Home Articles Adding Value to Businesses: On the Information Highway

Adding Value to Businesses: On the Information Highway

Geospatial services are playing an increasingly important role in sectors such as construction, transportation, utilities and municipal infrastructure to help the global infrastructure keep pace with a growing population and the projected GDP growth

About a decade ago Dave Sonnen, Global Analyst for Spatial Information at IDC, projected that the locationaware market for geospatial services would exceed the traditional GIS market in 2005/2006. The release of Google Earth in June 2005 transformed the geospatial services ecosystem. Today, location-aware technologies have blown past the traditional GIS space in terms of number of users and number of deployed apps.

In sectors such as construction, transportation, utilities and municipal infrastructure, geospatial services are playing an increasingly important role even though it is often not obvious. At a recent Distributech conference, the largest electric power distribution conference in North America, of the 400-plus presentations, only a handful mentioned GIS or geospatial in their title or abstract. But of the 18 companies that we interacted with, only two said they were not using geospatial technology in the organisation. Even those that said they weren”t using GIS, were in all probability using Google Maps for market analysis, recruitment or other applications.

To put this in context, the annual global construction spend is estimated to be $7 trillion, about 10% of world GDP. Of this, transportation construction accounts for $1 trillion, utilities $2 trillion, and buildings $2.5 trillion. It has been estimated that between 2013 and 2030, $57 trillion in infrastructure investment will be required simply to keep up with projected global GDP growth. Th is includes investment required for transport (road, rail, ports, airports), power, water, and telecommunications. Th is is nearly 60% more than the $36 trillion spent globally on infrastructure over the past 18 years.

Increasing private sector funding in infra
In the last 200 years, urbanisation has occurred at an unprecedented rate. Th is is spurring massive investment in cities. For example, Indian cities are estimated to require capital expenditure of $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years, for affordable housing, mass transit, urban roads, storm and sanitary sewers and drinking water. However, governments are devoting less of their limited funds to capital infrastructure projects and are looking to the private sector to fill the funding gap. McKinsey singled out poor construction productivity as an important factor in eroding returns on infrastructure and making infrastructure less attractive for private investment. The stage is thus set for a radical transformation of construction, and geospatial technology is expected to play an important role in this transformation.

Environmental challenges
Buildings use about 40% of global energy, 25% of global water, 40% of global resources, and they emit approximately one-third of global GHG emissions. Faced with rising environmental issues, many governments are mandating energy conservation measures, especially targeting near-zero energy buildings, an industry that is projected to grow by 43% per year to reach $690 billion by 2020.

Building information modeling (BIM) and geospatial technology have central roles to play in improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Several years ago, in an awardwinning paper at a conference organised by Britain’s Association for Geographic Information (AGI), Ann Kemp, then head of GIS at Atkins Global, the design and engineering firm, asked the question ‘BIM isn’t geospatial — or is it?’ and then argued that integration of geospatial and BIM was essential to address the challenges of the 21st century. Kemp wasn’t the first one to speak on this. The need to integrate geospatial and BIM has been gaining traction for some time now and governmentmandated energy efficiency for buildings is a major driver of BIM/geospatial convergence.

Growing investment in technology
These trends are driving investments in technology. In construction, the adoption of BIM has accelerated in the last decade. Buildings, energy, transportation and utilities are realising a significant return on investment by integrating geospatial technology with new engineering designs. The integration of geospatial not only addresses specific vertical industry problems, but also enables a more holistic approach to the major challenges of increased urbanisation.

Transforming construction with BIM, geospatial and 3D
In the construction world, 3D modeling, which integrates BIM, GIS and survey, and laserscanning (LiDAR) in a 3D visualisation environment, are increasingly being used to reduce the risk of budget and schedule overruns. Parsons- Brinckerhoff, part of the large global construction firm Balfour Beatty, has been a leader in applying 3D modeling for design validation, clash detection, parameteric modelling, and design visualisation during design and 4D modeling (time+3D), 5D (cost+time+3D) for construction scheduling during construction. Laser scanning (LiDAR) has become an integral part of the 3D construction process. For example, construction monitoring involves capturing construction progress as well as being able to automate the process of checking for divergence from design.

