In this episode of The Broadband Bunch, we are live at the Esri GeoConX Conference 2019 in ETI’s hometown of Atlanta, GA — and it was so amazing that we need two episodes to share it with you! In this second part, we speak with Rafael Fernandes, Esri USA, Anastasiia Savchenko, Esri Gas & Renewables, Tarek Kandakji, Lubbock Power & Light, and Derek Landers, GeoGraph Technologies.
Esri GeoConX is an industry-leading event for the electric, gas, and telecommunications communities. The event supports the growth and development of GIS professionals through case studies, sessions lead by Esri experts, and peer-to-peer engagement. More information is available here.
Rafael Fernandes: We created a partner technical enablement team to help our partners scale through the channel. And to understand what their market looks like, their solutions, and help them with technical architecture. Make sure that their model aligns with our sales model, make sure that the technology is being put in the best way forward. And then helping you sort of prototype and maybe even identify new technology that’s coming down the pipe that you don’t know about so that you guys can have some success.
The other thing that’s exciting for me is seeing the Autodesk and Esri relationship come to life. That design software connects back to that whole utilities workflow and understanding how you can look at these large-scale alliances that Esri is working on and then implementing that technology in certain ways to support other customers or partners.
Brad Hine: Talking about the evolution of design and networks; utility, telecom, broadband, our relationship with CAD tools is evolving through Esri. How is that working into your software?
Rafael Fernandes: 18 months ago, we created a strategic Alliance with Autodesk. For 30 years, we were competitors but now we work together with each other’s stacks to help the end user, designers work together– bridging information across both the platforms.
Brad Hine: Complement each other now, so you’re completely not competing.
Rafael Fernandes: Trying to do that as much as possible and given decades of history we’re working through all that and making headway.
Rafael Fernandes: When I think about some of the exciting new software that’s coming, I think of Experience Builder, which is this new version of web app builder. It’s Java script 4 based and has 2D, 3D embedded in it and provides multiple map views. You can build widgets and expose that data. But it’s also has a powerful backend analytic server that you can use with GIS server, widgets and writing your custom tools and hitting that server and doing that analysis there.
Brad Hine: You are providing the GIS platform and some of the tool sets, but you’re also building some of the real time engines and data stores? So filtering and triggering data in certain workflows?
Rafael Fernandes: That’s exactly right. And we can see partners like ETI Software taking that data store, that real-time engine and configuring it for the market and helping drive organizations to do the best work that they can.
Brad Hine: Explain 3D and how that helps some of your customers and users worldwide.
Rafael Fernandes: My history at Esri has gone a transformation. I started off giving c-level presentations to in the natural resources industry, mostly petroleum upstream. We focused on health and safety, so oil spills. At the time, we were only doing that in two dimensions but then figured out we could model it in three dimensions and build plumes of data. We could see the migration of those plumes because what’s on the surface is not what’s necessarily on the bottom of the ocean. Seeing ocean currents move and that analysis is something that you can do in the platform. We now see more organizations doing that. Autodesk embedded 3D throughout the rack application. When you think of civil 3D, you think of Revvit. You’re also able to take that 3D content and publish it back into our GIS. You design data in a way that it’s three dimension first then bring it into ArcGIS. Or you bring it into art GIS. And then you use that powerful analytic engine.Those geo processing tools to use the site analysis, solar analysis to do things like wind analysis. Again, the oil spill, you know what’s happening on the currents under the ocean surface. Right? So really understand that and then taking all that data and then exposing it to end users so that they can get a better understanding of what they’re doing.
Brad Hine: I was listening to a couple talks about fixed wireless tower site surveys and trying to figure out remote ways to manage that process. And how that’s really a lot of heavy lifting for them to do those site surveys. So 3D can help a lot of these new telecommunications networks too. So, setting up a tower that would service wireless, maybe CPE and residential home or business, a line of sight is required to handle that. Anything that gets in the way of those things, whether it’s trees, whether it’s weather, whether it’s terrain or wind affects it.
Rafael Fernandes: So mapping out those wind corridors and those tunnels and looking at all that context around that one site is incredibly important.
