Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Ubisense Takes Utilities Away from Paper-Based System to Greater Productivity and Accuracy
June 9th, 2015 by Susan Smith
Ubisense Group plc, a leader in enterprise location intelligence solutions, announced the launch of its new inspection and survey solution at the American Gas Association (AGA) Operations Conference & Biennial Exhibition in Grapevine, Texas in May. At the conference, Ubisense’s vice president of networks industry strategy, Jay Cadman, presented and Ubisense demonstrated the capabilities of its new solutions.
Cadman presented, “How Much Longer Will Regulators Accept Highlighted Maps?” During this session, Cadman explained the many challenges with the traditional paper-based system, which requires field surveyors to drive or walk along miles of gas mains to detect leaks, and mark their progress using a highlighter and a paper map. They then get to the main office and manually transfer their data onto master paper maps. Cadman spoke about the use of mobile technology and situational awareness to modernize all inspection and surveying procedures.
By combining data from GPS, geospatial information systems (GIS), work management systems (WMS) and real-time feeds, such as network sensors, weather and traffic, utilities can combine data from to prove compliance on-demand, gain efficiencies and collect more reliable, accurate data.
GISCafe Voice: Was there resistance among some attendees to the idea of mobile and combining relevant geospatial data or did the audience embrace it as an alternative to paper highlighted maps?
Jay Cadman: We work with several utilities and they all fully embrace the idea of mobile as an alternative to paper-based maps. Unlike most businesses that can experiment with new technologies, utilities provide essential services with very little room for errors or disruptions. This makes them much more cautious about how they approach changes to their network or processes, and rightfully so. Based on our conversations with utilities, mobile is no longer an nice-to-have but a must-have capability so it’s simply a matter of time before mobile becomes an integral standard for field operations, and specifically for conducting inspections and surveys.
GISCafe Voice: Do you estimate how long it will take to make the change to mobile in the utility industry?
Jay Cadman: We believe for the majority of utilities, the transition to mobile will be an incremental process over the next three years. We’re working with some utilities right now that are embarking on significant deployments with thousands of users, so from our vantage point the transition to mobile is underway. Some are simply adopting mobile more aggressively than others.
GISCafe Voice: With the new technology, will crews still be accessing “ground truth” with new survey and inspection solutions?
Jay Cadman: Yes, “ground truth” will continue to be a critical piece of the inspection and survey process for several years. myWorld Inspection & Survey provides a critical link between the field crew and the GIS group. Field workers can provide updates about the location or status of assets to the central office enabling the GIS team to make updates to the GIS, which is the system of record for geospatial asset information.
In capturing “ground truth,” details, simple interfaces are critical to ensure user adoption, as even simple updates, such as which side of a house a meter is located or updating a pole type, save time on both blue sky days and in emergency situations.
GISCafe Voice: What was the explanation for how to combine data from GPS, GIS, WMS and real time feeds for better efficiencies and reliable data?
Jay Cadman: By integrating multiple data sources, utilities can leverage, rather than replace, existing enterprise systems. myWorld Inspection & Survey consolidates all field inspection activities and integrates with any GIS, WMS and WFM system. Using our solution, utilities can also integrate cloud-based data, such as weather and traffic, Twitter, government data and web cams, enabling field workers to gain better situational awareness about their location and factors that may impact their work or safety. By also incorporating the GPS location of field workers and mobile assets, field workers can better gauge their location in relation to assets, which is critical because our system automatically captures surveyed assets based on the proximity of the field worker to the GPS breadcrumb trail. This provides a valuable audit trail to prove compliance.
When data is collected, it is validated against existing systems in the field and is then automatically transmitted back to the corporate systems of record, eliminating manual entry, reducing errors and decreasing the manpower required to manage the process.