One of the most important advantages of combined engineering and geospatial datasets is improved communication and coordination between all project stakeholders, and especially with non-technical decision makers. Being able to see photorealistic visualisations of what the project is going to look like in its geographic setting is much more effective in communicating with politicians and the public. For example, on highway projects, Parsons-Brinckerhoff uses gaming technology so that the public can drive the highway in a virtual environment before construction begins.

Transforming transportation construction
The annual global spend on transportation construction, including roads, rail, air and port infrastructure, is around $1 trillion. Of this, 65% is for roads, bridges, and tunnels.

By the end of 2012, four US states had passed laws permitting driverless cars — Nevada, Florida, Texas and California. By August 2012, Google announced over 500,000 km autonomous-driving accident-free with its experimental driverless technology. An emerging objective for the world”s departments and ministries transportation is intelligent highways that will support autonomous and partially autonomous vehicles. Geospatial is a key enabler for digital highways.

In the opinion of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) , the current way of designing and building highways, is reaching the end of its lifetime and a transformation to a new paradigm is required. Fundamentally, it means replacing the current 2D as-builts with intelligent 3D models and a process that leverages existing engineering data captured in 3D models.

The new paradigm is data centric and real time. From data requirement perspective, geospatial will play a central role. A key requirement is a low distortion geospatial coordinate system that will provide the foundation for geolocating all infrastructure including utilities. It will require interoperability using industry standards for data exchange.

Geospatially enabled asset management provides a framework for developing and maintaining engineering and geospatial data, including 3D engineered models as well as scanned data for existing structures for the entire life cycle of a highway. When a new project is initiated, 80-90% of the necessary information will already be available in a geospatially enabled as-built database making a complete resurvey unnecessary.

» Utah Department of Transportation: Integrated design and geospatial data The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is responsible for about $30 billion in assets, including pavement, bridges, signs, culverts and signals with about 10,000 centreline km of highways. UDOT has just finished inventorying all its assets and is in the process of developing an integrated geospatially enabled asset management system.

UDOT is developing applications to provide a common interface for about a dozen UDOT groups that provide a variety of services. One of the most important features of the integrated asset management solution that UDOT is developing is that geospatial location represents a fundamental way of indexing and integrating disparate data sources. For example, it makes it possible to see critical maintenance issues in different layers such as culverts, pavement, and bridges on a common landbase map, so that repairs can be coordinated for all of these assets at the same time.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this project is the sharing of a common dataset among all the departments of the UDOT.

Managing critical infrastructure at airports
Airports are like cities. They have all the infrastructure that cities have, in addition to some more. One of the major hazards of all construction activity is inadvertently hitting underground infrastructure. The challenge is made more difficult because it is an environment where even a minor accident carries the risk of serious consequences.

» Heathrow: High quality location info on underground infrastructure
Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe with an average 181,000 passengers passing through it each day. Heathrow has 13 different types of infrastructure, some of which are unique to the airport environment.

Because safety is Heathrow”s first concern, data quality is a top priority. In addition, providing reliable information about the location of existing infrastructure to the thousand- plus contractors working at Heathrow at any given time is critical to avoid incidents where critical underground facilities are hit. Most of the underground facilities are mapped to within half a meter. Heathrow”s Map Live system provides a single, simple Web-based tool based on an Oracle Spatial database that allows everyone within the business to query, including geospatial query, retrieve and view information including location about Heathrow”s infrastructure. As a result Heathrow”s statistics show that the proportion of events where underground facilities have been hit during excavation as a result of inaccurate location information decreased by a factor of 6x from 2002 to 2011.

» Denver International Airport: Geolocated BIM models
At Denver, the International Airport (DIA) had similar problems. 2D as-builts were unreliable or not existent, which means that DIA really didn”t know reliably where their assets were. There was a lot of redundant data because of silos of information in different departments using different applications. The most important impact of all of this was subjective decision making during the budget planning process, characterised by the so-called HiPPO (highest paid person”s opinion) problem.

Their ultimate goal was data-driven processes that supported predictive maintenance and objective metrics for decision making, especially in prioritising projects during the budgeting process. The way this was addressed was by a combination of data normalisation and business process rationalisation. DIA switched to an integrated BIM design and construction process that produced FM/OM ready BIMs (both horizontal and vertical) and associated relational data structures.

An important aspect of their solution was that all data, including BIM models was geolocated, which made it possible to load all the data into a GIS linked to Maximo. Th is enabled coordinated maintenance work on different types of infrastructure concurrently.

