USGIF GotGeoint Blog USGIF promotes geospatial intelligence tradecraft and a stronger community of interest between government, industry, academia, professional organizations and individuals focused on the development and application of geospatial intelligence to address national security objectives.
EarthCube is community-led cyberinfrastructure that will enable data sharing across the geosciences. Its aim is to develop a framework to assist researchers in understanding and predicting the Earth system from the sun to the center of the Earth. The goal of EarthCube is to create a community-driven cyberinfrastructure that will enable global data discovery and knowledge management and achieve interoperability and data integration within and across disciplines.
The Earthcube vision is to transform research and data management practices within the geosciences community over the next decade in order to provide new capabilities, including access to data and visualization tools, to researchers and educators. This initiative will provide a knowledge management framework for the geosciences that will result in improved productivity within the geosciences community and accelerated research on the Earth system.
EarthCube is a collaborative partnership between the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate of Geosciences (GEO) and the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI). It’s also a virtual community with over 2,500 participants, including atmosphere, ocean, computer, information, and social scientists, as well as educators, data managers, and other contributors.
This community has done a great deal of collaborative work since EarthCube was launched in mid-2011. As of September 2013, a new round of NSF awards was made to develop key technologies, promote community building, explore integrative systems, and prototype a governance structure.
In addition to the funded project teams, several Special Interest Groups are in place as virtual teams working together on EarthCube-related projects.
Early in March of this year an EarthCube IT/CS/FOSS Stakeholder Assembly Workshop was held in Boulder, CO. The workshop was intended to bring together members of the computer and information science communities, as well as representatives from industry and free and open source software communities.
The motto of the ICA-OSGeo Labs initiative is "Geo For All." By combining the potential of e-learning tools and open source geospatial software, the academic community can strengthen education in GIScience providing students with a holistic education covering open source, open standards, and open data in geospatial technology.
The widespread application of e-learning tools and open source GIS will increase access to GIS education. Free and open GI software helps make geospatial education available to students from economically poor backgrounds worldwide (removing the need for high cost proprietary GI software). The key aim of Geo for All is to make it possible for students in developing and poor countries to be also able to get geospatial education. Geo for All will be starting work on "Train the Trainer" GIS programs for school teachers all over the world.
It is very important to have open source GIS and standards (OGC, ISO TC 211) based solutions to achieve widespread application of geotools at the grassroots level especially in developing countries. Open source GIS provides accessibility, low cost solutions and lowers the entry barriers for the use of geospatial technologies for all.
At the India Geospatial Forum in Hyderabad, I moderated a session on electric power. It turned out ot be an absolutely fascinating conversation with a wide range of speakers representing different aspects of the Indian power industry.
Arup Ghosh, Chief Technology Officer at Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd presented an insightful view into implemnenting GIS from the prespective of a private utility. Only 5% of India's power industry is private, but the private sector seems to be leading a transformation of the Indian power industry in a number of areas.
Mr Ghosh pointed out that a major challenge for the electric power industry in India is that distribution is chaotic and this is primarily because of financing. The numbers that Mr Ghosh intimated convey just how big a problem this is. Distrubution companies owe financial institutions Rs 200,000 crores ($33 billlion). Consumers owe the power distribution companies Rs 60,000 crores ($10 billion). According to official statistics aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses (non-revenue generating) amounts to 30% of total power generated, but for some parts of the country the rate of AT&C losses is much higher. For example, when TPDDL was privatized, its AT&C rate was 52%. oVer half of its power was non-revenue generating.
GIS at TPDDL
Mr. Ghosh offered some very interesting statistics and lessons learned from TPDDL's implementation of GIS. In 2006 TPDDL invested Rs 12 crores ($2 million) in implementing a GIS. Annual maintenance and operations for the GIS cost Rs 1.5 crores ($250,000). The estimated annual rate of return on the investment is Rs 4 crores ($700,000) per year. It is estimated that the investment in GIS paid for itself in 3.5 to 4 years.
Mr. Ghosh offered some valuable insights based on TPDDL's experience in implementing GIS.
When implementing GIS there need to be a clear roadmap where the business processes that will use GIS are identified. Mr Gosh was able to provide very specific statistics for TPDDL. It has 360 business processes, of which 40 leverage GIS.
