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.
If you would ask me among all the new technologies on display here and at other events which will likely dramatically reduce the bottom line of utilities in the transmission business I would say unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. For example, every utility which has transmission lines spends large sums on overflying, typically with very expensive helicopter flights, transmission lines for vegetation management to monitor the trees to prevent them from interfering with transmissions lines. If instead this could be done with much less expensive UAV flights, the savings would be huge. But right now this is not possible, because commercial operation of UAVs is only allowed by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) with visual line of sight (VLOS) rules.
The potential ROI of using UAVs for vegetation monitoring are expected to be sizable, but this requires the FAA to change regulations to permit operating of UAVs with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) rules. Today at DistribuTECH2016 Eileen Lockhart of Xcel Energy with partners Environmental Consultants Inc and Flot Systems gave a presentation that showed just how close we are to UAVs operating under BVLOS rules becoming a commercial reality for electric power utilities.
Xcel Energy, which has electric and gas assets in eight states, is the fourth largest utility in the U.S. They have partnered with EEI, EPRI, INL and others in the utility sector to show the way in the application of UAVs in the utility sector. This includes working with the FAA to push forward the practical application of UAVs in the utility sector. Their objectives are improved safety for utility employees and the public, reducing risk to and improving reliability of the grid, and reducing the cost of operating and maintaining grid infrastructure. The technologies involved include GIS and geospatial analytics in addition to the UAVs themselves. Expected sources of major savings are reducing the need for expensive helicopters and plane flights and the time utility employees have to spend in the field.
Xcel launched their UAV Proof of Concept project in 2015 with seven UAV missions in transmission, gas operations, energy supply, and electricty distribution.
Transmission line and tower inspections
Substation facility rating data collection
Pipeline bridge and river crossings inspections
High pressure pipeline inspections
Coal/ash storage inventory (volumetric)
Wind turbine blade inspections
Storm damage assessment
Just last week (Feb 3, 2016) Xcel with its partners completed the first beyond visual line of sight mission with UAV flights over 20 miles of transmission lines. They are convinced that BVLOS flights will become a commercial reality in the near future. The UAV flights will not be flown by Xcel itself but by contractors such as Flot Systems operating with FAA licences. Xcel has not yet calculated ROIs for the applications using UAVs, but plan to do so soon.
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.
The contribution of geospatial data and technology to the Canadian GDP through productivity improvement is estimated to be $20.7 billion or 1.1% of the Canadian GDP in 2013. Many sectors have benefited from the application of geotechnology and data including mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction (productivity improvement due to geotechnology and data estimated at 4.54%), transportation and warehousing (1.64%), utilities (1.58%), public administration (1.51%), construction (1.23%), agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (1.22%), and management of companies and enterprises (1.08%).
In an attempt to bring this diverse industry together and enable the geospatial community to act collaboratively, a new umbrella organization GeoAlliance Canada was launched in April 2015. The strategic objectives of GeoAlliance Canada are to understand the characteristics of the geospatial market now and in the near future and especially prepare for the impacts of disruptive technologies, to provide better cohesion in the Geomatics Sector through greater collaboration among all levels of government, private sector companies, and academic institutions, and identify strategic project investments that will catalyze innovation and development, enabling Canadian solution providers to evolve their data services, applications, products, and consulting services in growing SDI and Location Based Services (LBS) environments.
The contribution funding from Natural Resources Canada will provide for essential operational resources for this new organization as it begins to articulate and promote the benefits of using geospatial data and tools for effective decision making to leaders within business, government and education circles.
"For the first time, we have quantified not only the contributions of Canada’s geomatics sector to the economy in terms of GDP and employment, but we have captured the significant economic and non-economic benefits to Canada’s economy, society and environment that the adoption and use of geospatial information (GI) makes possible.
