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What You Need to Know About
the Esri Utility Network Update

The "Road Ahead for Utility and Telecom Network Management" session at this year's User Conference was jam packed, and this was even after they moved the session to a larger room. 

There were many important concepts covered by the Utility Network Team and SSP is here to highlight some of the most important topics for Utilities and Telecoms.

Introduction

Larry Young kicked off the proceedings reminding everyone about the recommended path to move from 10.2.1 to the platform and the new Utility Network.  SSP has highlighted this in great detail in a number of resources, but the high level overview is:

  1. Upgrade to 10.2.1
  2. Deploy a portal (ArcGIS Online and/or Portal for ArcGIS)
  3. Start working with ArcGIS Pro

Vision

As with any project of this magnitude, it is always good to provide a reminder of the overall vision for the Utility Network Management Project:

  • Provide utility customers with the ability to model, edit, and analyze complex networks of facility infrastructure using all Esri platform clients.
  • Enable key modeling concepts to better support a true representation of what is on the ground, while fostering an easy exchange of network information with other mission critical systems.
  • Support highly responsive editing and analysis capabilities.

The key concepts here are that the Network Management Project will provide utilities and telecoms a way to more realistically model their networks within the ArcGIS Platform, while enabling access to network functionality and capabilities across the platform, be they desktop, web, or mobile applications.

Network Management Project - Vision

Key Differentiators

The new Utility Network will be built on a wholly services based architecture, with a feature cache being used to provide significant performance improvements.  

The network model will provide enhanced capabilities for concepts like connectivity, containment, structural attachments, and tracing. An updated transaction model will provide a similar user experience to what users are currently used to, but will be completely revamped "under the hood" to provide more flexibility and improved performance. 

The editing experience will be improved, expanding the usage of feature templates and incorporating more intelligent connectivity rules during the editing process.

Network Management Project - Key Differentiators

Building a better framework

One of the key points that was reinforced throughout the session was the idea that Esri was building a Network Management "framework" that would then be able to be leveraged by Esri partners throughout the community. 

They highlighted how the expansion of capabilities was not only happening within the core ArcGIS Platform, but how this project would enable an expansion of capabilities within partner solutions as well.  The end goal here is that customers would experience a better overall solution through the increased capabilities of both Esri and its partners.

Network Management Project - Framework

Composed of multiple networks

One of the things that I am most excited about with the Utility Network project is the key tenet that utility and telecom domain networks are comprised of collections of networks, and thus will be modeled as such. 

For organizations that operate in dense urban areas, or who operate across domains (electric, gas, water, communications) this will allow you to more accurately model underground infrastructure (conduit, handholes, vaults, etc.), structural networks (poles, towers, etc.) along with allowing networks to share that infrastructure while participating in tracing and analysis capabilities.

Utility Domain Networks

Capabilities Highlighted

During the session there were a number of capabilities discussed along with some impressive demonstrations.  We cannot go into detail on each one, so I'll touch on the highlights of the ones that I found most interesting and useful for our clients.

Lifecycle Attribute

The Utility Network supports the ability to manage and catalog the life cycle status of features that participate in the network.  It will come preconfigured with four lifecycle values (Proposed, In-service, abandoned, under construction) and will allow Business Partners to highlight additional lifecycle statuses. 

These status values will be very useful when performing traces, because the tracing functionality will have the capability of being constrained to only certain lifecycle statuses that the user is interested in.

Analysis/Tracing

Tracing will be exposed as commands in ArcGIS Pro, as Geoprocessing tools, through the managed SDK, and as REST endpoints in the Utility Network Analyst service.  Trace types will include such traces as: Upstream/Downstream, Protective Device Traces, Isolation Traces, and Subnetwork Traces. 

One nice capability that was shown during a session demonstration was the ability to not only return the domain features from a trace (ex: electric features) but also the containers (ducts, duct banks) or and structures (poles) that the traced features reside in or are attached to. 

Network Diagrams

Utility Network users will be able to work with schematic diagrams seamlessly, and the Utility Network will come with pre-configured schematic diagramming capabilities.  These diagrams can be related to areas of your network (ex: Electric Switching Schemes) and will automatically update as network edits are taking place. 

Once nice demonstration shown was the ability to bring up and interact with both the geographic view and the schematic layout of a section of your network within ArcGIS Pro.