Brad Hine: In some of the Esri sessions, it’s clear that there are a lot of factors that can be put into different layers in mapping. And then brought out through dashboards and deliver information automatically to people to make better decisions. So a line of sight surveys really interesting to me cause that’s something very new to telecommunications. And the advent of 5g. I know that’s a challenge.
Anastasiia Savchanka: As an Esri solution engineer on utility team at Esri, I’m a part of a global business team. I work with our European distributors to serve their utility clients. I just presented about how you can identify the early adopters who are going to install the renewable energies in your city. How you can take that information and model the distributed generation in utility network. And start seeing the impact of renewables on your distribution network. And then how you can use this information for your future predictions.
Brad Hine: So, for those that don’t know, talk a little bit about the utility network and then what it means to your customers.
Anastasiia Savchanka: The utility network is a solution that helps you model your distribution transmission or generation network. It helps you to understand all your assets and geo enable your traditional scheme of your network. This way you can observe all the changes that happening and understand your assets better.
Brad Hine: What are the new innovative things that they’re looking for in some of the GIS technology that you’re supporting?
Anastasiia Savchanka: We are proud of GeoConX 2019 because the attendance is great and we are getting good feedback from customers. Everybody’s excited because the technology’s really revolving. And there’s a lot of great partners that are also partners of Esri that comes with us. And filling up the gaps where adding like IOT, customized solutions and, and all this interesting stuff that happening.
My personal favorite is that I think that I’m coming from Europe, so we have a lot of renewables already in our metrics. But in U.S. it’s still under-developed. And I think that it’s going to come really fast. And it’s going to fill up the gap and you’re going to see a lot of that good motion going on with the renewable and green energy is starting.
Anastasiia Savchanka: I think this is one of the specifics of the just because of the difference lifestyle and different understanding of… In politics, frankly. That the policy, the environmental policy is much stronger in European countries. And then we don’t have that much oil and gas running in our pockets. So, we have to implement all the renewable energies and think about the future. We can’t really afford to buy oil from someone all the time.
Brad Hine: How did you got involved with this GIS technology?
Anastasiia Savchanka: I’m an electrical engineer and I spent time working and writing my dissertation for my PhD on distributed generation. And then I moved to the States and started to work for Honeywell and ESG. And I was working with the energy savings projects and coming up with the strategies of how companies can improve their bottom line by bringing energy saving devices. And all the solutions.
At some point I just realized that GIS is super cool. And I want to get another master’s and I really want to combine my engineering background and my energy understanding with GIS technologies. And I think GIS open up so much opportunities for you to see where everything is. To see what others can’t. Geo enable your operations, Geo enable every single thing that you can work with. And visualize it all. And he use the maps for it and IOT sensors and everything. It’s just, it blows my mind how much opportunities there are.
Now that I’m working as a social engineer at Esri. I’m trying to bring this story of renewable energy. And show how utilities can use the renewables and don’t be scared of the uncertainty that comes with renewable energy. I’m trying to take that story and develop it and show it to the utility companies.
Brad Hine: What about the GIS community; what have you’ve seen and how people share this within their community and their constituents in their geographical areas.
Anastasiia Savchanka: The GIS community is still pretty tight. It’s a new coming, upcoming science maybe, if you will. And it’s really cool to just go… Once you go to UC and you see like those 20,000 people kind of. Right? You understand that these are… And these are the people you’re going to see all over again throughout your career in all different events.
And the people are very willing to share the information between each other. People are really trying to cooperate with each other and bring something good. To make better decisions and to help each other to make the projects to move them forward. And yeah, I think the GIS community is really, really nice community to be part of. Absolutely. And it’s very friendly.
Tarek Kandakji: Lubbock Power and Light is part of the City of Lubbock’s utility company. It’s an electric provider and it’s been there since 1916. And it serves the citizen of Lubbock within the city limit of Lubbock. And it generates and distributes electricity to more than 10,000 customers in the Lubbock area within the city limits. And they are committed to provide reliable and most efficient and most respected utility, municipal utility in the country.