The productivity benefits that accompany the use of GI in a variety of applications are of particular significance, not only for innovation within Canada’s vertical industries, but for federal or provincial governments – who tend to have silos of geomatics expertise and have been slower to fully use and integrate GI into operations, planning and policy-making."
The study found that in 2013 the traditionally defined Canadian geospatial industry (2,450 private sector geomatics firms) generated revenue of $2.3 billion. This includes revenue generated by surveying, geodesy and positioning, mapping, remote sensing, geospatial data management, geospatial consulting, and mass market geospatial.
The total contribution of geospatial to the Canadian GDP through productivity improvement was estimated at $20.7 billion or 1.1% of the Canadian GDP in 2013. The sectors most impacted by productivity improvements resulting from the application of geospatial data and technology are
mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction (4.54%)
transportation and warehousing (1.64%)
public administration (1.51%)
agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (1.22%)
management of companies and enterprises (1.08%).
The study also estimated the impact of open geospatial data to the Canadian economy. It found that open data contributed $ 695 million in productivity improvement to the GDP in 2013. McKinsey Global Institute estimated that the value of all types of open data to the global economy was $3 trillion.
In 2008 a report prepared for the CRCSI & ANZLIC by ACIL Tasman estimated that the spatial information sector contributed between $6.4 billion and $12.6 billion to the Australian gross domestic product (GDP) or between 0.6% and 1.2% of the Australian GDP in in 2006-2007. Secondly, it was estimated that restrictions on access to spatial data reduced productivity in some economic sectors by between 5% and 15%. With open access to spatial data the Australian GDP could have been about 7% higher in 2006-2007. Thirdly, it was estimated that with the right policies the contribution of the geospatial sector to the national economy in the medium term had the potential to be up to 50% higher than in 2006-2007.
In 2009 a study sponsored by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Ministry for Economic Development (MED) estimated that spatial information added at least $1.2 billion, or about 0.6% of GDP, to the New Zealand economy through productivity gains. ACIL Tasman conducted both the Australian and the New Zealand studies.
A study commissioned by Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) and carried out by Indecon International Economic Consultants estimates that the geospatial information industry directly contributed €69.3-million (Gross Added Value) to the Irish economy in 2012. The estimated economic value of annual time savings through the use of geospatial information is € 279 million or about 0.6 % of the Irish GDP.
According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) published in June 2012 the geospatial services industry in the United States generates annual revenues of $75 billion. The BCG report estimates the economic impact of the geospatial services industry on government, business, and consumers is estimated to be $1.6 trillion in revenues (greater efficacy) and $1.4 trillion (about 8.7% of the U.S. GDP) in cost savings (greater efficiency).
In 2013 Google released a reportWhat is the economic impact of Geo services ? prepared by Oxera Consulting Ltd. Global revenues from geospatial products and services as defined by Oxera was estimated to be $150-$270 billion per year. The $270 billion estimate was computed by scaling up the BCG estimate for the United States to the world economy. Sanjay Kumar quotes an estimate by JP Morgan that the professional geospatial market is worth $100 billion.
The Canadian value study (in which the descendant of ACIL Tasman participated) found that the impact of geospatial technology on the Canadian economy is already significant and that there are opportunities for increasing the contribution of geospatial to the economy. Although revenue from the traditionally defined geospatial industry is projected to be flat, the study concluded that there is major growth potential in integrated geospatial - integrating location services into vertical industries.
Prashant emphasized that to enable the geospatial sector to grow, the geospatial community needs to act collaboratively. A new organization GeoAlliance Canada is being established to encourage this to happen. It was launched April 20 in Ottawa. You can express interest in participating in GeoAlliance Canada here.
INSPIRE-Geospatial World Forum 2015, a joint conference organized by the European Commission and Geospatial Media and Communications, has made available its full conference program. Almost 500 presentations are scheduled on topics including building information modelling (BIM), open data, big data analytics, open standards, linked data, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, Earth observation, indoor positioning, land information systems for smart cities, urban resilience and sustainability, health, agriculture and others. Some 2000 delegates are expected to attend from more than 80 countries. Top sponsors include Trimble, Topcon, ESRI, Digital Globe, Oracle and Bentley.
