Keep Your City Running with Data and GIS

There are some basic features—things like buildings, water systems, parks, roads, electrical lines and buildings—that comprise the infrastructure of any city. And many people, myself included, often think of these as static features within the city landscape.

However, if you work in state or local government, you know that’s not the case. The infrastructure of a city is anything but static. Roads degrade. Water mains burst. Buildings overheat. Electricity fails. Parks erode. And of course, any of these structures can be heavily impacted by natural disasters.

At GovLoop’s State and Local Innovators Virtual Summit, we spoke with David Totman, Global Industry Manager for Public Works at Esri, and Gary Wong, Principalof Global Water Industry at OSIsoft. about how cities can better manage their constantly changing infrastructure.

Their advice? Use real-time data coupled with geographic information systems (GIS).

When tracked by city administrators, real-time data on public works alone has its benefits. It allows you to track changes in public works’ utilization and alerts you to disruptions in services.

However, when data is coupled with GIS, that information becomes exponentially more useful. By creating smarter cities, this combination of data and GIS:

  • Heightens full-scale, region-wide situational awareness
  • Facilitates environmental, health, and safety objectives
  • Enhances disaster-response methodology and increase city resiliency

Now, you can not only monitor what’s happening in your city, but where it’s happening. And you will have greater context to help you figure out how to address changes.

Here’s an example of how this works: Somewhere in your city, a water main starts leaking. It hasn’t completely burst, so there’s no one calling your water management system to let you know their street is flooded or their faucets aren’t running. Without real-time data alerting you to this leak, it may go unnoticed for weeks, causing further pipe damage and wasting water resources.

However, if you are monitoring the output of your water system and continually comparing that against historical data, your city administrators will know the second water flow decreases from this leak. With this alert, real-time data has already saved you money and maintenance work.

Now, add GIS to your alert system. Instead of just knowing that you have a leak, you now have a map to show you exactly where that leak is occurring. And, because that map is linked to several other real-time data sets from your city infrastructure, you also know where the closest maintenance crew is to address the leak and which roads they should take to avoid current traffic.

That’s the power of data tied into GIS platforms.

Now, when I heard this was possible, I thought two things: “That’s awesome!” and “That sounds like a lot of work.”

Thankfully, our speakers were mind readers and quickly addressed my latter concern. Wong explained that OSIsoft and Esri work together to, “Connect the right data to the right people in the right context for the right decisions in real-time.”

Rather than making city administrators figure out how to plug their data into maps, the two companies have worked together to incorporate OSIsoft’s PI System, a geoevent processer, as an extension of the traditional Esri ArcGIS platform. So when Halifax Water in Canada had a leak just like the one described above, administrators were able to use a single platform to access necessary geospational information, without having to construct their own monitoring system.

Moving forward, Totman and Wong see more and more cities tying real-time infrastructure data into their GIS platforms. Platforms such as ArcGIS will only make this transition to smarter cities quicker and easier.

GovLoop recently hosted its State and Local Innovators Virtual Summit, an all-day, virtual event with six different online trainings, networking opportunities and resources to help you do your job better. Be sure to read the other recaps here.

To listen to the full presentation and view demos of ArcGIS in action, access the on-demand training session of How Governments are Driving Decisions through Real-Time Data and GIS by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Christopher/Flickr

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