BREAKING FAKE NEWS: Utility GIS Is Just About Making Digital Versions of Paper Maps - Discover the Truth at GeoConX 2019

Blog Post created by bmeehan-esristaff Employee on Sep 24, 2019

Is that still true? Have we been conned?  Many utilities still view GIS and its predecessor, Automated Mapping/Facility Management (AM/FM) Systems as map-making machines.  Here’s another con. GIS is the single source of truth about your network. Really?

The problem is threefold. One, the modeling of the network in the GIS is often not correct. And two, major pieces of the network are simply missing. The reality is that for utilities to get at the truth of the network, they must visit many data sources. Field changes take too long to make it into the GIS.

Legacy maps were sloppy about detailing the exact electrical connectivity. When they were converted from paper to digital form, a large part of the effort was to create automated paper maps, not necessarily to produce a business information system about the network. If the digital maps looked good and displayed the reasonably close location of things like electric lines, transformers and switches, all was good. It wasn’t until utilities leveraged the GIS to feed other systems such as network analysis and outage management and later distribution management systems that things got dicey.

Things are simply left out of the GIS. The data about downtown dense secondary network systems are often not included in the GIS. Structural elements, such as duct banks, conduits and manholes are often missing or not linked back to the electrical elements they hold. Some utilities never modeled their low voltage mains and secondary breaks. Now that customers are deploying solar panels and electric charging stations to beat the band, these low voltage networks are gaining significant importance.  

Finally, workflows are such that after something happens in the field, like a new remotely monitored fault indicator is installed, that data often sits on a piece of paper in a pile somewhere in the GIS department. It’s okay to say, what goes on in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but not okay to say what goes on in the field stays in the field. In a recent survey, nearly half of all respondents update their GIS with new information within 10 days of project completion. However, 25% utilize update processes that exceed 30 days.  A lot can happen in 10 days.

So now for some real news. Utilities are deploying a brand-new network representation called the ArcGIS Utility Network Management Extension. Esri calls this simply, the utility network.  See what your colleagues at Southern Company, Connexus, Guam Power Authority, Madison Gas and Electric and others are doing with the new Utility Network. Join Esri’s technical team for sessions on the utility network, field apps, and machine learning. Get the real news at GeoConX 2019, Oct 27-30