The theme of the conference is CONVERGENCE: Policies + Practices + Processes via PPP with a focus on improving coordination among policy-makers, technology providers and users. Including geospatial data and technology in construction, agriculture, health and other industry workflows is an enabler for more successful public–private partnerships (PPP) by facilitating more informed decision making among the stakeholders.
Dr Anne Kemp, Director and Fellow, Atkins, Vice-Chair of BuildingSmart, UK, Chair of ICE BIM Action Group, and Chair of BIM4Infrastructure UK, has published very thought-provoking insights into how the convergence of BIM and geospatial can contribute to the better management of information to help generate the understanding to make better decisions.
Her first assertion “So, let’s put paid to the hang-ups of what is and is not GIS and BIM, and discover what really deserves our focus” is a very good place for all of us to start if we are going to tear down the discipline boundaries that are inhibiting us from moving to a more holistic approach to problem solving in the era of smart cities.
Better outcomes, not BIM or geospatial
Her goal is not to support BIM or geospatial per se, but to use these technologies to improve outcomes. From Anne's perspective the key outcomes we should be aiming at are
CLARITY - Clarity of delivery
TECHNICAL JUDGEMENT - Converging information production with sound engineering judgment and design
ACCESS - Wider, faster access to comprehensible and integrated information
LATERAL THINKING - Enabling reflective, adaptive thinking to incorporate whole life and integrated systems approach within the wider geographic context
INNOVATION - Harnessing innovative technologies and harvesting intelligence from big data
DECISIONS - Fostering instinctive, but rigorous collaboration and better decision making
Data, not documents
The construction industry is based on documents such as drawings. Documents lock data up within a discipline and prevents the wider access that can be used to build up an integrated view of an asset. In contrast digital data can be used, many times, for different purposes, by different disciplines. This requires interoperability and the ability to map semantics across different disciplines.
Assets, not projects
The full lifecycle view of a building, road or airport requires thinking of assets not projects. Anne's perspective is that this is where the convergence of BIM with geospatial provides the biggest benefits. The UK government would agree. The short term objective of the UK Government BIM mandate is to reduce the cost of construction (design, tender, build) by 20%. The longer term objective is by 2025 to reduce the costs associated with designing, building, operating and maintaining buildings and infrastructure by a third. ‘In-use’ data from facilities management (FM) systems, building management systems, and sensors including smart phones provides information on how an asset is actually serving the needs of people, and the patterns of behaviour of people using the infrastructure. This information can be used to optimize building or infrastructure design. A geospatial perspective enables this data to be used not only with individual buildings or infrastructure, but for a whole neighbourhood, town or city.
Ensuring that data is not manipulated to distort decision making is critical to enabling the true data-driven organization of the future. Anne's perspective is that the industry is becoming increasingly dependent on data management professionals. This will require standards and a code of ethics to address challenges of privacy, distortion, and manipulation so as to ensure that data is made available in a way that aids rather than confuses decision making. In the future chief data officers and other information professionals will have even much greater responsibilities - they will be responsible for specifying, collecting, and analyzing the information for decision making that will be critical to the organization's success, even its existence.
Information is not understanding
Malcolm Gladwell in "Blink" points out that “We live in a world saturated with information. We have virtually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times, and we’re well versed in the arguments about the dangers of not knowing enough and not doing our homework. But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration with the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding.”
At a recent BIM conference the term “infobesity” came up more than once. A decade ago people were concerned about not having enough data to make informed decisions. Now that we have more data being collected by sensors such as smart meters and smart phones, the problem is how do we make sense from the huge volumes of data that all these smart devices are collecting.
