Tech Advancement

Enterprise GIS facilitating organisations’ digital transformation

Geographic information system (GIS) approaches can drive forward the digital transformation now under way in the gas industry globally and in India, and provide in­sigh­ts into how this can benefit organisations to a greater extent. Various electric as well as gas utilities are adopting GIS in a significant way.

GIS concerns location and location reference and incorporates enough intelligence to provide a comprehensive framework within which locational parameters and data from multiple systems, users and stakeholders can be integrated to create a process capable of supporting the business challenges that organ­isations are currently facing.

Covid-19 repercussions

GIS provides a location context, interconnects data, and enables an integrated framework and near real-time visualisation and analysis. It captures all the information in a single structured central data depository that can serve as a single source across organisations, stakeholders and departments, just as the Indian government is currently doing by integrating entire systems. An example is the Gati Shakti programme, which promotes this form of interministerial, interdepartmental connectivity in order to make data particularly helpful for pl­an­ning, decision-making and analysis across organisations. Further­more, GIS is at the vangu­ard of this effort becau­se it possesses the specified scale capability required to build digital tw­ins using a standard data model, standard integrations and reality capturing capabilities.

Emphasis on the gas ecosystem

When the entire gas ecosystem is considered in detail, GIS becomes significantly more complex. Given the distinct well-defined structural eco­systems in terms of transmission, distribution and the current focus on a gas-based economy, addressing the data and business requirements ac­ross these segregated systems becomes much more critical, as does determining how data can flow across for effect­ive implementation and good analysis.

This is where business drivers play a vital role in terms of productivity. The challenge then lies in how it is accomplished, whether data standards or safety requirements are adhered to in light of the pandemic and whether safety of field personnel and consumers is ensured. The majority of these are critical for any organisation, and as a result, their financial viability is impacted. Thus, the way human resources and infrastructure are integrated makes it significantly more affordable, and lowers operating and capital costs across projects, while also maintaining the entire workflow, ensuring that business workflow is not impacted and productivity is enhanced. Nowadays, drones enable lightning-fast project monitoring systems, and the internet of things (IoT)  is gaining traction.

Additionally, numerous business mechanisms are emerging that can facilitate extremely efficient planning and design. The majority of organisations are exploring ways to overhaul their entire operations and make them far more digital. With the addition of remote working capabilities and the focus on a remote workforce, digital transformation is growing in relevance, and GIS, with its locational information or intelligence, has been a strong driving force, en­ab­ling this digital transformation by augmenting those systems and enabling the integration of IoT devices and sensors, as well as all the AI  and ML capabilities that GIS today possesses.

Challenges faced

There are numerous challenges associated with the digital transformation journey, as organisations must have robust mechanisms in place to ensure that the asset in the field is mirrored digit­ally. The issues include bringing together the entire workforce and integrating these disparate platforms. This is where GIS can help, by enabling a standard enterprise approach in the implementation of GIS and geospatial infrastructure within organisations. This will result in standard data exchange requirements, data standards and data models being introduced, and a variety of web and mobile applications being enabled on top of that to integrate the entire process. That is what ESRI has accomplished with its ArcGIS platform, by transforming the entire process into a service based on structures. It is able to integrate and bring in data online and offline using simple web services. Whether the data is from within the systems or from a third party, whether it is a hosted service, on cloud, or on premises, the entire system becomes more enabling without disrupting workflows. Thus, an enterprise approach will undoubtedly assist in bringing in data from many stakeholders and multiple settings, and delivering it to users regardless of whether they are creating or curating data on their desktops or analysing applications on their web or mobile device.

In order to accomplish this, three distinct platforms or components of systems of record are used: the system of engagement, the application component and the analytical capabilities. The enterprise’s centre is a standard data model with data exchange priorities that enable the standard assets to be brought together, published as services, enabled for applications, and then collected for analytics. It is now feasible to collect data from a number of sources using an enterprise GIS strategy and a focus on a digital twin model, whether it is 3D BIM, the integration of CAD files or drone data collection. This is then incorporated into the organisation’s GIS ba­ckbone, enabling data interchange. This en­ables the understanding of the entire network across organisations based on locational parameters and the transformation of every process into a set of digital transformation journeys, wh­e­ther it is field operations, emergency management or business intelligence, in order to en­ab­le strategic capabilities or safety initiatives, customer experience initiatives, or network modernisation initiatives that can be implemented across the organisation.

The issues encountered today, particularly in the Indian context, are in the data collection and standardisation components. When it comes to GIS, while it has become a more integrated aspect of pro­cesses, for many organisations, it is still an afterthought in their digital transformation path. Hen­ce, early adoption, and a road map for GIS integration and GIS-based workflows will aid in the adoption and standardisation of the entire pro­cess, while also enhancing the digital transformation stories that organisations are considering, as the entire geospatial infrastructure component of it will become very visible to them.

Perks of GIS

In today’s environment, in a business GIS, safety comes first. With this, the question arises as to how one complies with the regulatory requirements, equips the field with hazard awareness, integrates the community, places the staff and as­s­ets at the centre of the processes, and en­ables the entire workflow foundation of that, in terms of the digital transformation journey. It is expected that enterprise GIS will aid in this because it enables one to capture the data associated with all of this and do it via a centralised infrastructure. Similarly, in the case of asset management, enterprise GIS will enable integration of third-party partners and the existing asset management systems, and enable data analytics to predict the point of failure, which can be taken up in the predictive maintenance and proactive maintenance schedules. As the economy shifts to a gas-based one, customer satisfaction and customer engagement become increasingly im­portant, which means timely communication.

Thus, GIS can be used to locate a position, and once it is connected enterprise-wide, this data can be transferred with the internet and extracted to the end customer as well. As a result, one can segment and enable data according to client requirements. Network modernisation is one of the most capital-intensive me­tho­ds under consideration, in terms of how to modernise the network, how much of the present network can be used and upgraded, and how much must be phased out over time. Thus, all of these modernisation experiences may be de­s­cri­bed within an organisational GIS, and then integrated with IT-OT systems to enable sensor integration. Then comes field operation, which is a vital part of the entire business because it invol­ves bringing in the crew in the field, ensuring their safety and integrating their work procedures so that they have a smooth update of the data.

Outlook

Enterprise GIS creates a comprehensive GIS platform for utilities’ digital transformation by en­­abling them to have seamless structured ca­pabilities and workflows for data collection, ana­lysis and generation of location-specific ac­tion plans. It helps organisations embark on their digital transformation journey. n

Based on remarks by Dr Pradeep N., Industry Manager/Head Sales, Utilities & Telco, ESRI, at a recent India Infrastructure conference