Deploying next generation mobile GIS solutions
ScottishPower supplies electricity and gas to over five million homes and businesses. The company aims to play a key role in the British energy sector and contribute to the plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions through its investments in wind power, nuclear energy and clean coal.
ScottishPower supplies electricity and gas to over five million homes and businesses. It is part of Iberdrola, one of Europe’s largest electricity groups. The company is a veteran of tightly integrated office and mobile geographic information systems (GIS). Guy Jefferson, Customer & Performance Director says “GIS plays a particularly important role in helping the company to manage and maintain its assets. These include underground cables and pipes, overhead lines, poles, pylons and substations, all of which are dispersed across a UK network that is more than 112,000 km long.”
ScottishPower maintains a wide range of assets from underground cables and pipes to overhead lines, poles, pylons and substations, all of which are dispersed across the UK
Both office based employees and field based engineers need to locate these assets for scheduled maintenance inspections
In the event of a power outage, the Direct Action Response Teams need to respond quickly, effectively and safely to customer issues.
ScottishPower teamed up with Esri UK and Sigma Seven to deliver the next generation GIS, starting with deploying mobile GIS to 600 field operators
Inspectors in the field can select a job on their tablet and view a map of the area highlighting the poles and lines that need inspecting
When they mark the inspection as complete, the pole or line changes colour on the map
Implementing a mobile GIS solution has enabled ScottishPower to improve the efficiency of employees in the field
Inspectors can survey a greater volume of poles and lines in a day and, the Direct Action Response Team can quickly respond to reported power outages, delivering an improved service for ScottishPower’s customers
ScottishPower recognised that GIS was one of its most critical business systems, and one that added value. However, its systems were out-of-date, inadequately supported and, in some cases, could not be upgraded to support new hardware or use better data, and this was contributing to higher licence costs.
“Our assets are widespread, and we don’t have as many staff with local knowledge of the network as we did ten years ago”, explains Dave Clarke, Spatial and Mobile Delivery Manager. “GIS is therefore essential for helping both our office-based employees and our field-based engineers to find our assets and understand how they are connected.”
ScottishPower decided to upgrade its entire environment and create a next generation GIS, starting with mobile applications.
One of our key requirements was to first integrate the GeoField solution with our legacy GIS so we were able to get up and running with improved mobile GIS applications very quickly, with minimal investment in application development
Dave Clarke – Spatial and Mobile Delivery Manager
To deliver the industry-specific mobile applications required by ScottishPower, Esri UK teamed up with Sigma Seven, specialists in mobile solutions for the utility and network asset management industries. GeoField, its field mapping and data management solution, is powered by Esri’s ArcEngine mapping technology and was already used by ScottishPower.
The partners worked with ScottishPower to assess requirements and configure, test and deploy a range of new and upgraded mobile GIS applications. Esri mapping technology was used as a single common GIS engine underlying the mobile solutions, enabling field hardware, such as tablet PCs, to be upgraded.
“One of our key requirements was to first integrate the GeoField solution with our legacy GIS so we were able to get up and running with improved mobile GIS applications very quickly, with minimal investment in application development”, explains Clarke. “It also needed to seamlessly migrate to the planned Esri office systems for our enterprise solution.”
This solution helps to improve the efficiency of our employees in the field. There is a much better workflow, and inspectors can survey a greater volume of poles and lines in a day
Dave Clarke – Spatial and Mobile Delivery Manager
The benefits are evident in many parts of the business. Most significantly, they are helping ScottishPower respond promptly and efficiently to reported power outages. All the 350 first response staff, known as DARTS (Direct Action Response Teams), have new tablet PCs with access to maps of all assets, across the entire network. The maps are stored on hard-drives to ensure access even in remote areas and during storms.
“A big driver in our business is the need to ensure the environment our staff work in is as safe as possible”, says Clarke. “Our mobile GIS applications are crucial for helping DARTS to respond quickly, effectively and safely to customer issues. The upgraded maps will undoubtedly provide accuracy and clarity in our records that give confidence to staff working with our assets.”
Workflows are more efficient. For example, a new application for managing overhead power line inspections is fully integrated with the asset management system. Head office staff plan the inspections, and schedules are automatically sent to inspectors via a standard form. Inspectors select a job on their tablet PC, and get a map of the area, highlighting the poles and lines that need inspecting. When they mark the inspection as done, the pole or line changes colour on the map.
Tree surveyors are another group to benefit from new mobile mapping capabilities, using them to identify trees that need trimming, create schedules for clearance and to manage felling permissions with land owners.
The deployment of upgraded mobile GIS has taken place on a large scale. The system was delivered on time, within budget and quickly gained acceptance with and positive feedback from the 600 individual field operators initially using it.
Building on this success, ScottishPower is confident about fully integrating its office and mobile GIS platforms to enable key business processes to be further streamlined. “This will give us a fully connected model of our entire network”, explains Clarke. “When faults occur, we will then be able to trace them all the way through the network to see where they originate and which properties are affected… We expect to be able to make a lot of efficiency gains from this extension to our core GIS.”