At the last GoGeomatics Social in Ottawa Jonathan Murphy gave an insightful presentation on Geospatial Tech in use for Oil & Gas production in Alberta. Jonathan related his experiences in Northern Alberta preparing terrain for seismic surveys. The is almost entirely muskeg and surveying is only feasible in winter when temporary frozen roads are used to move and setup survey equipment. The seismic survey preparation process in this terrain involves several steps (and some new vocabulary); tramping, mulching, slashing, hand cutting, surveying, laying out, and picking up.
Geospatial technology is used in all aspects of field operations. Everyone carries a Garmin GPS in their coat. Equipment are equipped with mobile phones which also can report geolocation. Geospatial is used to track the location of field personnel and heavy equipment. The surveyors use their own highly accurate survey equipment to survey the location of all bore holes for both source (explosives) and receiver grid (seismic recorders). Mapping is highly dynamic with new ice roads and new source and receiver bore holes being created every day. Tools such as OziExplorer, ArcGIS 10.1, and Microsoft SQL Server are used for elementary mapping applications. Jonathan reported that the applications hardly scratched the surface of geospatial technology. For example, a lot of manual work in updating and maintaining the maps could be eliminated by using basic GIS technology such as buffers.
One of the challenges that Jonathan identified is that the geospatial applications are used by skilled staff who are experienced in seismic surveying, winter drilling programs, wildfire management, and road and facility construction, but have minimal education in geospatial technology. Basically the staff have learned enough GIS "on the fly" to do their jobs. But from Jonathan's talk it was readily apparent that GIS could be leveraged to do much more.
This is a global problem. Engineers and skilled workers in many sectors have received minimal or no education or training in geospatial technology. I remember a India Geospatial Forum in Hyderabad in 2014, where I moderated a session on electric power. It turned out to be an absolutely fascinating conversation with a wide range of speakers representing different aspects of the Indian power industry. One of them was Arup Ghosh, Chief Technology Officer at Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) who presented an insightful view into implementing GIS from the perspective 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.) One of the major implementation challenges that TPDDL experienced was 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. Twelve are electrical engineers and the rest are people with electric power experience. All have learned GIS "on the fly". According to Mr Ghosh the major problem is that Indian engineering facilities do not include GIS in their curriculum. I don't think this problem is restricted to Indian engineering and technical schools.
In the U.S. in response to the demand for computer savvy technicians, a growing number of higher education institutions, especially community colleges are customizing programs to train electrical power workers to handle both conventional electric power and renewable and smart grid networks. For example, Richmond Community College (RCC) in Hamlet, N.C. is teaming up with area utilities to develop a two-year associate's degree in utility substation and relay technology. The college plans to provide training for students in operating and maintaining the current and next generation fleet of substations. Apparently the idea for the education initiative began when Progress Energy approached the school with concerns that in the normal process new inexperienced hires required up to five years of training to become relay technicians, which Progess Energy saw as too protracted a process to keep up with the rate at which experienced workers are retiring.
As another example, York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina has partnered with Duke Energy and other area power companies to develop a nine-week certificate program for specialized electrical line workers.