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April 06, 2009
Visualizing Utilities with UtilityCenter
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on GIScafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

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Industry News

Visualizing Utilities with UtilityCenter

By Susan Smith

click to enlarge

An integrated desktop, web and mobile platform are at the heart of Trimble UtilityCenter

Enterprise GIS system for utilities. Joe Johnson, electric and gas segment manager for Trimble UtilityCenter Solution Group, has had a long history with UtilityCenter and moved over with the acquisition of the product from privately owned UAI, Inc. over a year ago. That acquisition has placed Trimble squarely in the utilities market.

Version 2.6 is basically the same product with some enhancements to make it better aligned with the latest version of ESRI technology (ArcGIS 9.3 compatibility) as well as offering SQL Server 2005 and 2008 database background which provides advanced replication management. It is also now Microsoft Vista x32-compatible, and provides connection auto-restore for lost Local Area Network (LAN) connections. Enhancements have also been made to its outage management performance and usability.

click to enlarge [
A lot of work has been done around integration, according to Johnson, in keeping with the efforts of the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association (NRECA)’s Cooperative Research Network. This network is the author of MultiSpeak Specification, an industry-wide software standard that fosters interoperability between diverse business and automation applications that are used in electric utilities. The specification is maintained and developed by the MultiSpeak Initiative. The group offers research and development programs that they fund for investor owned utilities and the cooperative research network group contracts a consultant to match vendors with standardized interfaces
between different vendor types, customer information systems, GIS systems, staking packages, outage management packages and other solutions that work together in a utility that deliver a geospatial solution.

“MultiSpeak gives you a mechanism to port data from the utility center solution into other solutions and leverage investment in those solutions to work with the UtilityCenter solution,” explained Johnson. “There have been three different versions and standards, with many different vendors involved, I think twenty six different interfaces are defined in the standard.” In UtilityCenter version 2.6. Trimble has worked to standardize on MultiSpeak 3, which is the latest version of the software, and provides additional functionality that is available through this interface. Other enhancements in Version 2.6 address the application as well as facilitate enhancements
derived through this interface with MultiSpeak, namely two-way interfacing, where when a change is made in the GIS it automatically sends that information over to the customer information system, and work management system for construction design. “So that when you apply construction units and plant assets in the staking application or design application, those assets are sent over to the finance and accounting packages so they can properly account for adding those assets and adding to their plant values, etc.,” said Johnson.

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Productivity gains with UtilityCenter are generally seen with moving data from the office to the field and making that information available in the field. “From a quantitative standpoint, we typically see 30-40 percent gain in staking or design functionality from lost time and elimination of redundant work,” said Johnson. “In other words, a guy in the field does a design in one system and he comes back and prints out a paper map, and that typically is provided back into the office where they redraw that work into some kind of GIS solution or AutoCAD package, and they redesign in what they refer to as posting it to the GIS. And the UtilityCenter solution is a cohesive
solution so when they go and do the design, we’re capturing that work, they can use all of the design if they want. The point is they have the ability to keep all the work that’s done and electronically move that data from the field to the office in a fairly seamless manner. In that process, you typically see a 30 percent increase in efficiency in the overall lifecycle of a project. In addition to the actual labor, there’s a lot of dead time when you’re moving paper around and you’re moving from one district office to another district office or you’re in a utility where you have offices spread out throughout a large geographical area.”

The deadtime Johnson is referring to is the time it takes to get the data from point A to point B through their internal mail system or even the mail itself. Because UtilityCenter is all digital, the data can be moved digitally with no time lost. Time is cut down from two to three days without the internal delays of moving paper. Johnson said this translates to labor savings plus improvement in customer service because a utility can then be more responsive to the customer.

With UtilityCenter, utilities can see work throughout the system in all stages of the construction process because it’s all taking place on a common platform using a visual system, which is valuable for outage management. “The initiation, design, construction, as built all can be seen by all users throughout the system,” Johnson pointed out, “historically where you have a GIS system, typically there are jobs in design that are put in, but that information isn’t generally available enterprise wide throughout the solution. It’s in some kind of process where it may be in one application. A guy is doing design until it gets completed, then it gets sent
to the construction crew and they get it done and it finally makes its way to be posted to the map. So that information is not readily available for dispatch and the control center so they’re usually working on it, but they don’t have graphical representation of it. For outage management, responding to trouble tickets, or when you have a problem in a utility, it’s in and around new construction. Because our system is cohesive, they can see that new construction, see that line that’s under the design even though it hasn’t yet been posted to the GIS as finished.”

