Bill Meehan, Esri utilities solutions manager, talks about the use of spatial analysis and decision making processes for utility applications.
00:01 So I'm going to let you participate a little bit.
00:03 So what's the weakest finger in your hand?
00:08 C'mon. The pinkie. That's right.
00:12 And what is the most popular letter of the alphabet?
00:17 A. That's right. Somebody won.
00:19 So tell me this, why is it that the original designers of the keyboard chose to put the most popular letter A...
00:28 ...in that awkward position to be struck by the baby finger?
00:33 Why is that? Doesn't make any sense.
00:37 I'll tell you.
00:39 Well the original keyboard, of course, was the mechanical typewriter.
00:44 And the layout actually originally had the popular letters in very easy to get to places.
00:50 But what happened is, over time, people got good at it and typists became faster, the letters all jammed up.
00:59 So they had to figure out another way of designing the typewriter.
01:02 And what they did is they moved the popular letters to awkward places...
01:08 ...so they could slow the typists down to avoid that kind of jamming up.
01:17 And why is that, that we today, with electronic keyboards, we still keep that legacy design of the keyboard to this very day?
01:28 Why do we do that?
01:29 Well because we're so used to it.
01:32 In fact, we're so used to it that we're actually blinded by that design.
01:37 We can't even see anything different.
01:39 Well, there's a term for that kind of blindness, and it's called scotoma.
01:46 Well it's a medical term, and it means tunnel vision.
01:49 But it's also sort of a psychological emotional term that means a failure to see what's before our very eyes.
01:59 A scotoma. It's a new word for you.
02:02 Well, I worked for the utility company, and I can tell you this, there are scotomas all over the place in utility companies.
02:09 But I want to talk about one specific scotoma that has to do with mapping and GIS.
02:16 Well, maps have been used for many, many years in the utility company...
02:20 ...and what they did, they used the maps for was to kind of locate their stuff, their wires, their cables, the valves, and all that stuff.
02:26 And they put it on the maps.
02:29 And the original maps had sort of India ink on linen and then pencil on Mylar and then computer-aided design, and today, GIS.
02:41 Funny thing.
02:43 The old linen maps look an awful lot like the GIS maps, and why is that?
02:48 Well utility companies want to make sure that these maps look the same through the ages.
02:54 And not only look the same but actually they use the maps in sort of the same way.
03:00 And what they have built is a scotoma to the possibilities of GIS.
03:07 GIS isn't about, you know, finding out what I already know.
03:10 It's about discovering, finding something new like...
03:14 ...where are there places in my infrastructure where a single event could take the whole system down?
03:22 That reminds me of this story.
03:25 I said I worked for the utility company in the northeastern part of the United States...
03:29 ...and that's a tough place to run a utility business, I can tell you this...snow storms and ice storms and, you know, hurricanes...
03:37 ...all kinds of stuff.
03:39 Well I had this guy working for me and his name was Stanley.
03:44 And every single day Stanley had to make a decision.
03:48 And the decision was this.
03:51 As the crews came back from their sort of normal daily work, he had to decide...
03:58 ...do I keep the crews on overtime in case something bad happens and, you know...
04:02 ...we're in New England and something bad a lot of times happens, or do I send them home?
04:07 Do I keep it on overtime or do I send them home?
04:10 And the way he did this was, he would gather up all kinds of data so he'd get the weather forecast...
04:17 ...and then he'd talk to his supervisors, and then he might figure out in his head, oh, you know...
04:22 ...we haven't maintained this part of the system or we haven't trimmed trees.
04:26 And he would gather all of this data in his head, then he would organize that data by location...
04:34 ...then he would do sort of a risk profile and then he'd make a decision.
04:37 So he'd walk into my office and he'd say, Bill, we're going to keep two crews or five crews or, nah, we're going to send them all home.
04:46 And in all the years that I knew Stanley, he was almost always right.
04:51 But what was he doing in his head, right?
04:53 He was doing spatial analysis.
04:59 Then Stanley retired.
05:03 All of that experience, all of that knowledge, all of that data just simply walked out the door.
05:11 What're we going to do?
05:13 Well we have GIS and all of the capabilities that we've been seeing today, gathering data, spatial analysis.
05:20 And so, think about it.
05:21 Think about that I could go outside the utility company, grab a fire map and then maybe look at bridge damage.
05:28 You know, I got these big old trucks and I don't them to drive over weak bridges.
05:32 And I combine all of that stuff, just like Stanley did, to produce this map.
05:38 Simple map but it's brand new.
05:41 The red is where it's really bad.
05:43 The green is good.
05:44 And the orange is kind of in between.
05:46 So now I can make a decision about what to do.
05:49 Spatial analysis. GIS to transform the business.
05:53 And I believe that when people remove those scotomas, innovation and transformation can happen.
06:01 So I've got one final story for you.
06:03 When I was with the utility company, we used an ancient form of communication, ancient.
06:10 Made popular by Native Americans.
06:12 Anybody know what it is?
06:16 [Audience comment] Smoke signals.
06:17 Smoke signals. That's right.
06:19 And here's how it worked.
06:21 When a transformer would blow up and catch on fire, we knew exactly where the problem was because we saw the...
06:28 [Audience comment] Smoke.
06:29 Smoke. That's right.
06:30 Well we don't want to do that anymore.
06:32 We want to use GIS and spatial analysis to find out where the fire will be before we see the smoke.
06:42 And so, your opportunity really is to use GIS to peel away those scotomas for innovation and transformation.
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