In the last decade, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become prevalent and powerful tools by which humans attempt to order, navigate and relate to their spatial world. What is GIS and why is GIS technology essential for effective Infrastructure Asset Management (IAM)?
WE LIVE IN A SPATIAL WORLD
Maps allow us to orient ourselves in a spatial world where resources, activities, human demographics or features of the landscape are arranged across the surface of the earth. But when was the last time you took out a paper map to orient yourself?
In the last decade Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become prevalent in all aspects of our socio-economic existence. Whether, as Paul Ginther 1puts it, you are a city engineer, a backhoe operator or a pizza delivery person, GIS has become a central part of the digital world we inhabit.
WHAT IS GIS?
GIS technology is about maps and data. It is about making data visual and interactive by displaying it geographically in a digital format. According to the Smithsonian, GIS are essentially systems that marry data sets with geography
GIS technology lies at the intersection between longer-standing practices of map-making and the more recent explosion of digital technologies in our current data-driven society. As noted by GIS-industry leader, Esri 2 :
A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends.
GIS maps are digital and interactive. They present data from a variety of sources in different layers, or themes, on a base-map built according to real-world locations, such as Cape Town or Gauteng. By interacting with the data from a variety of vantage points, users gain deeper insight into the complexities of a their surroundings 3. An accurate understanding of real geographic complexity informs better and more responsible decision-making 4.
GIS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE ASSET MANAGEMENT
So why is GIS technology so important for IAM? In order to plan, build, operate and assess physical infrastructure, public and private organisations need to be able to visualise their assets, locate them in space and observe how they relate to their surrounding environment.
The accumulation, centralisation and archiving of information with geographic attributes in a database, spreadsheet, or hardcopy are by no means new with regard to the management of infrastructure. The significance of GIS technology is that it adds a new level of functionality by which the integration of different data sources provides both a historical and current digital visual archive of “the where, when and how” of an organisation’s physical infrastructure landscape.
In other words, GIS allows users to query and analyse information on infrastructure assets based on their location and spatial relationships to other features. Various stakeholders gain new insights into their infrastructure landscape and are provided with visual information that facilitates better and faster decision-making.
THREE BENEFITS OF A GIS SOFTWARE PLATFORM
A GIS software platform, such as IMQS’s Web browser, offers a multitude of benefits that makes IAM easier and more efficient:
1. Gain a holistic view of your entire asset landscape
IMQS Web users gain the ability to literally see where their assets, or asset components, are in space and in real time.
Assets and projects can be mapped out according to their GPS coordinates. Stakeholders obtain a complete view of their asset landscape. They can see what assets they own, where they are located and what their characteristics and attributes are. Through the activation of different layers, space does not only move horizontally, but vertically as well. From pipes to roads, all assets can be isolated or viewed as part of the bigger whole.
IMQS’ software platform easily integrates different data sets from different sources and enterprise applications, allowing all work to happen on one easy to use, internet-driven (24-hour) and mobile web platform.
2. Communicate data across departments
IMQS’s GIS software platform integrates, links and makes accessible engineering and financial asset information in accordance with international IAM best practices (e.g. IS 55000, 55001, 55002) and/or relevant legislative and accounting standards (e.g. SCOA and GRAP).
Through the merging of financial and engineering data, a variety of stakeholders gain a comprehensive understanding of the IAM system. Financial planning therefore reflects the reality on the ground and vice versa. With the use of maps and reports, data is furthermore easily communicated to different stakeholders in a language that everyone can understand.
3. Enable accurate asset verification, tracking and maintenance
With a comprehensive mobile strategy, IMQS enables easy, accurate and real-time asset verification, tracking and maintenance.
For example, all assets in a water distribution network are geographically linked. To do condition assessments, stocktaking or routine maintenance, it is essential for water utilities to be able to 5:
Know where their pipes, valves, pumps, meters and facilities are located.
Locate and direct work crews in the field.
Monitor water usage in relation to customers.
Geographic information is the key to enabling effective decision-making. IMQS’s GIS software platform, along with its modular suite of IAM solutions, such as the Asset Management, Project Control System. and Asset Verification Mobile Application, forms the basis of a GIS-driven and IAM-specific solution to the real-world problems organisations face in managing their infrastructure.