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Craft an App in a Snap

Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
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Pat  Hohl's picture
Director - Electric Industry Solutions Esri

Pat Hohl, PE is Esri’s Director of Electric Industry Solutions. He oversees the planning and execution of Esri’s go-to-market strategies in the Electric Industry, primarily in the U.S.A. Hohl was...

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  • Feb 24, 2021 5:00 am GMT
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Smart device and web apps provide extraordinary new tools for just about everything. More app ideas are flooding in all the time! My sister recently called me with her million-dollar idea. She dreams of creating a new app that solves an everyday problem.

She works with people, not software. Fortunately for her, creating powerful apps has gotten easier. The building blocks are now commodities. Many of these are web services delivered in the internet cloud (more about cloud ). Using a web service requires just a couple of lines of code. Behind the scenes, it works like this. Your phone fires parameters to a web service and receives an immediate response enabling the app’s functions. For example, it sends your current location and desired destination asking for directions.

Driving directions on one’s phone changed driving forever. What is the best way to get to the airport? Here you go - turn-by-turn directions based on current conditions! Satellite imagery to go with it? Easy! Current weather or traffic? Simple! Utilities want in on the app action too.

Paperless Possibilities

The paperless possibilities are endless – damage reporting, contact tracing, mutual aid coordination, safety, timekeeping, inspections. What about apps that personalize the customer’s experience? Many customer apps monitor usage and billing. However, few also show the status of nearby outages, tree trimming, upgrades, or construction work. Such focused information fosters higher levels of communication and service.

Often, such apps use location to enhance the user experience. Location helps customers understand how issues apply to them. Moreover, it makes utility workers more effective by relating them to their environment and equipment. Today, people just expect apps to be location-aware. Think about it, how many apps don’t work right when the GPS is turned off?

I’ve never met a high school student that dreamed of doing paperwork at the local utility. Digital native employees expect things to work this way. Utilities must move in this direction to remain relevant to the workforce.

Utilities seeking innovative applications have options to buy or even build them with internal resources. Some utilities prepare specifications and evaluate proposals before purchasing apps. Others develop their own apps. Regardless of the approach, it pays to understand modern location services and how they boost functionality.

CIS Example

Customer Information Systems (CIS) make a good example. How much more effective is a customer representative that has information like worksite locations – on a map - right at their fingertips? It used to be very difficult to embed map-based information in a CIS interface. Now, it is much easier.

Developers can quickly add location functions without learning new tools. They are readily available from the open-source programming interfaces programmers already use. As a result, this technology can be simply embedded into many existing or new apps without delay.

Reimagine Location in Apps

Esri is the premier provider of location services in the world. These services shore up the apps utilities need. Services furnish authoritative basemaps, geocoding, searching, routing, and live data feeds like weather and traffic. Esri’s new ArcGIS Platform brings cost-effective location services to virtually any application.

A suite of web services creates a comprehensive platform from which to build. That is why Esri’s platform is used by some of the largest logistics companies in the world. Location technology has never been easier to include within business systems, apps, or future plans.

I don’t know if my sister’s idea will one day be available in the app store. However, I do know that even apps that are typically not map-centric, like timekeeping, benefit from location technology. They relate users to their setting improving efficiency and accuracy.

For more information about how location technology helps utilities improve communication, efficiency, and service visit our electric industry webpage.

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Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Mar 9, 2021

Good points. The reality is that the Old School methods of disseminating information were done because they had no other choices. Now with software becoming more agile, cloud, location based services, and mobile, utilities have a tremendous opportunity to digitize and automate many processes. 

Robert Brook's picture
Robert Brook on Mar 10, 2021

If you could only see me clapping my hands Pat!

In my experience, utilities never have enough capital or expense and so much of it is tied up in supporting field processes and applications. They create complex solutions and wrap them in multi-team processes and multi-stage workflows. The result it is an expensive, complex system and not much of much of an appetite to change them.

You used CIS…I’ll use digital as-builting. The combination of a rule based submission system (like 1Spatial’s data gateway for internal/external design submission) and a digital as-built product (like what you can easily build on Esri landscape of options to capture construction changes) would be more efficient, reduce the time to build and deploy, and decrease short/long term costs. In addition, you reduce the sources for error and the manpower required to simply input data and apply mapping and symbol standards.

This represents a win-win for a utility. They have a less expensive system; more reliable content and the staff can be redeployed to analyze the vast amounts of data to generate operational intelligence and efficiencies.

This is just one of many examples but it starts with what you identified; creating, simple power applications easily.

Pat  Hohl's picture
Pat Hohl on Mar 11, 2021

Great insights guys! Keep the ideas flowing. 

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