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Maximizing GIS Investments Strategically!

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Rahul Krishna Pandey's picture
Principal Consultant - Business Process Services (BPS), Tech Mahindra

Helping business to innovate via sustained technology consulting. On mission to transform Energy and Utilities companies and operators through technical marketing, automation and process...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jul 24, 2019

This item is part of the GIS in Utilities - Summer 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Utilities have seen a lot of technological advancements in the recent past such as Grid Modernization, Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS), and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). Utilities are expected to see more changes in the next five years than they have seen in the last 100 years. These new market dynamics will require them to transform and to transform fast. They will face challenges of higher performance, greater scalability, more sophisticated transaction mechanisms, and full cross-platform capability with the growth of IoT, cloud and mobile applications. GIS technologies are getting revamped to be able to manage all the functionalities required to cater to these new industry demands. Considering these opportunities, utilities need to migrate to the latest technologies and its success reflects only when it is invested with the right tool or technology.

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One of the most common areas where a majority of utilities are spending is “Automation’’. Analyzing and processing data manually leads to unidentified errors and utilities ought to move to automation or invest in the latest tools & technology. An automation software or tool aided by AI & IoT can analyze and function the GIS data rapidly and results in quality information for effective business operations. There are strategic ways where you can apply automation in your business and some of the most promising options for utilities are discussed below such as Utility Network Digital Transformation, Network Model Management and Auto Conflation.

Utility Network Digital Technology Transformation

The utility network digital transformation embraces modern GIS that is focused to handle future demands such as distributed generation, the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time data integration, and the merger of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. These are designed to be the simplest solutions to upgrade for reliability and to achieve scalable data for effective use.

The implementation of the Utility Network occurs in 7 steps. These steps can occur back to back or be organized into stages, as required for a staged migration. Apart from supporting staged migration, they enable utilities to keep specific systems and integrations in place until a business case is developed, systems are upgraded or capital becomes available to facilitate their movement into the new enterprise GIS system. Also, as the transactions occur in one instance, they are synchronized with one another to maintain a seamless business process workflow.  In future, the network model will use Machine Learning in combination with a configurable rule base to automate the Low Fidelity to High Fidelity move.

Network Model Management


Network Model Management extends traditional asset lifecycle data management associated with design, as-built records posting, inspection and maintenance records into the field and control center operations. 

Services for Integrated IT/OT

  • Implementation of network models for OMS, DMS, SCADA and distribution planning as part of capital projects, leveraging the industry-standard CDPSM CIM profile for electric utilities. This helps utilities reduce their data-related risks and cost overruns in implementing OT systems
  • Maintenance of network models for OT systems, with a single, consistent view of data moving all the way – from design into GIS and OT systems rather than multiple data  sources
  • Optimization of Network Model Build processes to use additional data sources, resolve build challenges that currently must be addressed manually or through post-processing to meet evolving business requirements for accuracy and customer engagement
  • Obtain and make updates and make corrections to source data
  • From field operations
  • From the control center to correct errors in data due to inaccuracies
  • Changes made as part of emergency restoration
  • Evaluate information flows moving between design, work, GIS and OT systems and identify opportunities to address bottlenecks that affect data consistency, currency, completeness or correctness and impact safety, customer satisfaction and reliability.

Auto Conflation

Spatial accuracy is one of the biggest barriers to harness full-benefits of new technologies and Auto-conflation helps to overcome unforeseen challenges thus enhancing the operational efficiency of utility infrastructure. Utility assets have a geometric and spatial relationship with their respective linear network and utilities need to be fully equipped to leverage Utility network operations by deploying integrated, more spatially accurate network data thus utilizing ‘’Conflation Automation’’.

Thinking spatially, conflation or disambiguation is an approach that can be adopted whenever there is confusion in identities of two or more places, sharing similar characteristics of each other until there seems to be only a single identity. The ultimate objective of conflation is to retain accurate data, minimize redundancy, and resolve data conflicts, by aligning geospatial datasets of different accuracy levels.


Data improvement initiatives, grid modernization programs via network model management, services based implementations are just a few of the areas where operators have been investing funds. To compensate for these expenditures management is being challenged to reduce their overall spend while continuing to deliver a safe, reliable service. Utilities will face multiple such future scenarios where it would be critical for them to adopt the above GIS technologies beforehand, to optimize their businesses. This will enable them to cut down their costs, implementation time and also extends additional benefits and values. Progressive utilities undergoing the digital transformation journey could focus on these strategic geospatial investments today to ensure efficient data management services across utility’s network infrastructure, IT and OT systems while shaping the geospatial landscapes of the future.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 25, 2019

Thanks for sharing this very insightful piece and overview of the technologies available, Rahul. Are there any particular utilities or organizations that you would consider leaders in this space that others should look to for guidance or lessons learned?

Rahul Krishna Pandey's picture
Rahul Krishna Pandey on Aug 5, 2019

That is a good question, Matt. I have been thinking about it, and also was in search of the same, but honestly, I don’t have any that stand out. It’s all about the utility community and its attainment and some have limited capital. I do know some organization are progressing in small ways and other are forced to by events or regulations, PG&E for example, but I can’t pull the name of a leader out, although there are consultants and vendors that deals in this space including RMSI who have capability to direct utilities.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 5, 2019

I suppose it's still an emerging space and hopefully there's a lot of shared information going on early on that there won't be any clear winners or losers, but rather industry adopting the technology in an appreciable way and creating a 'rising tide lifts all boats' type situation

Rahul Krishna Pandey's picture
Rahul Krishna Pandey on Aug 9, 2019

That's true Matt!

Rahul Krishna Pandey's picture
Thank Rahul Krishna for the Post!
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