How can electricity network providers benefit from free geospatial data?

By Kevin Jacobs, CEO at NM Group
“How can we use the free data available to us?” asked a Canadian utility in a recent meeting. Specifically, how could they use the free government geospatial data to update the location of their poles?
It’s a great question. Geospatial data can answer many critical utility questions and improves decision making. Free data that enables this kind of analysis can only be a good thing. During the meeting I made two main observations.

Updating pole locations needs reliable data
Firstly, I believe that the amount and availability of data will increase over the coming years. In fact I think the focus will move from acquiring data to being able to store, access and exploit all of it (see our Technical Directors recent blog on 2017 technology trends here). I see this as a natural progression and welcome it. NM Group has always been about providing ‘actionable’ information to utilities using geospatial data (regardless of its source).
Secondly, although data quality is improving rapidly, it isn’t quite at a level to support all the analysis utilities require. Updating pole locations and detecting changes on the network has potential in certain circumstances, but line clearances or engineering applications need more accurate data. Until the quality and resolution of free data catches up, things can only be taken so far.
The processing tools exist and as better quality, free data becomes available the challenge will be converting that into usable, accessible information.
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That’s all for now, I wish you all a successful 2017!