The ability to see all work in progress throughout the utility and on a geographic map, helps improve users’ awareness which subsequently improves dispatching and safety throughout the utility, according to Johnson. “Because we’re capturing all that information and building a digital network so we can model how the utility is being switched, and how it’s being fed from each customer point electrically in near real time, within seconds of the switching, the model gets updated. All changes that occur happen very rapidly, projects are being implemented on a day to day basis, and that update gets to the map quickly so that dispatching outage management stays up to

The response time and overtime are decreased, which Johnson attributes to UtilityCenter since customers have seen reductions in overtime costs associated with outages because of accurate predictions of where the outages occur, thus knowing where to send the crews at what time of day, because they are able to track that information.

Efficiencies are also defined because customers now have information that they can manage, where in the past, they didn’t have a good repository of all that data that they could effectively evaluate. “Now that they have that solution, they can start making process changes that aren’t directly related to the software solution itself, because they are able to view that data, manage it and understand where they can make improvements to their efficiencies,” concluded Johnson.

Johnson added that as the SmartGrid improves, Trimble will be looking at how utilities apply SmartGrid and SmartMetering to manage where load centers are located within the building structure. Trimble has interfaces to SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) where if something trips or a load exceeds a certain amount, that information can be put into the outage management system. “With tripping, the UtilityCenter will predict what customers are out and where you need to send crew because this device is open, etc. We’ve done work with fault analysis current so we can predict within a few hundred feet where the cause of outage was, so there are devices in the
substation that measure the fault current that occurred during the fault,” explained Johnson. “Because of that you can calculate how far out on the line it occurred and for GIS, you can send the crews to start, as opposed to before they had to ride the entire line to try to figure it out. They can go directly to the location and start inspecting the facilities within a few hundred feet to determine the problem.”

As SCADA improves and starts becoming more intelligent with the SmartGrid and understanding the particular load within commercial and industrial buildings, the technology will address that challenge, Johnson said.

ESRI Strategic Business Partnership

Trimble’s partnership with ESRI is designed to ensure that UtilityCenter’s utility domain expertise aligns with ESRI’s core powering technology. The company works with ESRI with their component modeling language, ArcObjects and MapObjects, as well as ArcGIS Server technology. The uaFM module within UtilityCenter is based on ArcGIS and is an extension application of ArcGIS. uaField is a MapObjects product that may, in the future, embody the same components as uaFM. However, Johnson noted that it would seem “heavy” to put uaFM in the field at this time. On the server there is a direct link between the uaField product and the uaFM product which is
transparent to the user.

Trimble looks forward to growing in the utility market and leveraging some of their existing solutions in that marketplace. Currently their three products designed expressly for the utility industry include:
  • UtilityCenter, a GIS utility solution for outage management, field design and backoffice GIS.
  • FieldPort, a workforce management system for scheduling job orders and providing that information to workers in the field to manage workforce.
  • Utility Fleet Manager solution, a mobile resource management and vehicle location system.

  • Top News of the Week

    The People’s Map project launched an upgrade to its website bringing the vision of affordable mapping for all one step closer. The People’s Map represents the democratization of the mapping process. Anyone can register, contribute and use the map for private, non-commercial use for free apart from a small delivery charge. But the People’s Map goes beyond this with fair perpetual licensing arrangements for commercial users with no derived data or ownership transferral restrictions, and entirely free of third party copyright. For many map users and producers who have fallen foul of Crown Copyright the People’s Map will be a breath of fresh air.

    Intermap Technologies announced that its Intermap Federal Services, Inc. subsidiary has received a USD $11.3 million contract to provide 3D digital elevation data and orthorectified radar imagery for an international project. The Company’s client will use the geospatial data for topographic map production, 3D visualization, and natural resources management.

    Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

    A new agreement between ESRI and Microsoft Corporation gives ArcGIS users fast access to Microsoft Virtual Earth for their geographic information system (GIS) projects. As part of ArcGIS Online at the ArcGIS 9.3.1 release, ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server users will be able to connect directly to Virtual Earth and quickly start their GIS projects with ready-to-use content.

    AeroGRID has signed an agreement with DigitalGlobe to resell their high-resolution satellite imagery. AeroGRID supplies high resolution data for over 20 countries across Europe and North America and this agreement enables the company to significantly extend its coverage of up to date imagery across the world.