I’m a GIS coordinator at the Lubbock Power and Light. And the main goal for us is to provide accurate information in timely manner. That’s the number one priority for us because GIS is more… It’s the science of where. And the best thing we want to provide is accurate location of all the services of all our network and in a timely manner. So if you want to perform any task on those electric utility, you will have the accurate location in a time you want.
Brad Hine: So obviously operating and managing any type of network and utility and broadband is really becoming another utility. You must have accurate data throughout your network and you’re using Ersi’s Arc GIS for this today?
Tarek Kandakji: Exactly, and you have a lot of devices, transformers, open points. In a huge amount in the network. So you need to know where each service point is located. Each meter, where it’s located, each transformer at what address. Because if you want to send a crew to fix something, they need to know exactly where they are. Instead of spending a huge time just looking for the correct point they want to fix. Our they want to look at. It’s very important. And especially you need to have the proper tools to do this task. Another challenge is to find the best tool that can serve your purpose in the shortest time. That can be done in it.
As time advances, technology advances. And every day a new thing comes out and you need to stay keep up with all those challenges and all those new technologies. Because every day you have a new thing that provides different as a problem that solves another problem that wasn’t, you can’t solve it a week before. Even a month before or even a year before. But now everything is advancing everything going to a next generation of software. Artificial intelligence is taking a huge part of this. To automate every single aspect in GIS.
Brad Hine: Are using a lot of this real time information then, to manage your network?
Tarek Kandakji: We use a lot of management system information and other systems to help us deliver the best accuracy to our customers, and to people who work with us in different departments.
Tarek Kandakji: The main problem is location. Because, and convenience of use. Before the crew that wants to fix any problem that electric utility, they spent a lot of time in locating the exact point they want. With GIS, with proper software in GIS, you are able to provide them this accuracy. Like GIS helped us a lot in the support of give information that supports other departments in their job.
And the challenge is to how to find a good software that fits your need. We’ve been working with a software before that was a little bit difficult to deal with. So we had to move to another software. More advanced software that was more efficient and more timely, sensible to us. And in more timely manner.
Brad Hine: It sounds like you’ve had a lot of wins then with working with ArcGIS platform specifically in the business. I’m curious about what motivates you outside of your daily work life to work with a GIS platform?
Tarek Kandakji: GIS is easy to use and user friendly, that’s one of the things why we use it. It’s user friendly, it’s easy to deal with. It can host many functions, many tools that helps you to advance. And me, myself, I worked with it before in my PhD degree, so I have a familiarity with ArcGIS.
Brad Hine: Where do you see it going from here in terms of helping you with your business and helping you daily?
Tarek Kandakji: I think ArcGIS is advancing a lot. And the tools, the challenge is providing proper tools. So I think the tools in ArcGIS are advancing there rapidly. A lot of steps, a lot of the functions that you need to do in many steps. Now you can do it in one click. So that’s why I think ArcGIS is trying to move forward with this aspect. Is to be more user friendly, perform many tasks in a short time. That’s the main thing of it.
Brad Hine: So as they innovate, then you can innovate also. Is that true?
Tarek Kandakji: Yes. And they have a platform where you can develop your own tools and that should be good.
Derek Landers: Well I’m an account executive and manage existing client relationships with to keep an eye on our relationships health, but also an ear to the industry’s needs. Geograph is a software company in Clemson, South Carolina. We help municipalities who are struggling with siloed information, or information in too many places. Or telecommunications companies who are frustrated with not being able to get answers in different departments. Crescent link is our product, it’s an extension for arc map. And they are using it to manage their network assets. And in outage situations to be able to quickly get the information in a GIS environment that is vital to success. We have people we’ve talked to who were experiencing having to dispatch crews of folks in bucket trucks with no information going forward with complicated splice points on spreadsheets and things like that. And now we’re able to bring it all into one place and so they can quickly dispatch and get out and really mitigate the risk involved.
Brad Hine: In a typical municipal broadband company, who would use this software?
