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From ageing infrastructure to changing customer needs, utilities in Asia face a diverse set of problems. But they all share one thing in common: location.

Location provides a common language for departments to work together, talk with customers, spot weaknesses in infrastructure, and respond quickly. “While the nature of these big challenges are diverse, they all share a strong geographic component and must be addressed by putting GIS technology to work”, according to Bill Meehan, Global Director of Utilities at Esri, a leading provider in geospatial technology.

Esri shares five key areas in which location and geospatial can help utilities solve their problems.

1. Grid modernisation

As utilities add sensors to their power grids, it gets more complex to manage and understand the data. Geographic information systems (or GIS) helps use location to analyse and understand it.

Real-time sensor data combined with location allows utilities to understand how the grid is performing and identify hidden vulnerabilities. Where is there a weakness? Do we have a team nearby to fix it? Data is much easier to understand when tied to location.

The quality and timeliness of data is crucial at this stage. Even a small percentage of errors in grid data can cost the safety of an employee or the reliable access to electricity for a home. Combining GIS with mobile apps is making a huge difference here, with utilities able to capture, edit and share data in real-time.

2. Asset management

Utilities have to continuously monitor their infrastructure, which is often in remote areas. Geospatial analysis allows utilities to predict asset failure at a lower cost.

Esri’s platform can handle billions of data elements and provide access to a real-time digital model of the entire network on any device. Employees can trace the path of a network on a smartphone or tablet in the field.

In London, authorities used a mobile app to increase the efficiency of safety and reliability inspections of power cables. It halved the labour requirement, reduce the average cost per inspection and allowed remote inspections. All in all, this saved over $180,000 and reduced safety hazards for the public and employees.

3. Public safety

Location is absolutely critical for the safety of employees during maintenance and repair works. “If workers are unsure of where something is located, they might mistake one device for another and get hurt,” according to Meehan. Unlike paper maps, GIS can provide field employees with accurate real-time data.

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