    Water, wastewater, and storm water professionals now have access to an online hub of useful information and practical guides designed specifically for water utility geographic information systems (GIS) as ESRI launches the Resource Center for Water Utilities Management.

    The Resource Center offers step-by-step videos and templates for editing asset data, sharing information with the mobile workforce, and creating a dashboard for managers. Visitors can read direct feedback from other water utilities along with case studies and industry best practices. ESRI's GIS technology has long supported the water, wastewater, and storm water industries through ArcGIS software for desktop, mobile, and server. GIS provides water utilities with a mapping and database platform for infrastructure management and construction, utility operations and maintenance, planning, engineering, and administration.

    ERDAS announced “Acquire, Validate and Integrate all of Your Data in Real Time,” a free webinar highlighting ERDAS ADE on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11 a.m. (EST).

    To register for Acquire, Validate and Integrate all of Your Data in Real Time, or find out more about other upcoming webinars, please visit the
    ERDAS website.

    Last month, more than 2,500 people gathered for three days at the ESRI Federal User Conference (FedUC) in Washington, D.C., to learn about new geographic information system (GIS) solutions and applications from ESRI staff, government leaders, and colleagues. Addressing the record-setting crowd, keynote speaker Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland discussed his innovative use of GIS for accountability in the programs
    GreenPrint, and


    Richard Juge, the 2009 president-elect of CCIM Institute, will keynote at the ESRI Business GIS Summit to be held May 4–6, 2009, at the Westin Tabor Center in Denver, Colorado. Juge will discuss how geographic information system (GIS) technology is an essential component of the financial and suitability analyses that underpin the business community's decision making.

    New Products

    Safe Software announced that they have introduced read support for the OpenStreetMap (OSM) format in their latest release, FME 2009. This new support offers the abilities to manipulate, mash up and share OSM datasets, making it easier for users to work with OpenStreetMap data in creative and innovative ways.

    GfK GeoMarketing is releasing the updated and expanded worldwide digital CRESTA map edition for reinsurance companies. This new map edition reflects the significant zone changes and expansions implemented by the CRESTA organization in recent years. GfK GeoMarketing has been the official supplier of the digital CRESTA maps since 2001.

    The CRESTA Map Edition illustrates the worldwide natural disaster risk zones as determined by the Catastrophe Risk Evaluation and Standardizing Target Accumulations Organization (CRESTA). The reinsurance companies Münchener Rück and Swiss Re determined the boundaries of the worldwide 2009 CRESTA Zones on the basis of maps supplied by GfK GeoMarketing.

    IceWEB’s INLINE subsidiary,
    www.geospatialstorage.com, announced it has delivered additions to its custom-designed GeoBase system for the Air National Guard. The INLINE TE 246™ solution includes multiple INLINE GIS servers and storage arrays, along with INLINE’s specially-designed Data Appliance for ESRI GIS software. VMware is now included as part of the new high-performance configuration.

    earthmine, Inc., a street-level 3D mapping company, announced the immediate availability of their new data acquisition hardware platform at SPAR 2009, allowing for the collection of high quality data in any type of environment around the world. At the same time, the company unveiled two new partner programs designed to support customer data collection needs – the earthmine Project Partner and earthmine Collection Partner programs. Both programs are available now and give customers direct control over when and where data is collected, using either earthmine operated vehicles or by purchasing the hardware platform for independent collection. Both announcements
    support the company’s focus on delivering street level imagery and 3D data as a service to organizations that gather, analyze and communicate location-based information.

    For the last seven years Freeance Web software has allowed organizations to create their ESRI Web mapping sites without programming. Using the low-cost, commercial off-the-shelf Freeance Web software, organizations have been quick to recover their low initial investment by avoiding large in-house programming projects and/or expensive custom one-off contracted GIS web sites. Now, the latest release of Freeance Web, 5.1 continues to improve functionality and ease-of-use for building ESRI ArcGIS Server Web applications in-house.

    Dynamic legends are now possible for ArcGIS Server Web applications using Freeance Web 5.1 software. Available with the ESRI ArcIMS software, dynamic legends allow users to easily understand symbology on map displays. The same dynamic legend functionality can now be added to ArcGIS Server Web mapping sites using Freeance Web 5.1 software. Additional tools in the newest release also include enhanced PDF printing, exporting of selected map features, built-in application disclaimers and more.