Derek Landers: Crescent link has some flexibility to be worked with in multiple job workflows. From a GIS administrator or assist admin function. To also folks that are on the outside plant and engineering side. So with several different parts of the product inside of the Crescent link suite, we’re able to take that from the design phase through.
And as the as-builts come back after a construction for a municipal broadband or something like that. Then they’re able to take that information that’s already in one place and manage it from there and not have to go through the conversions in and out of a different program and things like that. So there are several functions along the line where we see our users at.
Brad Hine: Tell me about your experience so far this week at GeoConX 2019.
Derek Landers: I’m always enthusiastic about coming out and networking and meeting new faces and seeing what’s going on in our industry. I’ve also been super impressed with the other folks who are modeling fiber here. It’s a great community and we know that each of our products has its own strength. And so by getting to meet the folks, the attendees who are here. And just listening to what they have to say, it makes it easy to just say, “Hey, I think we can do that for you.” Or, “That sounds like that’s not one of our strengths. You might want to go check out someone else.”
It’s been good and the relationships are great. I know that at GeoConX 2019 the target market is here for our product. We’re at a larger conference. There are Esri, you see there are so many folks doing so many different things, right? But here we all kind of have the same interests and struggles professionally. It’s nice.
Brad Hine: That’s a great comment because in the broadband community there’s a lot of different software companies that complement each other. And truly there’s a community here at Esri too. That everybody can work together and help customers achieve a common goal.
Brad Hine: What are some of the things that stick out to you as new and innovative?
Derek Landers: There are some things that are on the forefront. I think that one thing that I’ve been kind of impressed with is the ability of modeling live events in the field. And it kind of makes my brain start to crank a little bit about the possibilities with our products with that. That’s something I plan on taking back. And it’s kind of inspired me here. Also, with Ersi’s events, I mean with 50 years.
I’ve talked to some folks who have been… That were using arc info and things like that. And they talk about the… All the years how the improvements have come through in the technology. And one thing that really impressed me was how far I feel like our technologies come in a year, right? So it’s kind of inspirational really to see what you could build up to, or what kind of success we can build as a company and for our clients.
And then look at how we’re all here in support of Esri, right. And to be here and their product is a backbone for a lot of these products. Right? So just being able to have that established relationship and lean on them when we need it is great.
Brad Hine: As you described your software, it’s interesting, broadband companies, their most prized possession is the network that they purchase. So mapping their assets and knowing that their visual and an application where they can consume it through the whole organization. And you guys take a lot of pride in knowing that you’re the company that can deliver that.
Derek Landers: Absolutely. If it’s the right fit, we are more than happy to be there for them. And just managing that relationship. Then if they don’t care about you afterwards and you have no support, then that’s a loss for your company. That’s not success for you or your client. So we take pride in that for sure. And just want to make sure that we can bring them to the future, right. To where they want to be.
Brad Hine: You guys won an award for some new software that you built for Esri. Tell the people about that.
Derek Landers: We’re proud of our new FCC 477 reporting tool in the marketplace. For a municipal broadband, this is a game changer. As we were in development of this tool, we were listening to several of our accounts that are in that industry. And they kept mentioning that this is painful for them. That they are having people sometimes who are spending massive parts of their day just trying to get the data that they already have configured into this report. This is a free tool that you can get on the Esri marketplace. But it’s the first in our line of pro products. And it was great to premiere it to Esri at Esri UC. And to do what someone said took them 40 hours we did in 47 seconds.
I think that’s part of what makes it so painful. Right? Because some folks don’t even know whose responsibility it is to do this report. But it is a required report if you’re receiving CAF2 funding.
Brad Hine: So anyone with broadband connectivity and service delivery on a network like that would have to have a report like this for the government.
Derek Landers: What you just need two basic pieces to really make it work. You need to know your polygons for your census. And then you need to know what speeds are being provided in those areas. So your max advertised upload speed. Your max advertised or, I’m sorry, your max contracted upload speeds for commercial and governmental purposes. And just little bits of information like that, that you can just put in and spit it right out. So it was something that was, I don’t want to say easy to do, but we were highly capable of producing something like this. And it is a direct result of our response to the market’s demands.