Esri, the global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, builds the most powerful mapping and spatial analytics technology available.

Article Post


Posted for Esri

Esri’s annual Electric and Gas User Group and the Telecommunications User Group have combined to form a larger professional community, GeoConX. On October 17, leaders from across the globe will converge in Phoenix, Arizona to share successes across industries, discover more experiences, meet industry partners, and embrace how GIS technologies are changing the World. GeoConX is a new and exciting combination of industries and technologies. The conference also speaks more broadly to the future of the grid.These experts are traveling the World. Meeting with grid operators, engineers, and utility teams. They are solving tough utility problems. They are helping utilities embrace GIS and actively driving innovation in GIS solutions. While the collaboration and teamwork will continue, now is a great opportunity to pause and take a moment to forecast just where we, the industry, is headed...

Esri - Where GIS is Going

Bill Meehan, Director, Utilities Solution, Esri

How many of us still use a Diskman? Do you even remember it?  In a few years, no one will even remember what a CD is, let alone a long playing album (LP). When I ask a group, what replaced the Diskman, most people will say the iPod or maybe even the iPhone. But really, it wasn’t the iPod or iPhone that replaced the Diskman. It was the iTunes platform. It didn’t just change the way people listened to music while taking a run or hanging out in the park.. It turned the music industry upside-down. If you were in the business of making CD cabinets, you were out of business. If you ran a music store, you are probably doing something else today. Phil Simon in his landmark book, The Age of the Platform, tells us that a platform “allows people to reach and connect with one another and obtain information.” Another platform, Facebook completely transformed the way society connects with each other.


So the future of maps and GIS can be summarized in one word: platform. In the old days in utilities, GIS and its forefather, AM/FM were very efficient map making applications for their era. They had advanced white space management, and linked attributes which in theory laid the groundwork for today's platform era. Forward thinking utilities see GIS not as an efficient way to produce maps, but as a platform for sharing critical information to enable informed decision making. Esri joins Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and many others as a platform for collaboration. The ArcGIS platform is about sharing location information (using maps of course) to all stakeholders inside and outside of the utilities. It allows others (customers, regulators, media, agencies, etc.) to contribute linked content to the platform that bridges the gap between what was once critical infrastructure data (recorded on paper) to digital data now “geo-enriched” with real-time analytics. The utilities industry is in a unique position to accept, or reject the platform. Many believe this puts the industry in uncharted waters.


This comes at the right time for utilities who themselves are transforming from a delivery of electrons to a platform.  So while I coined the term: The Electric Utility as a Platform, we will see if it sticks moving forward.

Learn more:


EPRI on Where the Electric Utility Industry is Going

John Simmins, Technical Executive - Information and Communication Technology

We’ve recently been through the “smart grid” phenomena, the “big data” phenomenon is currently underway with the “internet of things” looming on the horizon. It turns out all these phases are actually the same: reliance on data more than experience. This trend is unstoppable and is transformational for the grid.  How electricity is generated, sold and delivered will be fundamentally transformed in ways we may not be able to see yet.  If we look at the trends in retail from small, regional department stores to the big box store to the internet store to delivery by drones, we can see the trends.  There will be fewer humans and fewer organizations involved.  Consumers will have choices that transcend location and defined products. The power of technology will change how we look at consumers and producers


Patrick Engineering on Where Design Engineering is Going

Mike Pordes, ‎Corporate Director, Software Development and Analytics

Infrastructure continues to be constructed through project phases; planning, preliminary design, full design, construction, closeout. Utilities across the World have recognized that properly orchestrated geospatial technologies can help close the gaps in communication that exist in and between each of the phases. The opportunity today is for utilities to constantly think about that information and its exchange. This is a key point of transformation to come. Being able to recognize and use data being collected, manipulated and used in the life cycle to immediately optimize both operations and maintenance. The second point of transformation is thinking about construction earlier in the project lifecycle. In general, construction has the largest investment in a project. When informed through geospatial and other technologies utilities are able to understand when to expedite vs. take conservative approaches on construction investments. Today, being able to utilize accurate information from existing sources can assist. In the near future virtual reality, augmented reality, and cognitive computing will provide additional assistance to recognizing and making risk conscious construction decisions earlier in the process.

