The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for geospatial solutions that enabled local governments and utilities to be resilient. GIS has always played a key role in helping these organizations gain awareness and understanding, and going into 2021, the importance of solutions centered in GIS will be critical in helping them carry out their operations safely and in a more coordinated manner.
1. 3D GIS
We will see an increased demand for 3D GIS datasets in operations. For example, while BIM and CAD can give us a view of a building, workers require more detailed models to analyze data, locate assets, route resources, and plan scenarios. They need a total view of their inspection and monitoring programs that is accessible across the organization and resides in a single system of record alongside their network assets. As organizations continue to reopen, 3D GIS will also be vital in ensuring that staff is properly spaced and that building capacity isn’t exceeded through the monitoring of pedestrian flow. 3D mixed reality models will enable local governments and utilities to address infrastructure issues more efficiently and proactively. For example, electric utilities can use 3D GIS to see where tree growth is endangering power lines, and city water departments can get a more complete view of the infrastructure underground to more accurately plan their repairs with the necessary equipment and safety considerations.
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2. Digital Twins
As local governments and utilities are being expected to maintain and even increase service levels—all while funding and personnel are being reduced—their operations can become more effective by moving away from paper and siloed systems. By creating a digital replica of their assets in GIS and by defining their processes in a GIS-centric enterprise asset management system, organizations can consolidate and synchronize the activities among their staff with much greater efficiency. And by adopting cloud technology, deploying mobile solutions, and developing more sustainable API-based integrations, organizations can operate without interruption as information is readily available to workers regardless of their location and without requiring them to return to an office.
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3. Real-Time Sensor Data and IoT
Real-time sensor data combined with GIS and GIS-centric enterprise asset management saves utilities and local governments considerable operational expense by not requiring field workers to inspect large quantities of assets individually that are in otherwise good working condition. For example, by instituting a maintenance process that places IoT devices throughout a water system and monitoring asset performance, a water utility can see current and historic trends across the entire system. Additionally, these sensors can pinpoint emerging problems so they can be addressed before they occur. Because the devices transmit information to the asset management system, the possibility of key data being missed during traditional maintenance is eliminated. Automated data allows for more accurate decision-making because it is consistent, and solutions that can analyze it through artificial intelligence become more effective at helping organizations see trends not otherwise apparent through human observation alone. And since all of the data is underpinned by location, once again, GIS is the tool through which important connections and dependencies in every part of the network are displayed.
By George Mastakas, Cityworks VP of Enterprise Solutions & Corporate Partnerships