To optimize the value derived from GIS, it has to be integrated with other enterprise systems. Mr Ghosh specifically mentioned ERP, CRM, DMS, outage management (OMS), and electric network modeling (SYME).
For the long term success of GIS, it important to make sure that a robust schema is developed for the database in which land base, customer, and facility information is stored. In Mr Ghosh's experience It is very difficult to rework a poorly structured database.
The major implementation challenges that TPDDL experienced were
Developing the land base - In India utiltiies have to put this together themselves from high resolution satellite imagery, field surveys, and a variety of source sof geographic and demographic data sources. Private utilities experience a challenge in accessing satellite data (from Indian or international sources) because access to satellite data is controlled by the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) and private companies are not permitted direct access to satellite imagery.
Consumer Data – One of the major data challenges in India as in other jurisdictions is relating consumers to the power network, linking consumers to a specific phase, transformer, feeder and substation.
Data is perishable - if a field survey requires 6 months, the data collected can quickly become obsolete. Business processes need to implemented that are designed to optimize and maintain data quality.
Finding and recruiting skilled GIS professionals. The GIS group at TPDDL has about 60 field personnel and 18 analysts and support staff. None of these has an educational background in GIS. My understanding was that 12 are electrical engineers and the rest are people with electric power experience. All have learned GIS "on the fly". Mr Ghosh said the major problem is that engineering facilities do not include GIS in their curriculum.
Mr Ghosh reiterated several times that this has to be treated as a business process reengineering activity, not just a matter of installing new software and initiating data cleanup and field survey projects. Maintaining data quality required changing business processes.
Keeping the land base uptodate – new developments such as subdivisions (estates) and renovations to existing sites are occurring continually and the utility has to implement processes to ensure these changes are captured.
Ensuring the facilities database was uptodate – new subdivisions and renovations to existing sites means new electric power circuits and equipment. In addition the power network requires replacement and upgrading (reinforcement). Business processes that ensure these changes are captured ina timely fashion in the facilities databae are required. Many utilities have as-built backlogs that extend to months and even years.
Updating consumer data – consumers move, they get disconnected and reconnected, and increasingly they may be requesting new serrvices. a business process that ensures these changes are captures in a timely fashion is required.
Dynamic revision of consumer indexation – ensuring that each consumer is linked to the corrrect phase, transformer, feeder, and substation is a challenge the world over.
TPDDL realized a number of important benefits as a result of implementing a GIS program.
Streamlined by integrating GIS and DMS and GIS and SAP. Reduced redundant data by implementing a single source of truth for asset data. The asset lifecycle was streamlined by integrating GIS, CYME, SAP and financial asset management. This helped TPDDL optimize their capital expenditure and investment planning.
Integrating GIS and DMS for their 11KV network, and integrating GIS and OMS (outage management) helped them improve outage management. The network diagram extracted from the GIS was used for operations and streamlining the permit to work (PTW) process. The asset attributes data stored in the GIS improved maintenance planning and scheduling. Perhaps the biggest operational benefit is that GIS helped TPDDL understand the causes of their technical losses and plan for mitigation.
Being able to exactly geolocate their customers, and link each customer to phase, transformer, feeder, and substation has helped provide better services and their collections efficiency which is now 99.7%. Their pole inventory has also been implemented in their GIS as are street lights. GIS has also helped them automate customer connection/disconnection and speed uo revenue generation. it has also helped with being able to respond more rapidly to power availability requests from high demand consumers.
Based on their GIS and other initiatives, TPDDL has been able to reduce their AT&C loss percentage to the low double digits with the intention to get this down to single digits. Based on TPDDL's experience implementing their GIS, Mr Ghosh offered some recommendations for regulators and government policy makers.
Availability of satellite images – Must be made available to private sector.
Regulators should encourage investment in GIS – Investment linked with clearly defined benefits and transparently calculated IRR.
Regulators should encourage GIS-based asset management – Planning, creating, maintaining, moving and retiring electricity network assets should be implemented through a GIS.
Preferential funding for GIS-supported capex schemes – Banks and other funding agencies should recognise GIS-supported capex scheme as superior with better assured returns.
