New Esri Functionality Lowers Barriers to Utility Network Adoption

Critigen’s demo environment is equipped with a fully functioning Utility Network with a modified Naperville Utility Pipeline Data Model (UPDM) for Gas providing real examples of how the Utility Network has been implemented and used by our gas customers.

As with any new revolutionary technology, consumers await a release that has enough iterations under its belt to provides the benefits required to justify its cost. A quote that I liked from Brandon Chu on Medium regarding the importance of feature prioritization in product development that I was reminded of while writing this post is…

“Show me a [product] team that has no bugs and I’ll show you one that should have shipped months ago.”

The Utility Network is no different. Esri continues to diligently improve the utility network management tools, ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Enterprise to provide utilities with the tools they have become so accustomed to using over the past 20 years in ArcMap, the Geometric Network, and Schneider Electric ArcFM, to name a few. As with any new product, it takes time to build.

That said, the Utility Network went live for the first time at one of Critigen’s gas utility clients in October 2018, proving that ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Portal, and Enterprise, with a smart and well executed delivery plan, can handle the day-to-day operational rigors of a large utility while meeting regulatory compliance obligations. Another of our gas clients is going live with the Utility Network this quarter, leveraging the best practices from our previous deliveries.

The Time is Now

ArcGIS Pro 2.5 and Enterprise 10.8 are major releases expected in February 2020 that contains some highly anticipated and exciting enhancements to the Utility Network. These products are currently out for pre-release and can be downloaded from Esri for evaluation and testing. Some of the enhancements in this release that utilities may find compelling are presented below.

Unified Pipe Data Management

New at ArcGIS Pro 2.5 and Enterprise 10.8 is the ability to model distribution and transmission networks within a shared set of classes in the database. Esri has coined this new capability, Unified Pipe Data Management. This should not be confused with the Utility Pipeline Data Model, the name of the data model that delivers Utility Network functionality, that shares the same acronym. Unified Pipe Data Management means that one set of datasets now supports both distribution and transmission modelling, instead of having to split the datasets into two groups that correspond with each. Tom Coolidge’s article on LinkedIn does a fantastic job identifying the benefits of this approach. To paraphrase:

  • One set of software for distribution and transmission modelling means lower costs in software licensing, infrastructure, and training.

This is a great example of how new technology can drive operational change at utilities, passing on the savings to customers. Historically, due to the segmentation of transmission modeling and distribution modeling capability, there were often a set of transmission engineers maintaining the linear referencing system (LRS) in a separate database with a separate set of tools than what the distribution modelers and editors are using. Now, the tools are available for one group to maintain the data seamlessly, (a more efficient way of working) and allows opportunity for the two groups to collaborate more closely to maintain one set of consolidated data using the same application (ArcGIS Pro). The utilities that adopt these new tools first, will be the first to realize the benefits of the new technology. From the paper, A Road Ahead, an analysis of disruptors in the energy sector by PwC:

“We expect that growth will become more innovation-dependent, with success coming to those companies that use innovative technologies, products, services, processes, and business models to gain competitive advantage.”

Could the Utility Network, ArcGIS Pro, and Unified Pipe Data Management be some of the collection of innovative technologies that provide certain utilities a competitive advantage over their competitors?

Utility Network Functionality in a File Geodatabase

In previous releases, Utility Network functionality required an Enterprise Geodatabase. At Pro 2.5 in Esri’s words, “We now support the full analytic capability of the Utility Network in a file geodatabase.” This is a game-changer for smaller utilities who may not have the large budget of a large utility, but want to take advantage of the utility network’s capabilities.

Look out for upcoming demos from Critigen showcasing Utility Network and ArcGIS Pro functionality including gas network tracing, editing workflows, running the Utility Network in a geodatabase in SAP HANA, and integration with other business systems. Please reach out if there are specific topics that your organization would like the Critigen team to address.