Geographical information system (GIS) technology creates visual models of geographical data. Its use in the sector represents a major leap forward due to its ability to visualise, question, analyse, and interpret data; to understand relationships, patterns and trends.
The utilities sector has been moving towards a closer alignment between their delivery outcomes and service, and what the customer desires, says Barry Middleton, power and utilities director at PwC. “GIS supports that strategy.”
“It’s giving a geographical view of where a company’s assets are, how they are performing, what condition they are in and what work is being performed on those assets. It plays to the whole agenda around analytics as companies drive efficiency.”
GIS is an important component of an eco-system of technologies. “If you’re going to drive data collection out amongst the field force then the GIS system also needs to be coupled with their mobile technology so workers can go in and update the GIS systems.” “If you couple GIS with analytics and a strong asset management and work management system, you’ve got the three key pillars for driving customer-driven asset plans, efficient and optimised asset management plans and work arrangements. You’ve got all the analytics to understand what risks might exist and how that might impact your customers.”
How does Middleton see GIS evolving? “The maturity of the system’s use and the technology which provides the information to the user will no doubt speed up and get better and better. But utilities have got to get better at using this stuff and that means back to back with the big data agenda of handling bigger information volumes either centrally or in the field with more maturity and bringing together datasets and doing analytics around those datasets.
“You’ve got spatial visualisation of information but if you couple that with where we’re going with the Internet of Things, better sensor data, using robotics to analyse that information together and then being able to remotely control assets… “You might get incremental improvement by doing a bit more around GIS, or a bit more around sensor information and remote control of assets but the power is in bringing those things together.”
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