Learn more:


Teradata on Where Data is Going

David Socha, Practice Leader, Utilities & Smart Cities

Put simply, this entire conversation could be considered as one about where data is going.  Cheap (or free), ubiquitous access to all manner of data from all manner of sources is already becoming the norm - geospatial data included. Anything can be geotagged and put into context in a bigger picture.  The IoT is simply the mechanism for every widget; every geolocation; every utility asset; every meter; every kind of transaction to broadcast data about itself.  Storing that data, analaysing it and deriving value from the result is becoming easier all the time too.  And it’s clear that direction of travel is only one way. 


OK, for now, when we step outside machine-to-machine transactions & the Industrial IoT and back into the world of real humans, security and privacy of personal data remain a concern.  Fair enough.  But people already share huge amounts of personal data to agree a new phone contract or impress their friends on publicly-accessible social media posts. I believe that very soon, worrying about who knows what about you will be seen as something only the older generation did.  Instead, people will expect ever-more real-time, personalised, localised services in exchange for being so free with their personal data. 


For the 21st Century utility, both the Industrial IoT and of People-related Things... present massive opportunities.  The IIoT - and subsequent Analytics of Things - will be a fundamental enabler for a utility to manage ever-increasing grid complexity.  I think most utilities already understand this.  But add all this new connected data to data about customers and it will also deliver opportunities for new integrated energy services across homes, places of work & leisure, electrified transport and more.  Opportunities that can only be grasped if the utility understands, integrates and exploits all the rich data sources becoming available to it today.  To put it most simply: the future of energy and of the utility itself, in whatever form….is data.  That’s where data is going.

Learn more:


Boreas Group on Where the Global Grid is Going

Robert Sarfi, Managing Partner Boreas Group

The future of the grid: Eat or be eaten. Despite our dependence on electric power, as a society we have done little to modernize energy delivery until relatively recently. Sadly, the advances have not kept up with the values of our society as a whole, or proven, commonly available technology.  Whereas in the past change was driven by regulated entities with an exclusive franchise, disruptors will come from outside of the power sector: this is a phenomenon we are already witnessing, with increasing velocity.  The grid of the future will provide an open platform, much similar to a state-owned interstate that allows access to all.  Generation, storage, and load elements will be self-registering building blocks, similar to the concept of all “Lego” sets being compatible.  Elements will be connected by providers or even consumers, they will self-register, and interact with each other optimizing grid performance with respect to economics, efficiency, adequacy, and reliability.  The ubiquitous grid will encompass not only electric, gas, and water, but as well other services that we’ve already come to rely upon or haven’t even considered yet.  How real is this vision?  Consider that most of these components are commonly available or the concepts are in use in other sectors and applications.  This is very real and likely within all of our lifetimes.  Is this farewell to the grid as we know it?  A pragmatist may say we are in a transitional state where not acknowledging and recognizing change will lead to certain obsolescence.

Learn more:


