Since starting with SSP over four years ago, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some of the brightest minds in our industry. The likes of which, have been in this industry far longer than I have and as a result, have a deep understanding of how utilities function. With that knowledge also comes a familiarity with the universal struggles our clients face. As any business does, utilities have their work cut out for them. These challenges are amplified by increased demand in power as the world becomes more digital. And while we’re generating more power, there is a need to transform how it’s being generated to be more ecofriendly. As a SSP employee who has worked with several utilities across a variety of projects, it’s easy to let the mind wander and brainstorm solutions to the challenges we see with our clients.
SSP is a historically project oriented company and our work with our clients has largely been focused on specific projects with clear deliverables. That has changed over the past couple years as SSP now has a mature product team and a suite of products ranging from productivity tools for ArcGIS Pro (SSP Productivity) to web-based work and asset management applications (SSP Lifecycle). However, neither product implementations nor traditional project work offers time to apply new ways for solving the challenges utilities face.
In an effort for SSP to start solving long standing problems at utilities with modern day technical solutions, SSP has started an internal initiative called The Innovation Shark Tank. The Shark Tank will be a formalized way for SSP to start building for the future of utilities.
As a software developer, when I think about the future of the utility industry, I see applications for a lot of emerging technologies that excite me. The underlying technology of cryptocurrency has potential for many applications outside of the financial industry. Artificial intelligence is already being leveraged by our emails to help us work smarter. Other tech such as IoT (Internet of Things) and Edge Computing continue to evolve. This tech isn’t so far from our industry either. Esri has been incorporating machine learning into its platform for years and I continue to see an increase of using Virtual and Augmented Reality in GIS as well.
The Innovation Shark Tank was dreamed up to allow the employees of SSP Innovations to take the ideas we come up with during our day to day jobs and turn them into real solutions. The next time an employee comes up with an idea that could’ve saved weeks of work on their project or they come up with a new ArcGIS Pro Add-In that could leverage artificial intelligence to save GIS editors thousands of hours, they don’t need to think, “I wonder if this idea has any legs?”. We have the Innovation Shark Tank. So what is it?
On a recurring basis, employees will be allowed to submit their industry-shifting ideas to be considered in that “season” of the shark tank. Once a submission has been selected, that idea will be developed throughout a given quarter to create either a proof of concept or actual implementation that could be brought to our customers.
For example, the idea that is currently under development will leverage machine learning to locate assets more accurately in the field. Using a combination of AI to automate identifying assets in images collected from the field and the xy locations of those images, we’ll be able to find the real world positions of assets (poles for example) in our GIS. Keep an eye out for the follow up article on the results!