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Esri Utility Network – Editing with Associations: Connectivity, Attachments & Containment

As I hope you all are aware by now, at SSP we get some great opportunities to dive into the latest technologies from Esri. Also, as you know by now, we’ve spent a lot of time digging into Esri’s Utility Network to enable our clients and partners to be ready for this exciting update. Well, Esri is about to release the Beta 1 version of the Utility Network and as someone who has been evaluating the Utility Network since Alpha, it’s easy to see just how far things have come.

In Beta 1, Utility Network operates fully (and cleanly) as feature services published to your local, enterprise implementation of Portal for ArcGIS. The feature services are added to ArcGIS Pro and operate as fully functional layers that can be displayed, traced, and edited. In fact, publishing the Utility Network as feature services to Portal is required for the use and management of that data.

In this article, I'll walk you through adding a new single-phase lateral while editing with associations (i.e., connectivity, attachments and containment). But first, I'll just give you a snapshot of this pattern as it's been deployed through our internal SSP Portal for ArcGIS installation. As pictured here, the Utility Network is published as feature layers through our implementation of Portal:

ArcGIS Portal Utility Network Feature Services - Add a Single-Phase Lateral

We are using this pattern for all means of working with the Utility Network, including the example detailed in this article. Of course, this is huge development in our corner of the Utility GIS world because it gives us a means of directly working with our network using any of the solutions provided through the ArcGIS Platform.

What to Expect When Editing with Associations in the Utility Network

Over the past several months, we’ve been looking closer at tracing, editing, and working directly with Utility Network data in ArcGIS Pro. Please make sure you read each of our previous Utility Network articles for additional background. This article will continue the review of editing capabilities within a Utility Network containing electric distribution data.

Specifically, ArcGIS Pro’s editing tools are used to create a new single-phase primary by tapping into a three-phase line, extending it to a new pole, and transitioning it to an underground system complete with cabinets and pads and a primary underground conductor for a new development.

This article hopes to highlight how all types of associations: connectivity, structure, and containment, as well as the connectivity of standard network features (conductors, devices, and assemblies) work together to provide a seamless network experience. 

The new development is located to the North-side of an existing three-phase primary line pictured here (note that the Circuit Name associated with the conductor is RMT001 as we’ll explore this further with the Update Subnetwork tool): 

New Development Utility Network - Esri Utility Network – editing with associations

To know what phase to use for the new development, a downstream trace can be run within the network to identify the phase with the least amount of load. A simple SSP downstream trace tool allows me to pre-save the parameters of the trace, so I can use the Trace Locations tool to add a starting point and click run in the tool to run the trace:

Utility Network Trace Locations– editing with associations

The trace results are returned as a selection set. So, opening the Transformer attribute table in Pro and sorting the results by phase reveals the best phase to use for the new lateral:

Downstream Electric Utility Network Trace– editing with associations

So, we’ll start building out the new development by adding new fuse bank and fuse features allowing us to tap into the existing line.

For this article, purely out of the box ArcGIS Pro functionality was used to create features. A feature template was used to create the overhead fuse bank and fuse separately, but you can also use a template create the two features together using a 'Group' template.

Next, we’ll connect this fuse to the network using a Connectivity Association. As a reminder, in the Utility Network, features do not have to be coincident to be connected like they do in the current geometric network model. The ‘Modify’ Associations button on the Utility Network Data Ribbon, displays the Modify Associations Panel. Using the panel, the two features are selected and then connected through a Connectivity Association and they become associtated within the network index when that connectivity is applied.

In the following screenshot, you can see a closeup of the fuse feature that’s connected to the distribution connection point feature using a connectivity association instead of being spatially coincident. The purple areas are the ‘dirty areas’ that signify sections of the network that need to be validated and added into the network using the ‘Validate’ Network Topology feature in Pro.

Utility Network Add Fuse Connectivity– editing with associations

Next, new pole and riser features are created within the new development to the North of the existing three-phase primary. The riser feature is used to indicate the conductor running down the pole and transitioning a line from an overhead to an underground conductor. Again, using the Modify Associations panel, an Attachment Association is created between the riser and the pole by selecting the features and applying the association.

Utility Network Riser Pole Attachment Association– editing with associations

The Benefits of Attachments

The attachment association allows the riser to be identified as attached to the pole, so that when a Utility Network trace that includes structures is performed, the pole is returned within the result of the trace. This is a notable capability because in the current geometric network model, utilities have had to find creative ways to identify the facilities or structures to which their electric network assets are attached. Often custom reports or a variety of custom identification tools were developed to understand what devices were attached to which poles.

Well, as you’ve probably heard by now, with this simple tool, the structures are associated to the network, so they can be traced and identified as a part of the utility network. Those facilities form the structure network, which are associated to the distribution network features through ‘attachment associations.’ So, old customizations developed to retrieve this information can now be completely retired. It’s improvements to the Esri-core that I believe are a good example of why the migration to the Utility Network may not be as painful as some are leading the industry to believe.

Also of note, it’s not yet available in the Beta release, but from our discussions with Esri, it’s likely that associations (i.e. connectivity, attachment, and containment) can be established within a ‘group’ (or multi-feature) template instead of having to manually set them as demonstrated in the example. So, using a group template to place a pole that also places a riser or any device feature (such as a fuse), will place the features with the attachment association already established.

