis to get more value from your business system.

Business systems contain a gold mine of location data that’s just waiting to be tapped. Customer addresses, store locations, sales territories, and supply chains are just some of the data you can map, analyze, and deliver to users of your business system to enhance real-time decision making, improve operational efficiency, and facilitate collaboration across the enterprise.

In a spatially enabled enterprise:

  • Retail merchandisers can decide which products to buy based on local demographic and lifestyle data. Continue reading
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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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Driving Business Integration with GIS

GIS professionals should take the lead on SAP/GIS integration projects.  It’s good for business, and it’s good for GIS. 

GIS teams often ask me how to integrate mapping features into SAP enterprise applications. The question usually comes up right after they find out that their IT department is moving all legacy business data sources to SAP.

Unfortunately, this “who moved my cheese” scenario often results in the GIS team simply reestablishing links to the same old data. In doing so, they are essentially paving the same old cow paths, rather than seeing the move to SAP as an opportunity to make the processes that drive the business more efficient.

Leading an innovation-focused collaboration with the SAP team and business stakeholders can deliver productivity-enhancing business process improvements, and a higher profile for the GIS team within the enterprise. Continue reading

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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

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