GIS technology lights up Singapore’s utilities sector, says expert
By Clarice Africa22 May 2014
Bill Meehan, global director for Utilities at Esri – the world’s largest GIS technology company – was in Singapore to address the region’s top utilities organisations on the issue of spatially enabling their senior management.
Speaking at the SAP Asia Pacific Conference for Utilities in Singapore today, the published author and distinguished academic called on utilities leaders to think outside the box when using GIS technology.
“Utilities have spent millions of dollars converting old, legacy mapping systems to modern GIS applications as a basis for asset and outage management, or for network design,” Mr Meehan said.
“However, GIS technology has enormous value well beyond engineering and operations departments – it can literally transform a utility.
“Utilities must take a more strategic approach to solve the big problems they currently face.
“Critical industry issues – such as an aging workforce, infrastructure management and low customer satisfaction – require utilities to leverage their investment in data collection with powerful GIS tools.
“While the nature of these big challenges are diverse, they all share a strong geographic component and must be addressed by putting GIS technology to work.”
Mr Meehan said GIS technology can also help utilities create a new knowledge infrastructure to capture and retain their workers’ accumulated experience before they leave or retire.
“Having a stable knowledge infrastructure is as much an asset as a utility’s physical infrastructure,” Mr Meehan said.
“In the face of Singapore’s aging workforce, and as the sector adopts more automation, it is critical that utilities institutionalise accumulated knowledge and secure it for the future.
“GIS technology can capture observations and predictive information via models that are validated and supplemented by experienced workers – ensuring this knowledge is not lost.”
Mr Meehan cited an example of addressing low customer satisfaction to explain how GIS technology offered an innovative approach to fundamental issues faced by all utilities.
“Mapping customer satisfaction – from survey results, for example – enables utilities to pinpoint where their most dissatisfied customers are located,” Mr Meehan said.
“When augmented with historic data – such as records of outages or maintenance works – reasons behind low customer satisfaction become much clearer.
“GIS technology’s powerful analytical ability can reveal the relationships between where and why customers are dissatisfied – perhaps in the form of a vocal minority who have experienced above-average rates of outages within a short time frame.
“This understanding ensures solutions focus on areas of greatest need – such as targeted community meetings or educational programs – instead of misinformed, ad-hoc or scattergun approaches.”
Esri Singapore Chief Executive Officer Thomas Pramotedham said Mr Meehan’s visit is a valuable opportunity for the Singaporean market to be briefed on new GIS capabilities available to them.
“Bill has worked on some of the most cutting-edge GIS projects ever implemented in utilities and comes to Singapore armed with a wealth of experience,” Mr Pramotedham said.
“His visit to Singapore is a rare opportunity to hear how some of the world’s leading utilities are innovatively using Esri technology.
“This kind of information sharing is enormously valuable, particularly in this time of rapid change in the utilities sector.”
Esri Singapore is one of South Asia’s largest GIS solution providers, with clients including Singapore Power.
Mr Meehan is a pre-eminent authority in the field of GIS for utilities and has authored two books: Modeling Electric Distribution with GIS and GIS for Enhanced Electric Utility Performance.