    ITT Visual Information Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITT Corporation, announced the latest release of ENVI, its premier software solution for processing and analyzing geospatial imagery. The newest release, ENVI 4.6 builds on workflow advances introduced in recent releases by delivering automated processes and procedures that step users through previously complex image processing and analysis tasks. ENVI 4.6 also adds file format support for image data from the new Geo-Eye-1 and KOMPSAT-2 satellites. In addition, significant enhancements to add-on modules and the introduction of a new module for orthorecification are being introduced concurrently with ENVI

    ITT Visual Information Solutions announced the release of the ENVI Orthorectification Module, a new, add-on module to ENVI, a leading software solution for processing and analyzing geospatial imagery. The new ENVI Orthorectification Module combines the advanced, rigorous model from renowned orthorectification experts, Spacemetric, with an ENVI-based automated workflow approach that steps users through the orthorectification process to geometrically correct an image to remove distortions that occur during image capture. Providing support for a wide set of both satellite and aerial sensors, the ENVI Orthorectification Module makes the complex task of orthorectifying
    imagery accessible to image analysts of various experience levels, while providing mathematically accurate results.

    MaxVision introduced the MaxPac 8242XRA, a new high-end rugged 3D computer for in-the-field advanced modeling and analysis including geospatial intelligence operations, advanced pre-mission simulations and post-mission reviews. MaxVision develops rugged portable servers and desktop solutions for some of the world’s most demanding problems and environments. MaxVision has mastered the art of injecting the most advanced processor, graphics and I/O technology into the marketplace in sophisticated packaging to provide high performance computing for harsh environments.

    Dell introduced five new blade, rack and tower PowerEdge servers based on the new Intel Xeon 5500 Series processors. Dell designed its 11th generation of servers with input from IT professionals worldwide to help companies do more with less by simplifying data center operations, improving performance and energy efficiency, and lowering total cost of ownership.

    Maponics LLC announced the official release of the Maponics Spatial API (application programming interface). With this, the playing field for companies looking to enhance their local search with relevant mapping has been leveled. Now, even businesses with small or non-existent geographic data management capabilities can offer cutting edge Web-based local search and mapping, without making significant GIS (geographic information system) infrastructure investments.

    Around the Web

    Google Offers Links to Free Music Downloads in China by David Barboza, March 30, 2009, The New York Times (Registration required)

    Date: April 6 - 9, 2009
    Place: Hyatt Regency Sacramento

    1209 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 USA

    The CalGIS team is currently planning for the 15th annual CalGIS conference, April 6 – 8th 2009 in Sacramento California.  This conference is intended for those who use spatial information or are in the spatial information field. It is a great conference to network with others in California and learn new techniques and skills, as well as, what innovative products are available to get the job done.
    Date: April 7 - 8, 2009
    Place: BW Lamplighter Inn & Conference Centre

    591 Wellington Road , London, Ontario, N6C 4R3 United Kingdom

    ESRI Canada is pleased to invite you to join other GIS professionals for this exclusive opportunity to learn about the latest advances in GIS technology and hear first hand how others in your community are using a geographic approach in their work.
    Date: April 8 - 9, 2009
    Place: Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel

    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    As much as 85% of the enterprise data that companies already possess has a reference to location that is considered when making critical decisions.  Location Intelligence leverages this location content to help companies unlock potential and improve business performance.
    Date: April 14 - 16, 2009
    Place: Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center

    Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    The Middle East region is increasingly navigating a path for development and economic growth. The region being quite receptive to developmental setup provides adequate infrastructure and investments that holds a promising future for geospatial technologies and their applications.
    Date: April 14, 2009
    Place: USA

     A new webinar on creativity for GIS professionals will be held on April 14, 2009 from 10:00 am to 11:00 am PST. Titled “GIS and Creativity - A Webinar,” it is aimed at those who want to embolden their work practices to enhance their career success.  Gretchen Peterson, Principal of PetersonGIS and author of GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design, will host the webinar.
    Date: April 14, 2009
    Place: USA

    From the United States to Europe and from Asia to South America, the positive role that quality 3D elevation data and imagery can play in minimizing the environmental impact caused by the global escalation of infrastructure development projects cannot be overemphasized. Members of this complimentary Webinar’s panel include industry experts recognized throughout their respective careers for practicing and/or advocating socially and environmentally responsible infrastructure planning, development, and maintenance initiatives.