ArcGIS Pro - Geographic and Schematic Views


Editing

There were a whole host of editing topics covered during the session, from changes to the transaction model, to how network topology will be validated, to attribute rules, connectivity and templates.  There are a lot of very exciting additions on the editing front, and some of the most interesting in my mind are:

  • The new versioning model will mean you will no longer need to reconcile/compress on a nightly basis.
  • Attribute Rules will be configurable and allow field values to be automatically populated based on certain logic.  These will come in 3 flavors:  Calculation rules, Constraints, and Validation rules. 
  • Feature templates will be stored within the Geodatabase catalog and containment, connectivity and structural attachment behavior for feature creation can be configured quickly and easily

Moving to the Utility Network

One topic that we know all customers are concerned about is what will the process look like to move their existing GIS system of record to the new Utility Network.  Esri provided a nice overview showing sample geoprocessing models and scripts that users can take advantage of to load their data into the new, Esri provided data models. 

Business Partners will also have the opportunity to enhance these processes, and provide more refined tools and capabilities to assist users in moving to the Utility Network.

Moving to the Utility Network

Services Focused

The Utility Network and the services model that will be at the heart of it will provide a framework for network management that will make for a better overall solution for Utility and Communications organizations. 

Expanded capabilities from the ArcGIS Platform, Esri Solution Templates, and Partner Solutions will expand the capabilities and workflows that will be supported by the platform via Desktop, Web, Mobile Devices and the underlying Portal services.

Utility Network - Services Model

Stay Tuned....

There are a couple of important events on the horizon relating to Utilities and Telecoms and the Utility Network.  One key thing to note is that Update 6 of the Utility and Telecom patches was released last week.  Later this year, a Beta of the Utility Network will be released and it will correspond with the ArcGIS 10.5/ArcGIS Pro 1.4 release. 

SSP highly recommends customers also attend the upcoming GeoConX conference in October, where Esri will be providing a wealth of information on the ArcGIS Platform and how it can benefit Utilities and Telecom customers.

Growth of the Platform

SSP is actively participating in the Utility Network Alpha program and while we aren't allowed to provide demos quite yet, know that once the Beta is released, we'll begin producing useful information each month to get you up to speed on the key functionality in the Utility Network, how we can help you automatically migrate to the Utility Network, and where you may or may not need partner solutions to fill the gaps.

Exciting days ahead!


Author Information

  • Ryan Potts

    Ryan Potts

    Ryan Potts works as a Senior Consultant for the Utility and Telecommunications consulting company SSP Innovations, headquartered in Centennial, Colorado.  Ryan has over 11 years of Experience in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), more than 6 of these specializing in Product Sales, Management, and Development of GIS capabilities to support fiber optic, fiber to the home (FTTH), hybrid fiber coax (HFC) and other communications networks.

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Category Tags:

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Comments

Wow! Really interesting read, Ryan. I'm excited to see where all of this goes.

Thanks for the feedback Jason.  Yeah, there was some very interesting content in this UC session, lots of exciting stuff ahead for Network Management.

Thanks for the info.

Very good read. This is a direction that I have been waiting for ESRI to take for awhile. Looks like exciting times ahead.

Hi,

This is making me so excited about its usefulness. But, the picture is not clear. I would like to know that is it mandatory to have a running geometric network on organizations data for migrating to Utility Network OR can be migrated with only said promotions/additions of data model such as Association, connectivity, Containment etc.?

Please advise..

Hi Junaid, I can tell you that the migration process that SSP has built and those that Esri have built utilize a geometric network as the foundation for the migration. So that's probably the easiest route forward. However, you could certainly load non-networked data into the Utility Network but you'd need another way to automatically establish the associations (connectivity, containment, etc.). Some of the connectivity still relies on geometric coincidence too so that would be required in your source data even if it wasn't part of a geometric network.

I have seen a lot of examples of how the new Utility Network program can be implemented and used with electric, gas, and telco companies and can completely see the benefit. I would like to know how gas midstream companies can utilize this software and what are the main benefits from an operational standpoint.

Kevin...Midstream operators would need to utilize the new Esri APR tools and manage transmission/linearly referenced gas assets with these new extensions.  Depending on the classification of your assets, you may have the APR extension in conjunction or with Utility Network (if you have Distribution, HPD and Transmission assets) or the APR extension can be used idependently to only manage transmission assets.  Check out our pipeline blogs around APR for more information!

If you are planning on implementing both Utility Network and APR tools, the software still does not seamlessly talk between APR/linearly referenced assets and UN.  Per Esri, this will be tied to the 10.6 release.  Until then, we should think of these editing workflows as separate processes, even though the data is contained within the same UPDM enterprise GDB (and can even share features between the two).  

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