Electric power
According to the World Energy Outlook 2012 from the International Energy Association, global energy demand will increase by over one-third between now and 2035. Global demand for electricity is expected to grow by over 70% by 2035, over 50% of the increase coming from China and India. The IEA estimates that a massive investment of around $37 trillion in the world”s energy supply system is needed during 2012-2035.

Residential, commercial, and public buildings account for one-third of the globe”s total final energy consumption. As a result, improving the energy efficiency of buildings, both existing and new structures, has become a global priority for governments and power utilities. In North America, IDC Energy Insights identified smart buildings as one of the top 10 priorities for electric power utilities in 2012. Geospatial technology is playing an important role in helping utilities and their consumers reduce both electric power consumption as well as peak load.

» Tantalus Systems: Geospatial analytics for smart grid
Tantalus provides utilities with an intelligent communications infrastructure supporting smart grid. Tantalus”s network solutions rely on wired, wireless, or a combination for bi-directional communications and geospatial technology is used by customers to identify problems or misalignment of resources in the radio frequency network. According to Dave Kauffman, Senior Product Manager at Tantalus, “GIS brings an entirely new dimension to problem solving for utilities. Earlier, our customers had to try to understand the source of problems by looking at tables and reports, but they found that with the geospatial view, the source of the problem, typically obstructions, became much easier to identify and correct.”

Tantalus customers also use geospatial analytics to look for patterns in outages by overlaying historical outage events on the distribution network and maps showing soil types, weather patterns, and traffic density patterns. Th is type of analytical approach can identify patterns that make it possible to identify equipment that is susceptible to failure and correct the problem before it actually fails.

One of the new areas where GIS is just beginning to be applied is voltage maps, a new application Kauffman is very excited about. When a utility is implementing Volt/VAR at a substation to reduce load, voltages reported by smart meters can be mapped geographically in real time across the entire distribution network in the form of isovolt maps. Th is makes it possible to identify areas of low voltage in real time, which is critical.

» Horizon Utilities: Energy density analysis for energy conservation
Horizon Utilities is required by the regulator to reduce peak demand in their service area by 5.6% and consumption by 4.9%. Horizon partnered with public organisations that provided it with detailed building, property, and demographic data, which were integrated using a GIS to perform energy density mapping. Th is enabled Horizon to successfully target its marketing on the buildings with the highest energy footprints.

» 3D Energy: Improving energy efficiency of new buildings
Motivated by programmes such as LEED certification, 3D Energy applies energy performance analysis to help architects optimise the energy usage of new buildings. Starting with a simplified BIM model, the geographical location of the building and surrounding natural and man-made structures and the local environmental conditions, an energy performance analysis of the building uses thermal, lighting and airflow simulations to test different design options (insulation, glazing, natural daylight, wind simulation, and ventilation) to identify the best passive solutions, compare lowcarbon technologies, and draw conclusions on energy use, CO2 emissions, occupant comfort, light levels, airflow, and LEED certification level. 3D Energy has found that it is often possible to reduce annual energy consumption and power bills by 40%.

» Alabama Power: Disaster management
Alabama Power installed over a million smart meters and supporting AMI in its operating area to help differentiate between network and customer-induced outages, thereby significantly reducing the number of truck rolls. But it found even greater benefits when tornadoes hit the area in April 2011, destroying two substations, flattening transmission pylons, breaking 7,500 poles, and leaving 400,000 customers without power. Using Google Maps to display which smart meters could not be read after the tornadoes, Alabama Power put together a detailed picture of where power was lost. The application also provided emergency response officials with information about whether the power was on or off in specific buildings.

» AGSI: Smart grid management system for operations and analytics
Managing large volumes of real-time data from sensors is simplified by integration with geospatial technology that allows real-time monitoring and decision making.

Burlington Hydro”s real-time, geospatially enabled smart grid operations and management system, developed by AGSI, integrates with its existing enterprise systems and uses location to provide a common point of access to all their operational data. For example, BHI”s transformer status monitoring dashboard not only shows a map of its service area with transformer loading in real time in the form of a heat map, but also reports historical loading and estimates, based on the history of overloading on a specific transformer, how much the lifetime of the transformer had been shortened as a result of the overloading.

