Last month, we kicked off our first SSP Utility Network Jumpstart program with Intermountain REA (IREA). I took the short drive south of the SSP offices to IREA, and together we had a successful two-day venture into all things Utility Network.
From there, we handed things off to IREA where they took the reins on the software for eight additional days. Throughout this experience, IREA's GIS team gained valuable knowledge and experience around ArcGIS Pro and the Utility Network. We're happy to welcome Duane Holt, Director of GIS at IREA, to tell us more about this experience:
I’m sure many of you remember Jack Dangermond’s letter to the utilities three years ago. It told us to get to a desktop version (10.2.1) and stay put until further notice. Six months earlier — at the Electric and Gas conference in San Antonio — the Esri team laid out a conceptual view of radical changes to how the network topologies will change for utilities. It’s clear now what Jack and the technical teams were alluding to: the new Utility Network. It’s also clear that your GIS software will need to change if you want to take advantage of these advances in technology.
This is where ArcGIS Pro comes in.
The SSP Utility Network Jumpstart program provides the opportunity for hands-on experience with both of these epic changes to Utility GIS. Considering the Utility Network is in restricted beta, and that ArcGIS Pro is still relatively new, I will say that not everything ran as smooth as possible. There is still some cleanup required for both these technologies.
It will be critical for utilities to provide feedback as Esri enhances ArcGIS Pro. This puts the polish to the Utility Network. Each utility operates slightly different than the next, so the more utilities providing feedback, the easier it will be to migrate to the next era in Utility GIS.
The GIS team at Intermountain REA (IREA) had the fortunate opportunity to get hands on with Esri’s new Utility Network through the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart. The first two days of this ten-day experience were the most anticipated. All the machines were powered on and logged in, and we were ready to go. Once our mentor Corey arrived, the Jumpstart began with a lecture.
The next two hours became the most impactful part of our Utility Network experience. We had seen all the Utility Network blog posts by SSP, and Brian Higgins’s “CliffsNotes” version is required reading for the IREA GIS team (including the links he references). The presentation and resulting discussions brought so much light to the somewhat mystical information we had seen so far.
Beyond just showing the model presentation, the lecture discussed the feature and object classes that would be behind the model. There are significant changes, but clear explanations behind the reasoning were provided.
We learned about how the Utility Network blends geometric coincidence and associations to provide connectivity, along with clear examples when to use them. One of the new concepts in the Utility Network is that of containment and attachment. The power to analyze and gather information regarding these non-energized components in relation to the circuits they are supporting will be a welcome change.
There are more details to the UN model, such as tiers and subnetworks, but this is a blog post, not a thesis!
Participating in the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart accomplished two things for the IREA GIS team.
Understandably, there is concern and maybe even fear about the new Utility Network. We have read every blog post and white paper that we could find on the subject, and there were still many more questions than answers. While the jumpstart can’t possibly answer every question, it did ease our minds and answer our most critical concern. It did so by showing us that the Utility Network is not that difficult to understand. After all, the physical networks of our utilities — the facilities in the field — haven’t changed.
The other accomplishment we realized was a conceptual understanding of how our data will look under the Utility Network. This will allow us to keep the Utility Network at the forefront in our minds as we plan and implement other business systems and upgrades. We will have the vision to know if integration will be problematic or not.
Speaking of integrations, one thing that became clear with the jumpstart is the need for partners to extend the value of the Utility Network. Esri has purposely left the Utility Network wide open to allow almost any possible configuration that a utility may require. That means that they did not go too vertical with the network definition.
Phase is an electric concept, and not part of gas or water networks. That means tracing by phase is possible out of the box, but you will need to enter several parameters into a geoprocessing tool. Partner solutions would build the automation of the GP tools for tasks common to electric, water, gas, or telecommunications. The jumpstart showed both the out of the box process and also some examples of toolsets that would automate these processes. I look forward to the possibilities that the partners like SSP will dream up.
It was a pleasure working with the entire GIS team at IREA for our first jumpstart. IREA’s positioning as an early adopter of this technology will allow them to provide instrumental feedback regarding the Utility Network. Esri will take this feedback to heart for product updates and bug reports and, as Duane mentioned, SSP is always looking for the best ways to create solutions that streamline common Utility Network tasks.
Have more questions for Duane? Leave a comment below, or find him at the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart panel at the SSP iLLUMINATE conference this May.
It’s never too late to get involved! If you’d like to be part of this experience, be sure to take a look at the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart page for more information. Feel free to contact us to learn more!