The geographic information system (GIS) has played a significant role in improving the efficiency of city gas distribution (CGD) entities. It is an invaluable tool that helps in the planning, engineering, and operations and management of the CGD network. GIS adds value to the CGD business by facilitating integration with other business systems. Integrating GIS into the mainstream CGD business process leads to improved analysis, visualisation, network planning and informed decisions.

GIS software companies have introduced solutions for different purposes such as outage management, engineering design, transmission corridor management and network asset management. Gas distribution companies have implemented these products separately to support their business workflows in various departments such as services groups, consumer groups, operations groups and billing groups. The deployment of GIS has played a significant role in improving the efficiency of operations undertaken by the CGD entities. It has been an invaluable tool in helping with the planning, engineering, and operations and management of the CGD network. The use of GIS has improved data quality management, assisted in quickly identifying issues, and also supported their resolution. It has added value to the CGD business by facilitating integration with other business systems.

Characteristics of Enterprise GIS

With geography as a common denominator, GIS works with different layers of information, including customers, work and crews, utility assets, pump stations and land, and clubs them into a single environment. Enterprise GIS provides an ecosystem to link all the information into a single platform, where one can analyse the patterns of data and its segregation. GIS streamlines the business processes, integrates business groups and divisions, and is modular, flexible and function driven. It enables efficient data gathering and aggregation on a single platform. It provides centralised databases, and operation-related information on a real-time basis. GIS assures high-data fidelity and accuracy, and keeps records maintenance transparent. The enterprise GIS provides location context, common and central data, integrates business and finally, spatial and location analytics. GIS mapping links the data across various organisations such as central office, GAs, business units and field. GIS mapping enables every employee and contractor in all functional areas to easily discover, use, make and share maps (and map-based solutions) based on their entire pipe network from any device, at any given location and time. It enables the employees and contractors in all functional areas to leverage maps and map-based solutions to individually or collaboratively perform all geographically-oriented tasks and workflows on their entire pipe network.

Central deployment of GIS


Functions of GIS

For CGD entities, GIS has enabled centralised deployment, with central database and a common data model. ArcGIS is a complete GIS for gas utilities, which can successfully meet the challenges pertaining to asset management, operations management and ensure safety and compliance. It is an important tool to assist full life cycle management of CGD network and related assets by creating full operational awareness. Using the data collected, it provides analytical support by evaluating asset performance and activities and predicting failures with artificial intelligence. ArcGIS simplifies data collection by speeding inspection and maintenance tasks. It unifies field and office staff and bridges the physical gap between the two. Further, it provides operations management and keeps a check on the capital and operating expenditure incurred by the gas utilities. It connects IT systems to the operational state of the network and integrates external information sources with location. Additionally, it also enforces the integrity of network and structural data by managing data transactions. It presents a common operational picture to all the stakeholders and communicates changes as they occur. ArcGIS helps to find out unsafe conditions and prepares the utilities for unforeseen disasters and emergencies using location analytics. It collects data from the sensitive areas, and creates a compliant knowledge base. Further, it communicates insights to the stakeholders on a real-time basis. This ensures timely feedback and transparency in the operations.

Enterprise GIS for business processes

The GIS comes with a suite of applications for tablets and phones that can work standalone or together to support a complete workflow like inspections or storm response. It enables the users in the office to monitor the field with dashboards. The GIS optimises efficiency in field operations with the power of location intelligence. The field operations applications enable the customers to perform the common phases of field work. It uses location to coordinate field activities and provides navigation assistance even when offline. Further, it provides visual context in the field with maps while performing accurate data collection and inspections. The application uses the power of location to improve coordination and operational efficiency in field workforce activities, and reduces the reliance on paper. Besides, it ensures that both field and office workers use the same authoritative data to reduce errors, boost productivity, and save money. Apart from the utilities, the application can be successfully deployed in other industries such as natural resources, health and human services etc.

Recent advancements

ArcGIS can also be used as an internet of things (IoT) platform or to complement another IoT platform. Its applications such as Explorer provides real-time situational awareness whereas applications like Collector and Survey123 help users capture field data. Finally, applications like Tracker or Workforce pair great with operations dashboard and provides information on field activities. Overtime, there have been improvements in the ArcGIS Big Data store called spatiotemporal, which now supports 3D points and the fly spatial aggregations. For the GIS system of engagement, there is a new configurable, web based, operations dashboard to support decision making. In the suite of ArcGIS mobile applications, Collector now integrates with high accuracy global positioning system devices, Explorer allows for map markup to be stored directly in the system of engagement, and Survey123 can enable barcode scanning of utility assets, and photo markup which allows users to take a photo and then add note on top of it. Finally, the portal for ArcGIS allows for distributed collaboration which allows on to set up multiple portals sharing with each other instead of just one portal with multiple groups. This has turned out be a valuable advancement for large organisations as they need to standup multiple systems of engagement. GIS technology has been a key development for all the industries that needs location-based interactive data manipulation. As the industry matures, the need for GIS in gas distribution is bound to increase.

By Dr Pradeep N

Based on a presentation by Dr. Pradeep N, Industry Manager, Utilities, Telco and Transport, Esri India Technologies Limit at the 15th annual conference on City Gas Distribution in India.

Dr Pradeep has 20 years of experience in industries as well as in research in the field of GIS technology application and consulting. He has contributed significantly to various strategic GIS solution implementations and national-level technology evaluation programmes. He has published several research papers and is a regular speaker at industry conferences.