Training and skill development – this is a major challenge. Engineering faculties do not include geospatial in theri curriculum and there soes not appear to be a link between the colleges and universities that do include geospatial in their curriculum and utilities.
Among other things the MOU provides for the establishment of Open Source Geospatial Laboratories and Research Centers (ICA-OSGeo Labs) across the world for supporting development of open-source geospatial software technologies, training and expertise.
The motto of the ICA-OSGeo Lab initiative is "Geo For All". It is intended that the combination of e-learning tools and open source GIS will increase access to GIS education. Free and open GIS software helps make geospatial education available to students from economically poor backgrounds and students in developing and poor countries.
At this year's GIS in the Rockies, James Fee gave the keynote which was targeted at GIS professionals on the topic of how to remain relevant in the age of change. He concluded that a GIS professional is a programmer and he recommended learning how to not only use but also to develop applications using the latest open source geospatial software.
To help people get started in open source geospatial software development, a completely funded OSGeo India, FOSS GIS -3- week Winter School at IIIT Hyderabad, India has just been announced.
Geospatial Technology has made rapid strides in the last decade, but a lack of people with software development skills and access to source code has led to a set of uses that are limited by the tools rather than the needs of the application domains. For example, in urban planning, though development of master plans are able to exploit these tools for macro level planning, its integration to micro & meso-level needs of communities and government/utility agencies respectively is hindered by the absence of the appropriate GIS based applications. Tp develope these requires not only knowing how to use geospatial software but the ability to modify existing and create new modules for specific domains. To do this requires access to source code and an understanding of the software development process. Combined with knowledge of geospatial science this can lead to innovation and the development of new advanced technology for solving problems in specific domains.
To contribute to creating a community of developers with the necessary software development skills, a 3-week Winter School on “Open Source Development of Geospatial Technology – Community level planning” is being organised during from 27th January to 15th February 2014. It is organized by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation - India (OSGEO-India) and the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H). The last date for applying for the course is 29th December, 2013.
The objectives of the course are
To impart knowledge about the current open source software development practices, with a geospatial focus
To educate about geospatial science concepts and on how to use them for problem solving
To encourage course participants to think ‘outisde-of-the-box’ by providing a platform for assessing and implementing innovative ideas.
The focus of the current winter school will be on integrating geospatial concepts into community level planning.
The organizers see this as the first initiative of its kind in India to encourage people to understand and modify a software tool, rather than be passive users of the toolset.
One of the organizers of the course is K.S. Rajan, Head of the Laboratory for Spatial Informatics at IIIT-H in Hyderabad. Dr. Rajan has just received the Indian National Geospatial Award 2013 from the Indian Society of Remote Sensing in recognition of his contribution to the field of geo-spatial science, technology and applications in India.
73% agreed or strongly agreed that BIM implementation presents serious cost and commercial challenges for small businesses
71% agreed or strongly agreed that BIM is here to stay and that in
the future clients will expect it to be incorporated into their work.
58% agreed or strongly agreed that BIM implementation presents significant opportunity for new business and improved efficiency.
76% of respondents from businesses under 10 employees said they are just starting their BIM journey and have little understanding of the finer details.
9.6% of respondents from businesses under 10 employees said clients regularly ask about their use of BIM, (Compared to almost 50% of respondents from businesses with over 50 employees).
66% of respondents from businesses under 10 employees agreed or strongly agreed that the government BIM initiative will make it harder for small businesses to compete for government contracts.
The survey suggests that there is a divide between large and small consultancies, with larger organisations taking the lead on BIM. It also suggests the need to help smaller businesses (SMEs) to make a success of BIM.
The BIM4SME working group is designed to help SMEs in understanding the BIM process. Its objectives are to raise awareness of BIM, articulate the value proposition / business benefits, and provide a clear understanding of the requirements of Level 2 BIM within the SME marketplace. It is also intended to provide a voice for the SMEs back to the BIM Task Group.
University College London (UCL) Engineering is expanding its curriculum to include the geomatics aspects of building information modeling (BIM) and the integrated management of geospatial and BIM-related data. The new masters program in Geomatics for BIM builds on UCL Engineering's experience in laser scanning, geographic information science, photogrammetry and 3D imaging. The program introduces students to real-world applications of BIM, along with leading edge 3D GIS and BIM-related research.
