Smallworld and Google: the best of both worlds


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Presentation at the Smallworld User Conference in Baltimore, September 2010. Discusses work we have done to integrate Smallworld with Google Maps and create a very easy to use application which can access complex utility network data in a simple way. Also discusses advantages of running in the cloud and usability.

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  • This is a typical utility basemap in Smallworld – fairly sparse. But you can see with the raster tiled approach that the data looks exactly like it does in Smallworld
  • Adding in a Google Street Map gives a lot more context. Maintaining base maps is not a core activity for utilities, and is very expensive. It really makes sense to use basemaps maintained by somebody else. There are ways that you can add updates where necessary, for example adding a new subdivision which isn’t on the basemap yet.
  • And Google satellite imagery is good for many applications. I hear a lot of people say that Google imagery is out of date but I think they are updating it more and more frequently.
  • What if your data doesn’t match the Google landbase? Many utilities have an old and inaccurate landbase and want to transform or conflate their network data to a new and more accurate landbase, for multiple reasons – sharing data with other entities, using GPS, and working with external data like Google Maps, or imagery from other sources. This is an example of some data from PNG, who went through such a conflation exercise. You can see here how much better their pipes align with a Google map background after the conflation progress. That’s not the main focus of my talk today, but
  • Google street view can give you valuable extra information about facilities. Often you can see details on pole configuration and so on that may not be stored in the database. We’ve integrated tightly with this, so that when you click on a facility you automatically get the right street view displayed. In cases where the data doesn’t line up exactly it’s easy to adjust the view and save that for next time.
  • A very powerful feature is that you can display icons in the street view itself and mouse over or click them for more information.
  • In this example we can see several poles further away as we look along the street.
  • You need a wireless connection in general … but this massively reduces admin. No need to sync, no need to install software on any devices, no need to upgrade, no need to do anything when you change your data model. If you have foreign crews, they just need any device with a web browser and some login information.
  • Another thing we can make far more use of in mobile applications is georeferenced photos. These pictures were taken with my iPhone, the location was automatically recorded by the built in GPS, and the pictures were uploaded wirelessly by email and appeared on the map automatically like this – I have not adjusted anything manually.
  • These type of photos can be displayed on the map in near real time, and have huge potential for damage assessment after storms … just get members of the public to email pictures from their smart phones (in addition to your crews), and you have a really powerful crowdsourced solution, that can give you a much better near real time view of the situation than you have today.
  • Mention example of field systems – how are these currently secured?Growth in customer web portals – need to work out internet securityMore complex network security challenges in smart grid
  • The back button is the most used feature of web browsers
  • Mention change from enterprise driven innovation to consumer driven innovation
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