Establishing Connectivity via Snapping

Continuing our example, a new single-phase (A phase) primary conductor is sketched from the new fuse on the three-phase primary to the new riser. The new primary is ‘connected’ to the network using the traditional methods of snapping and spatial coincidence with the fuse and riser features.

Sketch single phase Utility Network– editing with associations

To establish connectivity via snapping, you’ll need to ensure you have Utility Network rules that specify the feature you’re snapping to can be connected to the feature you’re sketching. To view the connectivity rules, you can open the Network Properties by right clicking on the Utility Network Group Layer (grouping the dirty areas and the line and point errors layers together) in the Contents Panel of ArcGIS Pro, selecting Properties, and then clicking on Network Properties in the dialog. Tipping over the Rules bullet shows the established connectivity rules.

For greater rules specificity, note that snapping is designated down to the ‘Asset Type’ of the connected network features (see this link for more on Asset Groups and Types):

Utility Network Properties– editing with associations

A helpful feature of the Utility Network in ArcGIS Pro is that when you have a valid connectivity rule and snapping is enabled, Pro indicates the feature and vertex you’re snapping to in the map. So, in the following example, the new fuse feature is dragged to the endpoint of the new primary, and when I’m within the snap tolerance, Pro displays that I’m snapping to the endpoint of the primary (labeled as: Medium Voltage):

Utility Network Snapping– editing with associations

Creating Underground Structures

Now that the existing overhead line is tapped, and the new overhead infrastructure is created ultimately using a riser to transition the facilities underground, the Pads and the Cabinets are ready to be created for the new development. Using the Create Features Panel accessed via the ‘Create’ Features button in ArcGIS Pro’s ‘Edit’ Ribbon, a Pad template can be quickly searched for, updated with the common attributes, and then placed around the new development where underground conductor is to be run. 

ArcGIS Pro Create Features– editing with associations

The previous screenshot shows a single feature template used to create each of the new Pads for the development; however, it’s likely a better approach to create a Group Template that includes both the Pads and the Cabinets to achieve the same result with less clicks.

The following screenshot shows where these pads and cabinet features are placed throughout the new development:

Utility Network New Pads and Cabinets– editing with associations

Once the cabinets and pads are in place, connection points are created within the cabinets so the underground conductor can be connected. The new connection points are displayed as the smaller blue point features in the following screenshot:

Utility Network Connection Points– editing with associations

Establishing Attachment and Containment Associations

And now that we have our connection points, pads, and cabinets, the Modify Associations panel can be used to establish ‘Attachment Associations’ between the Cabinets and Pads and ‘Containment Associations’ between the Connection Points and the Cabinets. This will ensure all new features are detectable in a trace of the Utility Network.

Utility Network Attachment Associations– editing with associations

Utility Network Containment– editing with associations

It's worth noting another time that it’s likely these associations will eventually become established through Group Templates, so the previous steps won’t need to be performed manually each time. 

Placing Your Underground Conductor

Finally, the underground conductor is ready to be placed. The following screenshot shows the ‘medium voltage’ underground primary first connected to the riser and then sketched to each connection point.

Utility Network Sketch Primary– editing with associations

Snapping tips in the map can ensure the primary is properly snapped to each connection point:

Utility Network Snap to Junction– editing with associations

Once the sketch is complete, the connectivity of the network can be tested. Again, the purple areas displayed in the map show the ‘dirty areas’ that need to be validated in order to bring the new infrastructure into the network:

Utility Network Validate Network Topology– editing with associations

Validating Your Work

Using the Validate button in the Network Topology function group of the Utility Network Ribbon in ArcGIS Pro will check the dirty areas of the network and then rebuild the network index with the new infrastructure. 

The SSP Downstream Trace can be used to validate that all has been properly connected with one click to initiate the trace. The trace starts along the three-phase primary and upstream of the new fuse and verifies that our new lateral and all of the connected structures have connectivity!

Utility Network SSP Downstream Trace– editing with associations

Lastly, we can also run the Update Subnetworks geoprocessing tool to set the Circuit (Feeder) ID on each of the new features. The tool can be run on the entire network or for a specific circuit. Either way, it will only run for those areas of the network that are indicated as dirty. The following shows the tool as it’s run for the network and an updated Connection Point from the new development:

Utility Network Update Subnetworks– editing with associations

For new network features, Circuit Name will display as UNKNOWN until the Update Subnetworks geoprocessing tool is run. It’s likely in the future SSP will have a simple tool to help you manage this so that you don’t have to do it manually or set up a process to run it. And with the update of the Circuit to the newly connected features, this is the final step that completes the new, single-phase primary lateral. Obviously, there is still quite a bit more work left to provide service to our development, so please read more about adding services to your electric distribution Utility Network in this article.

More Info on the Esri Utility Network

In summary, each of the three types of associations: connectivity, attachment, and containment were used to build a single-phase lateral and include them as part of the network. The new electric distribution downstream trace results now show the Poles, Pads, and Cabinets that were added through attachment and containment associations! If you want direct, hands-on experience with Esri's Utility Network and the SSP team, please see the Utility Network Jumpstart.

Author Information

  • Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders comes to SSP Innovations from having worked in the pipeline and utility GIS industry for over 11 years and specializes in enterprise system and software design. During this time, Mr. Sanders has lead the technical design and implementation of over 30 mobile implementations at utility organizations and has provided leadership of work management and GIS data management solutions for several Fortune 500 energy companies.

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