Last month I wrote about the new ArcGIS Online functionality at 10.1 and why you should care. We were excited to see that there was a lot of interest in the topic which hopefully means you are already digging into the technology! This month I wanted to provide you with a look at our first utility demo implementation which focuses on the very common task of pole inspections.
In the past, we’ve worked with many, many electric utilities on this topic creating custom software, data import/export tasks, and various reporting and visualization routines. Today we’ll look at how we can accomplish the collection of pole inspection records via an iPad using ArcGIS Online to broker the data to the back office. We’ll then also tackle the additional challenge of getting that pole inspection data into our existing Telvent ArcFM™ data model.
Before delving into the exciting details of ArcGIS Online and iPad, I want to start with our existing Telvent ArcFM™ data model. Here we have the standard data model including our Pole feature class with a related PoleInspection object class:
Yours may vary slightly but I bet it’s pretty similar. Both of these classes are versioned within an SDE geodatabase and both are ArcFM™ Objects, meaning they are using Esri custom class extensions to provide specific Telvent ArcFM™ functionality. You can see this by viewing the properties of the Pole feature class within ArcCatalog on the general tab:
This is the norm for a Telvent ArcFM™ geodatabase, and using versioned ArcFM™ features does indeed add a ton of value to your system. The reason I mention it here is it throws an interesting wrinkle into your ArcGIS Online implementation, because we can’t natively use ArcGIS Online to edit ArcFM™ objects. Never fear... read on.
Our approach begins with creating a new pole inspection SDE feature class that is a standard Esri point feature class. This feature class can exist in the same geodatabase as our Telvent data or it could be added to a standalone geodatabase to keep it separate from the rest of the data for performance reasons.
This feature class will remain unversioned and will contain a subset of the fields that we have on the Telvent PoleInspection object class. We will call this feature class AGOLPoleInspection since it will be dedicated to ArcGIS Online.
Next, we will use ArcGIS Server to serve the back office data to ArcGIS Online. This data will include the base mapping data - electric wire, devices, poles, etc., as well as the new AGOLPoleInspection feature class. The base utility data is ArcFM™ data and will be served using a mapping service, whereas we will serve the AGOLPoleInspection feature class using a feature service. You can read more about the different types of Esri ArcGIS Server services here.
As a reminder, there are a number of ways we can secure our ArcGIS Server services - if we publish the services to the internet we can use authentication on our web server OR we can even leave them available only our VPN. You can choose the method most appropriate to meet your own IT corporate policy.
Alright! We are now ready to discuss our ArcGIS Online strategy. We will create a new WebMap containing an Esri streets basemap, the utility ArcFM™ facility data using one or more ArcGIS Server mapping services, and the AGOLPoleInspection feature class using an ArcGIS Server feature service. Our architecture looks something like this:
A key point to make about this architecture is that we are not hosting any of our back office utility data within ArcGIS Online. We are simply using ArcGIS Online to broker the data within a WebMap. This is important because you are not sucking up bandwidth within your ArcGIS Online account which would potentially use up your purchased credits.
In fact, in this scenario, your bandwidth usage is very low because the back office data is served directly off your back office ArcGIS Server environment. I am a big fan of this approach because it leverages your existing investment in ArcGIS Server which also provides many other major benefits in the back office.
Within ArcGIS Online we set up our new WebMap per the above architecture, give it an intelligent name and save it into our account:
Now we can share the WebMap with groups of authenticated ArcGIS Online users. In most cases, we will only be sharing an inspection WebMap with users inside our organization but we could also add users from outside our organization (such as contractors) as long as they can get to our ArcGIS Server data. We can create as many ArcGIS Online groups as needed and can specify the status of the group:
I then shared my WebMap with this new group so that users within my organization can easily use the WebMap from their devices:
And now we’re ready to check out our data from any supported device. For this example I am using an iPad but you could just as easily use an iPhone, Android, Windows, or any other device that has an Esri application.
I start by launching my Esri ArcGIS app which I downloaded from the app store. I am then able to login to ArcGIS Online directly from the device which shows a menu of groups, maps, favorites, etc., all tied to my online account:
As I browse into My Groups and then into the Pole Inspection Group, I see the Utility Pole Inspection WebMap that I published via ArcGIS Online:
When I load the map I see the Esri basemap along with all of the data from my ArcGIS Server mapping service.
Next, we will assume I am connected via the AT&T 3G (or similar) network and am walking the pole lines out in the field. I can click the GPS button to automatically locate myself on the map and zoom in to that location:
Placing a new pole inspection is as easy as clicking the edit button and choosing the pole inspection feature type:
You can then simply enter the information about the pole using the attributes. The attributes include all of the Esri domain values that I configured in the back office:
To place the pole inspection point on the map you can either use the GPS from the iPad or simply click on top of the pole that you are inspecting:
Next, I can click the attachments button at the bottom of the attributes panel to take a picture of the pole and/or associate one or more pictures I have already taken on my iPad:
Finally, I click the Finish button to place the new pole inspection record on the map. The symbol is tied to the ArcGIS Server feature service I configured in the back office:
As the pole inspection is placed on the map within the iPad it is also being saved to the back office geodatabase via ArcGIS Server and anyone reviewing the feature class via ArcMap, ArcGIS Server, etc., could immediately see the inspection feature including the picture(s) via any of the Esri tools such as the HTML pop up tool:
But our process does not stop here. SSP has taken the extra step to put in place a configurable batch application that will merge the standalone AGOLPoleInspection feature data back into the Telvent ArcFM™ pole inspection data model.
This application can be run on a scheduled basis (hourly, nightly, etc) and makes the pole inspection data available to all of the standard processes that may already be built around the ArcFM™ pole inspection data.
Here we can see the replicated pole inspection record for this same location in the ArcFM™ Attribute Editor:
The picture attachment data can be either saved as an Esri attachment within the feature or saved out to a file share and hyperlinked to the ArcFM™ record.
And with that said, we have taken the full trip from the back office ArcFM™ dataset out to the field via an iPad, collected new data, and had it made immediately available back within the central office. And it was all made possible via the new ArcGIS Online platform!
The pattern used in this example can be extended to almost any other utility field operation and opens the door to many new opportunities by enabling a blend of technologies in and outside of the office. I hope you now see why we are so excited about the potential for ArcGIS Online. We look forward to hearing about the specifics of your business requirements!