A Geographic Information System (GIS) is readily used by a growing number of organizations to improve their decision-making processes. GIS and location intelligence applications go beyond typical location finding services. They refer to a multitude of different technologies, processes, and methods related to engineering, geographical planning, and transportation, among others. They are the foundation of organizations that rely on location analysis and visualization.

GIS for Utilities and Communications

There are many different sectors within the utilities and communication industry that rely on GIS. Electric, pipeline, water utilities, gas, and telecommunications are just a few examples.

Electric

Imagine a world without electricity. Even an hour without power would cause serious problems for homes and businesses worldwide. GIS helps electric companies streamline their various decision-making processes, including power-outage management, regulations compliance, cost-cutting efforts, and customer retention.

Using a GIS software such as ArcGIS for mapping and analytics can help identify power grid vulnerabilities before failures occur. ArcGIS is used to manage data on incoming weather, demands, and outages. Having this information lets utility companies warn customers about potential outages ahead of time. Customers are much more satisfied when they are informed about potential inconveniences since it demonstrates that the company pays attention and cares about them. Furthermore, GIS technology can help determine the best locations to place electrical poles to ensure quality electrical service. Predictive analysis also helps determine at-risk areas and triggers for potential outage alerts.

Pipeline

According to a case study by Esri, “The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) collected high resolution LIDAR topographic data for swaths of land that would likely be used if new natural gas pipelines were constructed in Alaska. The pipelines would be designed to deliver Alaska North Slope natural gas to out-of-state and Alaskan customers.”

This information was used during the design and construction of the pipelines. In addition to providing base maps, GIS helped pipeline staff to evaluate active faulting, slope instability, thaw settlement, erosion, and other engineering constraints along the proposed routes.

GIS technology is crucial for the management of pipeline networks since it assists in managing rights-of-way (ROW) and uses imagery to place pipes in efficient and environmentally conscious locations.

Water Utilities

Water utility companies are able to provide reliable water services as a result of having one “go-to” source of data. GIS is no longer just a single-function tool for locating pipes and facilities; it has an entirely new platform to help engineers understand and optimize water operations by integrating information from sensors, metres, crews, and pipes through location technology and communication.

According to Esri, “the previous data collection workflow was inefficient and time-consuming. Contractors visited each meter,  assessed its condition, replaced the meter if required, and manually entered all the data they collected on printed spreadsheets. These documents were carried back to a central office, where the data was typed into a central database so it could be used by the project manager to coordinate the rollout and identify any data gaps.”

Australia’s largest water provider switched to more advanced location-based analytics within ArcGIS. The provider utilized a commercial off-the-shelf solution that boosted the productivity of the project. It allowed for faster routing and a more efficient work process.

GIS technology is used to help transform infrastructure challenges into opportunities that allow water utility companies to manage and preserve our planet’s most critical natural resource.

Gas

Intuitive and interactive GIS maps and spatial analysis allow natural gas utilities to make more informed decisions. According to operations at Fort Hill Natural Gas Authority, GIS has become an indispensable tool within their operations. The staff uses advanced mapping and analytics technology to identify asset locations and conditions, as well as to facilitate a number of business processes including construction and maintenance. GIS technology helps with the prioritization of maintenance and construction, regulations compliance, risk and integrity analysis, and customer demand satisfaction.

Telecommunications

The telecommunications industry relies heavily on the use of GIS technology to visualize internal and external data. Telecom companies use GIS to analyze demographics and market trends geographically. Ultimately, they can make more informed decisions regarding cable towers and service coverage to ensure the best quality service for customers.

According to a case study by Esri regarding the use of GIS by TDS Telecommunications Corporation, TDS recently switched to using new GIS mapping software. They state, “[the new map] enables engineers to identify, in a few clicks, the pertinent easement documents. This eliminates the need for manual document retrieval and shaves weeks off the process.” This allows engineers to work more efficiently, which has encouraged the company to collect, utilize, and incorporate different forms of information to improve their operations further.

 

GIS technology has proven to be useful for a variety of businesses within different industries. This article has shown just a few documented cases of the benefits of switching to more advanced GIS technology. GIS has not only benefitted productivity, but it has also improved customer satisfaction. Companies and institutions that embrace GIS will have a leading edge in their respective industries.