Modeling urban environments
Over half of the world”s 7-billion population lives in cities and this is expected to increase as we move toward 9 billion by 2050. In the future, it is projected that there will be many more and larger mega cities like Tokyo, Mumbai, Mexico City, and Moscow. Cities around the world are beginning to realise that the power that lights up their homes and offi ces comes from the convergence of modern information technology, including BIM, geospatial/ GIS, intelligent (connected) network models for electric power, telecommunications, water and wastewater, transportation, and other infrastructure, real-time data management systems, and 3D visualisation.

» Las Vegas: City infrastructure model
In the United States an underground utility line is hit on average every 60 seconds. The total cost to the national economy is estimated to be in billions of dollars. To address this issue two years ago, the Las Vegas city initiated an intelligent 3D project to model one and half miles of Main Street in the older part of the city. The project was intended to model below and above ground facilities, including roadways, utilities and telecommunications, as well as buildings in 3D. To ensure engineering accuracy, the project also specified implementation of a new low-distortion geospatial coordinate system to make it possible to support engineering grade accuracy for geolocating infrastructure.

VTN Consulting, which won the project, used a variety of techniques for reality capture of underground utilities and other infrastructure, including GIS, survey, design records, test holes, and ground penetrating radar. Above-ground utilities were captured by combining GIS data with mobile laser scanning. The deliverable was a set of georeferenced 3D models of all the underground and above ground infrastructure and buildings including BIM models for the one-and-ahalf mile corridor of Main Street in old Las Vegas. Engineering design and other data was combined with the city”s geoimagery, digital terrain models and other GIS data. In addition, a mobile augmented reality application was developed for the iPad that allowed staff in the field to view underground facilities virtually under the actual roadway.

A major benefit that Las Vegas experienced as a result of developing the intelligent 3D city infrastructure model is increased safety because of the reduced risk of unexpectedly hitting underground utilities. Other benefits include automated clash detection to identify potential problems when planning, designing and constructing new undergound infrastructure. Operating costs have been also reduced because of reduced truck rolls for cable/pipe locate operations. The city is expanding the 3D modeling project to an area six times larger than the original project.

The Las Vegas infrastructure model represents a classic example of the benefits of convergence, the integration of engineering design data, including BIM, geospatial data such as digital terrain models, high resolution photogrammetry, and point clouds derived from laser scanning, together with 3D visualisation technology. At the present time, Las Vegas” 3D city infrastructure model is believed to be unique in North America.

» Sydney: Urban model for emergency planning
The remarkable Sydney Down Under building and infrastructure project, begun about seven years ago by the Emergency Information Coordination Unit (EICU) of the Land and Property Information Department of the Government of New South Wales, brings together into a single database, models of utility infrastructure, including water, waste water, telecommunications, electric power, rail and subways, and roads and highways, together with building information models (above and below ground) including interior spaces. Even more remarkably, the geometric models are linked to the ownership registry making it possible to link interior spaces to owners.

The objective of the project was to provide a basis for emergency planning and disaster management. Compiling the database involved collecting data from some 200 organisations, including local and state governments, utilities and the telecommunications company.

» Belo Horizonte: Urban model for sustainability and municipal planning
Two years ago, Sheyla Santana and her colleagues at the Federal University of Minas Gerais initiated a project to create a model of Belo Horizonte, a city of about two and a half million in Brazil. The immediate objective of the project is sustainability, to enable visualisation and energy performance analysis. But the longer term vision is to enable data-driven urban planning through quantification of the city planning process. For instance, to be able to assess densification options from a serviceability perspective.

All of the facilities are georeferenced. Street lights, trees and the transportation network are also captured in 3D. Water and sewer, electric power, telecommunications, and other public infrastructure are captured in 2D. For new buildings, the BIM models come from architects and designers. For existing buildings, the buildings are laser scanned and BIM models created from the point clouds. The model includes links to a land ownership database maintained by the city government. The model is currently a university research project, but both the city government and the Federal Ministry of Cities are interested in it.

Construction, power, transportation and municipal infrastructure are important sectors of the world economy. Over the next two decades these will see a massive infusion of investment, motivated by economic development and environmental concerns. In addition, as governments find they have less and less money for capital infrastructure projects, a greater proportion of the investment in infrastructure will come from the private sector, which will drive an increased focus on productivity to improve returns on investment. Th at in turn is driving a transformation of the construction industry which is reflected in accelerating adoption of integrated BIM, geospatial, and 3D visualisation, geospatially enabled data management, and vertical applications based on these technologies. The real-world examples show that this is not star wars.