7 Reasons Utilities Trust Us with Their Network Models - #2 Sophisticated Network Tracing

transmission towers at sunset

In this blog series, I’m highlighting the seven reasons utility providers trust Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure with their network models. In my last post, I discussed how our utility network solutions handle robust data models that support and mirror the real information needs of utility providers. For this installment, I’ll look at the network tracing capabilities of our utility solutions.

To successfully operate and manage a utility network requires a focused solution based on deep industry knowledge. Most utility companies searching for a network management solution will be hard pressed to find industry-specific network tracing requirements in a commercial-off-the-shelf geographical information systems. It’s true; custom development, interfaces, and enhancements can be made. But overtime, they can also increase a solution’s cost of ownership and slow down operational efficiency with technical debt.

Critical functions such as tracing, should be dynamic and easily added or modified through configuration and not custom code. Tracing should also be used to feed other analysis and systems to provide information and not just data. Here’s a look at how our network management solutions offer sophisticated and intelligent tracing.

Logical Connectivity
One of the key strengths of our utility network management solutions is sophisticated network tracing. Our feature connectivity is logical, meaning that it is not based on graphical connectivity. Rather connectivity is stored in a database in a connectivity table. This allows for connectivity to be available immediately and users do not have to wait for information to be posted or connectivity built. Since the connectivity is stored in a database table, tracing is done through the use of trace packages. This allows for traces to be very fast. A simple trace takes an averages of six seconds, while more a complex tracing averages 28 seconds with a report. Creating a trace is quick and easy. No more coding when needing a new trace. Traces are configured through metadata. Users simply set the stop criteria and a filter SQL.  All of these factors provide utilities with a strong analytical tool, which can be executed in batch and offline fashions.

No Need to Compile
When it comes to utility network tracing, geometric connectivity can be limiting. With geometric connectivity, the network often has to be compiled. With these systems, the existing compiled connectivity cannot be deleted or modified until all versions of work are checked in. The reality is: most utilities don’t have sufficiently crisp data to rely on geometric connectivity. At the same time, asset congestion in underground networks makes the management of geometric connectivity difficult for GIS users. Another factor complicating matters is that most users want to offset the symbols from the line work to create a more pleasing map. It’s with these challenges and user needs in mind that we’ve designed our network management solutions to perform intelligent tracing without requiring geometric connectivity. Users can perform analytical traces at any time. Even features in the proposed state and in an existing job can be used.

Analytical Benefits
Another network tracing capability our utilities solutions feature is the ability to incorporate trace into sophisticated analysis steps. The trace in some systems is a static record-set that cannot be used for further analysis. In the Intergraph G/Technology system, traces can be used as input into other functions, such as spatial queries. For example, a trace on a gas network can be run, and then that trace be used to find all the railroad crossings within 100 feet of that trace. The trace results are also stored in a table. This allows for custom reports. These reports can contain not only the trace results but also any features that are owned or own other features. For example, a water trace can be run and then a report of all the leaks within that trace can be generated. The leak feature isn’t in the connected model but it is owned by features that are. Finally, since the tracing is done at the database level, the tracing can be called by external systems. For example, after executing an electric trace, users can also find and notify parcel owners about right of way and easement about issues.

Visualization
The last key strength of our utility network management solutions is network visualization. Trace results are included across the multiple graphic representations of the network and its associated assets. Users can define areas used to constrain trace results. Utilities also have the ability to add new elements without having to rebuild network. Since G/Technology has intelligent details, the trace results are highlighted there as well.

If you would like to know more about our utility network data management solutions, contact me. Or visit our utility products page. Tune in next week, where I will discuss the system performance and scalability of our utility network management solutions.


Mike Baker
About Mike Baker

Mike Baker is an executive consultant for Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure's utilities and communications solutions. With more than 25 years of GIS experience, Mike has provided consulting services to many customers in various industries, with emphasis on utilities during his 20-plus years at Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure.

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