Tag Archives: utilities

The Wise GIS

ArcGIS Makes It Simple to Answer the Why

My wife’s Auntie Sadie was born old. I’ve seen pictures of her when she was in her late thirties and, even then, she looked old. One of her most endearing qualities was her wisdom. Maybe that’s why she looked old, because she was so wise. When our kids misbehaved, Sadie would be able to look at things from a number of different angles, take apparently unrelated information, and craft her wise analysis of the reasons for the misbehavior. Her special gift was analysis.

In my last two posts, I described three things that the ArcGIS platform does that can transform the way an electric company does its business. They each begin with the letter A. The first is access—the simple ability to give everyone in the company (as well as others such as customers, first responders, and the media) the ability to see its important information on a map, regardless of which device they use, where they are, or what time it is.

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A Lesson from Social Networks

Why Real-Time Collaboration Matters for Electric Utilities

Tony Zingale, the executive chair of Jive Software, once quipped, “We know more about what our high school girlfriends had for dinner than what’s going on within our organization.” Why is that?

For one thing, our consumer apps and social media platforms are built around the notion of collaboration, not workflow. But doesn’t workflow require collaboration? Exactly.

The general lack of internal awareness within organizations is tied to the business IT world’s lagging behind consumer applications. Many of today’s enterprise IT systems model specific workflows. In the electric utility business, IT systems are organized along departmental lines. Integration among electric utility systems has been tough, expensive, and clunky.

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What’s Going On Right Now?

GIS Increases Awareness

There is a significant shift in how electric utilities use geographic information system (GIS) technology. In the old days and maybe even now, utility staff thought GIS was a system that automates the mapping process. And yes, it could also provide good information to other critical systems, such as outage management systems (OMS) or distribution management systems (DMS). Advanced utilities even used GIS to help in the design and construction of their facilities. That’s all great.

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Live from EGGC 2015: Startups Showcase – How Esri’s Startup Program Drives Change

EGGC

Over the past 25 years, the annual Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference (EGGC) has become the largest annual geospatial event for utility professionals in the world. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can employ the latest GIS technology … Continue reading

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The Deadly Backlog: A Hole in the Safety Net

Interactive Maps Communicate Real-time Information to Plug the Holes

We have all heard the term safety net. It’s a system, a policy, a program, or device used to protect its owners just in case something bad happens. For example, people often refer to social security as a safety net for older people who don’t have a pension. The term comes to us from the circus, where large, roped nets are set up below trapeze artists. Without the nets, sweaty palms or small distractions could mean instant death. But with the net, they fall harmlessly and land with only a fright. However, most trapeze artists never want to fall. First of all, falling is a sign of failure. Second, when the term originated, the circus actors didn’t trust the integrity of the net, as circuses had and have notoriously bad maintenance. Safety nets have flaws. Trapeze artists know that. Some nets even have holes. Continue reading

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Electric Utilities Need Answers

GIS Responds to the Tough Questions

Electric utilities face a new world–one in which the infrastructure is aging along with the workers. The price of everything keeps going up. Customers want better and faster service, but some of them cannot pay their bills. Natural disasters seem to get nastier each year. Governments continue to dole out more and more regulations. The community wants better service, lower emissions, and fewer mishaps. It’s a political nightmare to raise rates. Plus, the new smart grid devices are smothering utility operators with data.

In short: utilities cannot continue to operate as they have been. Utilities need a better way to do business. GIS can help. Continue reading

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Sharing Information to Support Smart Grid

I recently co-presented a session on GIS and the Smart Grid to a group of about 150 folks from the gas and electric utilities and the telecommunications businesses. We thought it might be interesting to have the groups come together since as more and more utilities implement Smart Grid (electric and gas), there will become greater interdependencies on one another. We further thought that this session would be a great opportunity for each company to tell us their current practices on sharing data, problems and issues. The premise was, of course, that since ArcGIS is a platform which facilitates sharing of information, that both groups could give us feedback on how best to facilitate collaboration. Much to our surprise, the groups do not have much collaboration at all. In fact, they hadn’t really considered it very seriously. When I probed them further, I asked, well how do you share information with each other? One utility guy, perhaps, half-jokingly said that he bought his friend from the phone company a beer and that’s when they shared information.

The biggest take away from this session was this: the discussion on this topic hasn’t really started. It should. Continue reading

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What’s the Cost of a Power Failure?

Measuring the impact on customers

This year, New England had one of its worst late season storms in recent history. Heavy snow brought down trees, which in turn, brought down many power lines. Some people were out of power for more than a week. In March, a fire in a substation shut off power to the historic Back Bay section of Boston for several days. The blackout left hotels, office buildings, and subway stations dark and shuttered some of the most exclusive shops in the city. Continue reading

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Spatial Analysis Helps Utilities Manage Risk

Creating a better risk model

When dealing with the complex infrastructure of an electric, gas or water utility system, things often go wrong. Things go wrong because there are so many factors that can contribute to a problem. Utility operators face an enormous task. They must gather accurate and timely data, understand the relative importance of each factor, and determine relative risk of damage to the system. Once utility risk is understood, a rational mitigation and investment strategy can be developed. Most utilities are able to prioritize maintenance and replacement projects based on factors such as equipment age, and the history of maintenance, operation, and failure. Continue reading

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Building a Knowledge Infrastructure for Utilities

Preserving institutional knowledge

When I ran an electric utility operations division, one of my favorite employees was a guy named Stanley. Stanley started as a line worker; climbed poles; became a foreman, later a supervisor; then managed all the crews in the region. I remember how Stanley worked. Continue reading

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