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GIS lines and polygons reshaping utilities

By The Fulcrum Team
September 26, 2023

Data accuracy plays a critical role in utility field operations. Incorporating GIS lines and polygons is reshaping utilities with visual data collection and mapping of critical assets.

Without reliable data to guide utility field operations, utilities potentially risk severe consequences: massive outages affecting thousands of households and businesses, inefficient resource allocation swelling operational costs, or subpar inspections putting both workers and the public in danger.

Meeting these high stakes, GIS technology gives utility field operations the best tools to collect data, regardless of scope. And by leveraging advanced GIS capabilities, utilities will continuously produce highly accurate, data-driven insights. This prized intelligence is what helps utilities make better informed decisions, improve service delivery, and maintain operational sustainability.

Join us as we explore how the sophisticated data points and capabilities of GIS are reshaping how electrical utilities plan, manage, and optimize their field operations for unparalleled efficiency and reliability.

Advanced GIS building blocks: points, lines, and polygons

Transcending basic mapping, GIS identifies and analyzes the spatial relationships between any sets of variables deemed of interest. This can comprise everything from individual pole location to customer complaints, network design to resource allocation. And to make the most out of GIS, it’s essential to understand its fundamental building blocks: points, lines, and polygons.

  • Points. The simplest form of spatial data, points are often used to represent specific locations. For utilities, points can pinpoint the exact locations of various assets, such as substations, power poles, and transformers. Points are often the starting point for more complex GIS analyses. For instance, utilities might use points to identify the location of persistent outages to then reshape disaster response plans.
  • Lines. Lines illustrate connections or pathways between points, especially useful for visualizing structures. For example, lines can represent power lines or underground cables, making it easy to see network distribution. Mapping this way helps identify critical junctions, bottlenecks, or even potential expansion areas.
  • Polygons. Used to represent areas or regions, polygons can help outline service zones, risk zones, or maintenance areas. For example, representing geographical areas according to natural disaster vulnerability can be essential for emergency preparedness or regulatory compliance. From a process perspective, polygons deliver more efficient resource allocation by visualizing the demands of a particular area, from energy consumption rates to maintenance needs.

GIS lines in Fulcrum app showing GIS Lines and Polygons Reshaping UtilitiesAdvanced GIS applications in utility field operations

By integrating and then overlaying points, lines, and polygons, utilities can create highly accurate maps of complex variables that offer deep, layered insights into their operations. Some common and highly effective use cases that put advanced GIS features to work include:

Field operations

  • Emergency Management: When natural disasters strike, data quality can be the difference between rapid response and extended downtime. Advanced GIS data can accurately delineate affected areas but also drill down to help make quick decisions that can involve directing repair crews to precise locations or determining the fastest routes for emergency services.
  • Maintenance and Inspections: Regular maintenance and inspection are critical to maintaining a network’s reliability and safety. By leveraging spatial data, utilities can plan, coordinate, and execute maintenance activities more effectively. To help prioritize these efforts, points can identify assets needing inspections, while polygons can define higher-risk zones.
  • Asset Management: Knowing an asset’s location, status, and maintenance history is essential for operational efficiency and reliability. Poor asset management raises costs and disrupts service, affecting customer satisfaction. GIS enables utilities to precisely locate each asset and visualize their interdependencies, improving both preventative and reactive maintenance.
  • Vegetation Management: Overgrown vegetation near electrical lines risks disruptions and fires. GIS uses lines and polygons to map utility infrastructure and nearby vegetation, focusing vegetation management where needed.

Leadership operations

  • Planning Infrastructure: GIS can provide a high-level view of existing infrastructure and plot out potential expansion. For example, polygons help map service boundaries and more easily identify and prioritize underserved regions. More granular, lines highlight the best routes for new power cables or pipes, leading to more efficient planning.
  • Network Optimization: With real-time load and distribution analysis, GIS helps optimize networks for current and future needs. By using polygons to map out residential and commercial usage zones and lines to show connections, utilities streamline network analysis. Smarter load management and distribution improves energy efficiency and reduces costs. 
  • Environmental Compliance: Spatial data can demarcate sensitive environmental zones, such as wildlife habitats or protected lands. This helps utilities comply with environmental regulations when planning new installations or conducting maintenance.Customer Service Improvement: Utilities can spatially analyze customer satisfaction and target specific areas for service improvement. For example, points can visualize the shared location of customer complaints, focusing remediation efforts.
  • Disaster Preparedness: Spatial data helps utilities plan operational responses to disaster scenarios and prepares them for unforeseen challenges. For example, charting efficient electrical re-distribution routes to circumvent vulnerable areas.

Mapping the future with advanced GIS

The combination of GIS technology and field data holds immense significance for utilizing visual lines and polygons for reshaping utilities, elevating their essential operations and service delivery to a new level of precision and efficiency. From utility infrastructure planning and emergency management to asset tracking and compliance, leveraging advanced GIS capabilities facilitates extensive, efficient, and effective transformation.

The integration of advanced GIS features into inspection platforms like Fulcrum offers field operations teams an even more potent tool. With Fulcrum’s seamless Esri integration, utility field managers and field teams alike now have access to advanced tools such as lines and polygons as well as real-time, bi-directional data flows, streamlining workflows and improving the quality of data collected.

A special invitation to utilities

Are you a utilities field manager looking to stay on the cutting edge of operational efficiency by leveraging GIS lines and polygons to reshape your processes in the field? Your journey to a more streamlined and sophisticated operational structure begins here. Sign up for a free demo with one of our experts today to learn how to unlock the potential of these advanced GIS capabilities, including Esri lines and polygons, from within the user-friendly Fulcrum app. Step into the future of utility management with Fulcrum, and witness firsthand how our solutions can transform your operations, ensuring reliability and efficiency at every level.