Anne makes the point that when managed correctly, “instant” decisions based on a small amount of data are not just as good, but can be better than those made after analyzing all available data. The "less is more" challenge is to distill the data to just the right subset to enable you can make better decisions faster with less data. Anne believes that this will require more sophisticated visualization techniques to enable insights from patterns in large amounts of data and better collaboration technology to enable a large number of individuals from different disciplines to understand each other (even when using different terms for the same piece of equipment or construction material) and to collaborate fruitfully.
This means that we will be asking our human or computer information engineers to deliver that essential subset of information to the right people at the right time, and in an intuitively understandable way. Anne suggests that our cartographic and GIS heritage of creating, analyzing and visualizing a view of the physical world as maps may provide a model for future data managers. But, as Anne points out, this will have to be transformed for a virtual environment.
Anne's final point is often overlooked. BIM, geospatial, augmented reality and other technologies are transforming how we view "reality". There are very real consequences for people working in a virtual world. Anne mentions the first case of internet addition disorder (IAD) involving Google Glasses on October 14, 2014 and asks how many of us are already there with our smartphones and tablets ?
What factors are most important in determining your organization's buying decisions when procuring geospatial software ?
The choices were cost, choice, ease of availability, level of technical support, and interoperability. I found it very interesting that interoperability came out on top. Nearly all (97%) of respondents found it an important factor.
This supports the effort over many years that many in the geospatial sector have put into developing geospatial standards to enable geospatial interoperability, especially the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards. The next challenge is multi-disciplinary interoperability in vertical domains such as construction and utilities.
There are a number of initiatives underway to develop standards and best practices to support interoperability in construction. The OGC, buildingSMART, and ISO have agreed to work together on developing common standards. The first result of this collaboration is a common data model for alignments (important in transportation modeling) that is shared by the building and information modeling (BIM) and geospatial sectors.
The geospatial technologies respondents were asked to report on their usage of are comprehensive; GIS, GNSS (better known as GPS in North America), satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, 3D Data, total stations, laser scanning/LiDAR, BIM, indoor positioning, UAVs/UAS, and ground penetrating radar (GPR). Some of these have been widely used for years and represent mature markets such as GIS, GNSS, satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, and total stations. Some are relatively new and are still being deployed in new market sectors such as laser scanning/LiDAR and 3D data. Others are new innovations and are just beginning to get some market penetration such as BIM, indoor positioning, UAVs/UAS and ground penetrating radar (GPR).
More rapid adoption of newer geospatial technology in Asia/Pacific
One of the things that I found interesting is that more often than not Asia/Pacific ranks highest or tied for highest in frequently using many of the newer technologies, for example, 3D Data (~40%), GPR (~12%), and BIM (~20%). Asia/Pacific's leading adoption of newer technologies is even more noticeable when considering total usage (frequent+occasional); 3D data (~90%), LiDAR (~75%), BIM (~75%), indoor positioning (~65%), UAVs/UAS (~55%), and GPR (~22%). This suggests that the adoption of new geospatial technology may be more rapid in Asia/Pacific. This is perhaps due to Asia/Pacific first of all being very aware of and eager to adopt new technology and secondly being less saddled with legacy business processes tied to older technology which is a major problem in the developed economies of North America and Europe.
Construction is being transformed. I've blogged about the startling (at least to traditional construction contractors) vision of the future of highway construction of the Chief of Surveys at the Oregon Department of Transportation (DoT) in which BIM for Infrastructure and geospatial play a central role.
At the first GeoBIM conference in Amsterdam, Jothijs van Gaalen gave some real world examples of highway construction transformation including GIS+BIM integration including using laser scanning/LiDAR for reality capture at the beginning of a design/construction project.
