At the HxGN conference in Las Vegas Chris Bodely of Anglian Water which provides water and wastewater services to 6.3 million customers in the southeast of England gave an overview of GIS at the water utilty and in particular their implementation of a mobile GIS. This is relevant for any utility that is still sending paper maps and work orders to the field.
In 1992 Anglian began digitizing their paper maps and drawings. In 1995 they implemented an AM/FM/GIS solution using Intergraph FRAMME. Then in 2003/2004 they developed a new GIS strategy, a key element of which was a mobile GIS solution. At that time field work orders were paper and the process to develop them was manual. Because it was a manual, paper-based process, it was difficult to process feedback from the field staff when something was changed or when errors in the records were documented by field staff. The result was that forms returned from the field were often incomplete and unreliable. This is a problem that most utilities relying on a paper-based process are experiencing.
In 2006 Anglian provided Panasonic Toughbooks to their field staff with a desktop mapping application and facilities data. The application enables field staff to see as-built maps and other information for Anglian's water and wastewater networks. In 2012 the application was replaced with an integrated application that includes accces to SAP.
A key feature of the mobile GIS is that it also enables field staff to record errors and changes as redline directly on the digital map in the field as part of a two step automated process. The redline is which is then forwarded electroniaclly to Anglian's Central Mapping group. After reviewing the proposed changes Central Mapping update the faciltiies database with the new information. Providing direct access to the database has empowered the field staff, who are now taking greater responsibility for the reliability of the data in the facilities database.
Anglian found that the mobile GIS resulted in producitivity improvments across most process areas of 2-5%. But the biggest benefit was in the area of data quality. Form completion and quality improved from the low 60s% to the high 90s% over a period of 6 months. This resulted in improved regulatory and statutory data capture, for example, to comply with the Traffic Management Act (TMA), and directly impacts the bottom line, because it means fewer fines for non-compliance with the TMA. Another major benefit was that empowerment resulted in a happier field workforce
The remaining major challenge is to provide the updated facilities information to field staff automatically. Currently it is a manual process requring ditribution of the updated facilities database via DVD.