Other universities also offer courses aimed at the cross-disciplinary area where geospatial and architecture, engineering and constrcution (AEC) converge. The College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Philadelphia University offers a M.S. in GeoDesign. The University of Southern California's Spatial Sciences Institute offers a B.S. in GeoDesign.
I have blogged
frequently on the workforce challenges facing the utility industry
resulting from accelerating retirement among engineers and skilled
workers and by the technology transformation associated with the smart
grid. Community colleges in partnership with utiltiies have been the
quickest to respond to this challenge. But universities, encouraged by
program like the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus program,
are responding as well, though they are also facing an aging workforce
Now something has appeared on the horizon in education that
may provide a way of ramping up more rapidly to the challenge of
training the next generation of engineers and skilled workers.
From October 10th to December 18th 2011 Stanford offered a free, on-line course, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence",
open to anyone, that attracted 160'000 students.
The term applied to this type of on-line education is massive open
on-line courses (MOOCs).
In August 2012, the online education company Coursera began offering free college courses. Since Coursera launched, the company has registered a total of almost 2.8 million users, with approximately 1.45 million students enrolling in courses each month. Coursera also recently began offering students opportunities to receive credit and recognition for their work through organizations such as the American Council on Education (ACE).
According to Jack Dangermond who led the plenary sessions on the first day, this year in San Diego 12000 people from 130 countries were in San Diego for the 33rd Esri International User Conference.
I gravitated primarily to the utility sessions. According to Bill Meehan, who is responsible for ESRI's utility business, there were 750 utility folks at this year's UC.
GIS is everywhere
GIS is being used in diveerse areas including environmental monitoring, climate change, permafrost melting, sea level rise, agriculture, water resources, aquaculture, pollution remediation, energy resources management, land information systems, urban design, utility network management, wasteshed modeling, utility pole inspection, sewer rehabilitation, port management, indoor GIS, iInsurance risk management, health-related mapping, law enforcement, mapping where space debris might fall, flood risk mapping, storm tracking and damage assessment, geodesign, crowdsourcing for collecting a variety of data, interoperabilty, citizen engagement, government transparency, cartography, geology and mining, automatic generalization of different scale maps, story maps, portals for infrastructure, and open data, to mention just a few of the things that were singled out in the plenary session.
Some of the areas that were singled out for special recognition were
Special Achievements in GIS award went to the Dartmouth Atlas for showing geographically how outcomes and the cost of medical procedures varies depending on location across the U.S.
The Hong Kong Lands Department received the Enterprise GIS award for their land management system which they started in the 1990's and is now in its second generation.
Tbe President's Award went to Direct Relief which distributes different types of equipment to people around the globe in need with 99% efficiency according to Forbes.
The theme of this UC was GIS transforming our world, not only changing the physical world as we know it, but also changing our perception of the world and how GIS has and will fundamentally help us collectively build a better future. A classic example that has impacted everyone on the planet is GPS or more generally GNSS. As a number of speakers including Dangermond said we are never lost any more and that is fundamental change to how we perceive the world.
Some of the major themes that emerged at this UC are common to many
software and service providers in the IT sector, but some of these are
new or unique to ESRI.
We are facing serious global challenges, in particular climate change, which both at the Geodesign Summit and at this UC conference appears to be a personal challenge for Dangermond who sees GIS as contributing in major way in creating a more sustainable future. He sees GIS helping to change how we think and act and how we do basic things such as design.
GIS across the organization
A theme that was pervasive throughout the conference including in the utility sessions was the need to make GIS pervasive across the organization because 90% of the data that organizations are collecting and managing has location. This was also true in utility sessions I attended, where the thrust is to expand the use of GIS outside of the traditional area of records management into other departments.
Vertical industry "templates"
In the utility and telecommunications sectors there is a major effort underway to create preconfigured vertical "templates" for specific vertical industries. In the utility sector one was announced yesterday for the electric power Industry, and others are underway for gas and telecommunications. These templates are a collection of data and tools for vertical industries and are available as open source on Github.
The web was pervasive, It was hard to find a session where the theme that desktop GIS is being transformed into web GIS did not come up. It doesn't mean that the desktop is going to go away in the near future, but sharing data, applications, and apps is being recognized as a common goal and web GIS makes this very easy to do. This includes web portals for accessing enterprise data over the web.