Between the Poles on Where IoT is Going

Geoff Zeiss, Principal, Between the Poles

The Internet of Things (IoT) will turn the currently exponentially increasing volume of industrial data into a deluge that will be overwhelming for every company with the possible exception of national security agencies. For utilities, this will mean that petabytes instead of terabytes.  The range of structured and unstructured data that utilities will have to deal with will expand.  For example, HECO (Hawaiian Electric), which is committed to 100% renewables by 2045, already collects a large amount of data from diverse internal and external sources including weather nowcasts and forecasts, data from customer sited PV, consumer/public resource data, phasor (PMU) data, renewables power quality, feeder data, irradiance meters, generator and substations power quality, SCADA, and vendor data such as forecasts and data from Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The data has widely different time resolutions ranging from real time such as PMUs sampling 30 times per second, SCADA reporting every 2 seconds, calculated gross load every 2 seconds, PV inverter data reporting every 5 minutes and aggregated monthly, weather forecast reporting every 15 minutes, transformers collecting data every 15 mins, and smart meters reporting every 15 minutes. Most organizations lack actionable methods to tap into, monetize, and strategically exploit this potentially enormous new value. Research has revealed that companies currently underutilize most of the IoT data they collect.  In addition we will see a utility industry that is increasingly consumer driven. If we look at the UK Ofgem model, or what SMUD is doing or the New York REV regulatory model, the goal is to introduce competition into the retail end and the power generation end of the business. Cheap solar panels are already dramatically changing the generation side of things and power is available in bulk from non-utility sources such as Apple and Google. A casino in Las Vegas with the largest rooftop solar array in the U.S. is going off grid even if forced to pay an astronomical exit fee. The Nest thermostat is just the beginning of consumer devices that will increasingly change how consumers use electric power. With storage become cheaper and commoditized, microgrids are becoming an economically viable alternative and not only for casinos.  Traditional utility infrastructure does not change every three years, but consumer devices do. If you look at the telecom industry in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, answering machines, touch tone phones and cell phones changed the usage patterns of telecommunications infrastructure. In one decade cell phones went from 1% of the population to over 50% of the population. Ultimately this drives changes in the transmission and distribution space. Copper is almost history being replaced by fiber and wireless. Currently, smart phones, the internet and machine to machine communications are revolutionizing business and consumers' spending patterns. I fully expect a similar pattern to emerge in the power utility business with consumers driving the engine.  Traditional utilities will get out of the business of selling electricity and focus on managing infrastructure. This will require mapping all infrastructure underground, which is a remote sensing challenge attracting innovation investment, and aboveground.  Integration of building information models (BIM) + geospatial will be required to manage infrastructure inside and outside of buildings including optimizing O & M of buildings and neighbourhoods.  Utilities + customers will generate huge volumes of data of operating information, but distributed generation will require weather nowcasting up to 25 minutes in advance.  Managing energy transactions will require secure blockchain technology that is already being evaluated and applied by Nasdaq and others for managing energy transactions.  Gartner has predicted that by 2020 the largest energy company will be an Uber-like company that will manage transactions between energy generators and energy consumers. As utilities implement millions of smart devices in the field, a centralized architecture rapidly runs into scalability and latency problems. A solution to this challenge is an architecture with geographically distributed as opposed to centralized intelligence. This would be comprised of layers so that not all data needs to go to the central control application. A self-healing network is an example where a problem can be handled locally without the central control application knowing anything about it.  Distributed intelligence also enables fast edge decisions that can be made without waiting for the central control application.  An advantage of this architecture is that it enables security at the edge of the grid, not just via the central control application.  It can also take advantage of the tremendous amount of intelligence out in the field including intelligent devices and microgrids.  Geospatial is the only foundational view that can link the internet of things generating huge volumes of structured and unstructured data coming from intelligent sensors, intelligent devices, external sources such as weather services, social media and customer data with every operational activity of an electric utility including design and construction, asset management, workforce management, and outage management as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management systems (DMSs), renewables, and strategy planning.

Learn more:


FlameMapper on Where Non-Traditional Utility Data (analytic, insight) is Going

Shea Broussard Co-Founder/ GIS SME, FlameMappper

Insight, analytics, real-time data and global interactive dashboards, we have all heard these terms before, but what do they mean for utilities? In an era of metric driven and statistically justified solutions, the utility companies that embrace using analytics to intuitively link or “Geo-enrich” existing content will be in the best position to profit by optimizing restoration efficiencies, cut cost, and limit interruption of service. Running analytics against multiple linked datasets provides powerful insight to pinpoint risk and provide cost benefit analysis that encompasses risks, consequences, restoration estimations, and projected costs savings. With this kind of technology, in the event of a failed power pole, utilities would be able to quickly locate the nearest replacement pole and be able to make an informed decision when to dispatch maintenance crews to avoid wasting man hours waiting for materials to arrive. Empirical evidence suggest that with the increased frequency in natural disasters affecting utility infrastructure, in addition to society's increased reliance on utility systems, using real-time analytics can optimize restoration efficiencies, limit down time, reduce lost revenue, and instill positive customer relations in times where it counts the most.

Learn more:


DataCapable on Where the Customer is Going

Zac Canders, CEO DataCapable

In 1882 Thomas Edison’s Pearl St. Station brought electric lights to lower Manhattan. At the time it probably seemed like magic. But in the words of the man credited with turning the lights on, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk”. And there’s the irony my friends. Jump forward 134 years to GeoConX and that pile of junk... it’s data. In my opinion, the value in grid transformation is what the utility industry does with the data customers provide. Unstructured data from social media, text messages, photos, and videos can provide a wealth of information. If utilities want to remain relevant they‘ll need to connect with customers on the platforms they prefer and leverage this data to its fullest extent. In the coming years, utilities will have to embrace these data sets to drive new relationships and promote new products and services that aren’t just electrons. If utilities don’t, someone else definitely will.

Learn more:

Esri, the global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, builds the most powerful mapping and spatial analytics technology available.


No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.