    April 14, 8:00 a.m. PST; 9:00 a.m. MST; 10:00 a.m. CST; 11:00 a.m. EST; 15:00 GMT

    Primary speaker: Seb Lessware

    Subject matter expert: Lorraine Tighe

    Moderator: Kevin Thomas
    Date: April 15 - 17, 2009
    Place: Altas Park-Hotel

    Moscow , Russia

    The International Conference Remote Sensing - the Synergy of High Technologies annually held by Sovzond becomes more and more popular in the geoinformational community. The conference is by right positioned in the calendar of the most high-profile events in this industry since this event allows summarizing the year work and shaping further prospects of ERS market development.
    Date: April 19 - 22, 2009
    Place: Tampa, FL USA

    GITA has been the association for geospatial applications to infrastructure for more than 30 years. Explore the latest in geospatial innovation through an extensive program of over 100 sessions, half-day seminars, and an extensive products and services exhibition at the 2009 Geospatial Infrastructure Solutions Conference April 19-22, 2009, in Tampa, Florida.
    Date: April 21 - 23, 2009
    Place: Holiday Inn Convention Center

    Kearney, NE USA

    The Nebraska GIS Symposium is a showcase of the extensive array of geospatial data, applications, and professionals at work within the state. Learn more and hear what others are doing through a diverse range of workshops, presentations, project showcases, and exhibitors to help you get the most out of your symposium experience.
    Date: April 21 - 22, 2009
    Place: Hôtel Plaza Québec

    3031, boul. Laurier, Ste-Foy , Québec , G1V 2M2 France

    ESRI Canada is pleased to invite you to join other GIS professionals for this exclusive opportunity to learn about the latest advances in GIS technology and hear first hand how others in your community are using a geographic approach in their work.
    Date: April 23, 2009
    Place: Westin Tampa Harbour Island

    725 South Harbour Island Blvd, Tampa, FL USA

    The Preliminary Agenda with User Sessions Is Now Available! If you are a user, solution provider, or system integrator who depends upon Oracle's spatial technologies or are interested in learning about the world's most popular spatial database technology, make plans now to attend the 2009 Oracle Spatial User Conference. This exclusive event will be held Thursday, April 23, immediately following GITA's 2009 Geospatial
    Infrastructure Solutions Conference in Tampa, Florida.
    Date: April 27 - 29, 2009
    Place: Hyatt Regency Riverfront

    Jacksonville, FL USA

    If you’re using GIS technology in your field or simply want to learn more about GIS, this conference is for you. Join other GIS users from the southeast region to get updated, educated, and inspired. Connect with your peers and ESRI staff as you discuss challenges and discover solutions applicable to your organization, industry, and location. Grow your knowledge and gather fresh insight to apply to your GIS projects during this one-of-a-kind forum. Attend the 2009 SERUG Conference and learn firsthand about GIS success.
    Date: April 28 - 29, 2009
    Place: Valhalla Inn, 1 Valhalla Inn Road

    Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7E 6J1 Canada

    ESRI Canada is pleased to invite you to join other GIS professionals for this exclusive opportunity to learn about the latest advances in GIS technology and hear first hand how others in your community are using a geographic approach in their work.
    Date: May 4 - 6, 2009
    Place: Westin Tabor Center

    Denver, CO USA

    Explore the value of GIS for your organization. Whether you’re new to geographic information system (GIS) technology or looking for innovative ways to develop your current projects, be part of this collaborative forum that brings business professionals and industry leaders together. See how business GIS solutions provide a more competitive edge, drive business innovation, and increase ROI; learn more about the critical advantages of GIS at this premier event.
    Date: May 4 - 6, 2009
    Place: Chamber of Commerce & Industry

    Dammam Eastern, Saudi Arabia

    “The Fourth National GIS Symposium in Saudi Arabia”.  Featuring a state-of-the-art exhibit, plenary, keynote, and technical sessions, it would bring all stakeholders in the geospatial domain - academia, researchers, students, and the industry - onto one platform for interaction, sharing and discussion on various topics such as collaboration on technologies and experiences gained.
    Date: May 4 - 8, 2009
    Place: Palazzo dei Congressi

    Stresa, Lago Maggiori, Italy

    You are cordially invited to the 33rd International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE) which will take place on May 4-8.2009 in Stresa, Italy. This 33rd Symposium will represent a major event in the long series of internationally recognized ISRSE meetings. The overall theme of the symposium is the use of Earth Observation systems and airborne techniques for understanding and managing the Earth environment and natural resources.

    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.