A lot of the traditonal desktop GIS capabilities are now being made available in the cloud so that all you need is an iOS or Android device or a web browser. This is also available to large enterprises who need to keep their data on their own servers for security reasons. Cindy Salas from Centerpoint Energy demonstrated ESRI's cloud capability but running "on premise" completely wthin Centerpoint's fire wall.
Being able to integrate location and the spatial dimension into enterprise applications such as ERP (SAP), business intelliegence (IBM Cognos), Salesforce, MS Dynamics, and Excel spreadsheets is a new focus for ESRI. They have already created plugins for several well-known applications.
In the past when you talked about mobile in the context of utilities, you were normally dealing with Panasonic Toughbooks which could cost up to $6 000 each. At this conference just about every application was able to run on a variety of low cost mobile devices including iOS and Android mobile devices. One of the sessions I attended was about the National Broadband rollout in Australia where the 500 field folks who are doing 300 000 pit inspections were all equipped with iPads, which you might have thought were too fragile for pretty rough field work.. This project has been underway for something like 18 months and todate only two of the iPads have been damaged.
Spatial data volumes whether from sensors at utilities, from LIDAR scanning of transmission lines, or from earth obsevration satellited are now reckoned in terabytes. There were sessions on spatially enabling Hadoop, SAP HANA and other big data management systems for managing these data volumes.
In the utility track managing real-tme data from sensors on transformers, smart meters, phasors, and other devices and enabling near real-time decision making was a common theme. A general event processing capability that can be triggered by rules has been added to the quiver to make this possible for any data stream.
In the area of imagery, Digital Globe imagery can be accessed with 4-5 hours of acquisition.
Big data and real-time means that we need to be able to understand what these huge volumes of data are telling us and then enable decision-making, automated or human mediated, as rapidly as possible. If a transformer is running hot, we can't wait a week until the next service check to reconfigure the network because by then we may have reduced it projected lifetime by 10%. There were "location analytics" sessions in most of the vertical industry sessions including utilities.
Software companies like ESRI and Hexagon are now in the content busines. And with the data beng made available in the cloud, you can access it through web GIS or desktop GIS. The data includes traditional topographic maps, digital terrain models, imagery from earth observation satellites from Digital Globe and others some of it near real-time (fr example, from Digital Globe within 4-5 hours of acqusition), demographics, and others.
Dangermond's term for this is the "living atlas" because this body of content is intended to be dynamic, real-rime and comprehensive. The goal seems to be all the data you would need to manage the planet.
Some of the content explicitly mentioned includes
30 cm coverage of the US
60 cm coverage of Western Europe
imagery for the middle east and asia in total covering 2/3 of the world
demographics, at the zip code, county, state, and national levels
scientific maps including environmental, energy, infrastructure, and terrain models
This data is accessible to web and desktop applications and makes it very easy to do standard spatial analytical things like multi-criteria suitability or site selection mapping. Users can also publish their own data to the cloud.
This has always been a strong focus area for ESRI and from Dangermond's perspective with the challenges the world is facing, GIS professionals will be even more critical in the future. There is focus on advancing spatial literacy to a broader audience than in the past.
Laser scanning is a major source of important data for the construction industry (right of way determination and construction progress monitoring), utilities (transmission vegetation management), and other industries. ESRI has made this a focus area and there were a number of sessions devoted to managing and analyzing point cloud data.
Dangermond specifically singled out 3D as a major capability area for ESRI. There are specialized 3D products, but 3D is also being built into ESRI main stream GIS and spatial analytical products.
3D city models
At the plenary there was a demonstration of how to quickly build a 3D city model from 2D data, including extruding buildings from a 3D building footprint and height, adding textures depending on building types, and then tools for analysis such as zoning and shadow analysis and visualization including flythroughs. These models are sharable on the cloud as web scenes requiring only a web browser (with no plugins) or iOS mobile devices.
At the UC ESRI is demonstrating a prototype of a product designed specifically for geodesign.
Dangermond specifically mentioned the newest national open data initiative in Peru.
There are sessions specifically on editing and manipulating OpenStreetMap data.