Jothijs is Manager of the (civil) BIM Programme and Head of the Structural Modelling department at the Royal BAM Group nv / BAM Infraconsult. The Royal BAM Group nv is a large infrastructure engineering consulting firm with 23,500 employees operating in over 40 countries, primarily in Europe. Its goal is to be among the top 10 companies in its market segment. To achieve this is has targetted supply chain integration focused on a sustainable built environment. One of the key areas of integration in GIS+BIM. BAM has BIM/GIS modelling departments in Amsterdam, The Hague, Gouda, Singapore, and Jakarta.
Full lifecycle construction projects
BAM's motivation for investing in BIM+GIS are market developments especially more complex construction assignments and an increasing demand from customers for service provision throughout the entire life cycle of a project. The other major drivers are internal business needs especially being able to control safety, quality, costs, planning, and sustainability through the lifetime of a project.
A project at BAM starts with 2D geographic data that is visualized through a GIS web portal. The web portal gives everyone on the team an early perspective on the project site including underground utilities and aboveground structures before design begins. During the tender process the geospatial data is combined with 3D data including 3D representations of nearby natural and man-made features as well as proposed designs to create a 3D environment for assessing alternative designs. The 3D environment improves collaboration among the team members as well as enabling better communication with the client through 3D visualization of proposed designs. After award, the first step is conducting LiDAR scans of the site/proposed route. At completion of construction, the data collected during design and construction is migrated to an integrated GIS + asset management system system to support maintenance activities.
Level of development (LoD) is critical for full lifecycle construction projects at BAM because it specifies the level of detail for both graphical and non-graphical data that is required at each phase of a project's lifetime; roughly tender (LOD100), design (LOD200), construction (LOD300), and operate and maintain (LOD400).
Design, Build, Finance and Maintain project
The N33 highway project in the Netherlands is an example of a Design, Build, Finance and Maintain (DBFM) project. In a DBFM contract, the contractor is not only fully responsible for designing and building the project, but also handles the administration and all maintenance. In a DBFM contract the government buys a service: the provision of an available national road. BAM is responsible for design and construction, which occurred during 2012 – 2014, and for 20 years of maintenance.
During design and construction BAM used a BIM for Infrastructure process based around a geospatially-enabled database. At completion of construction, the data collected during design and construction was migrated to an integrated GIS + Maximo system designed to support maintenance activities during the 20 year period that BAM is responsible for highway maintenance. Maximo is IBM's enterprise asset management (EAM) software product.
Jothijs discussed some of the best practices that BAM has developed during the N33 and other projects. These include integrated BIM + GIS with time (4D), and financial (5D), training of multi-disciplinary teams, standardizing LoD for graphical and non-graphical data and involving suppliers as early as possible in the project.
The one that really struck me as potentially transformational is BAM's recommendation to collect accurate geometrical data (reality capture) at the beginning of the project, before design, using laser scanning. Since laser scanning is not normally part of a surveyor's skill set, I was interested in who was responsible for conducting the scans and how BAM's surveyors were involved. Jothijs said that BAM's survey group performed the laser scanning as well as traditional surveys. This sounds like the result of another of BAM's best practices, training multi-disciplinary teams.
Very excited to see this course given at IIT Bombay. We need more courses on geospatial technology for engineers and architects.
Title : GIS for Civil Engineers - A Short Term Course at IIT Bombay, India
When : 01 Dec 2014 to 05 Dec 2014
Where : IIT Bombay Website : http://www1.iitb.ac.in/~qip/QIPBrochure-Q7.pdf
Description : The short term course is intended to introduce the following themes:
- To spread the importance of GIS in Civil Engineering
- To promote the use of open source GIS softwares
- Teach the basic concepts and hands on experience on few applications so that at the end of course, participants reach such a level that they can further explore themselves according to their needs.
Officers, Engineers and Scientists working in Water Resources Engineering, Urban/town planning, Municipal agencies, Consulting companies, NGO’s as well as self-employed practitioners engaged in spatial analysis of our surrounding environment would benefit from the proposed program. As participants are expected from all over India, this course would provide an excellent opportunity for the participants to interact with one another and discuss problems and solutions of mutual interest.