Representatives from New Zealand power companies, local government agencies, and other infrastructure providers attended a breakfast event held by Fronde yesterday to hear about Google Maps and Earth for enterprise, and in particular its Earth Builder tool. Phil Campbell, planning director at Crown Fibre Holdings, says the company is investigating using Earth Builder to display UFB availability and construction information to the public. “Imagery is quite important to us,” he says. “Ultimately, once the deployment plans have been locked down this information will go onto the web. People will be able to say ‘I live at X, when am I getting fibre?’ and it will show it to them.” Campbell says Crown Fibre is already using Google’s Maps and Earth, in conjunction with other geographic information systems (GIS) internally to map UFB installations across New Zealand. “We do a lot of our geospatial querying on Esri. We use Google Earth to map that data against demand models, and let end users zoom in,” says Campbell. Speaking at the event was James Bangay, general manager at Ergon Energy in Australia. Bangay says Ergon uses Earth Builder to accurately map its infrastructure assets across an area of 1.7 million square kilometres in Queensland, and some parts of South East Asia. Bangay is in charge of Ergon’s Remote Observation Automated Modelling Economic Simulation (ROAMES) programme. As a part of the programme, specially modified light aircraft have been flying over Queensland at an altitude of 500 metres, taking photos and heat readings of Ergon’s power system. This data is combined with Google Maps data, and consolidated into existing asset data in Ergon’s Ellipse ERP system. Using the combination of ROAMES and Earth Builder, Bangay says Ergon is able to predict environmental conditions near its assets in the power grid. “Our main challenge is sparsity. We have about the same number of customers as Vector does in New Zealand, but spread across 1.7 million square kilometres,” says Bangay. Before implementing the Google mapping technology, Bangay says the company would need to send field technicians multiple times to a location to verify its safety before work could begin. Ergon spends around $100 million alone every year cutting away trees from power lines, according the Bangay. He says he expects 25 percent of this cost to be reduced as Ergon uses ROAMES to predict foliage growth and plan preemptive arboreal work for its technicians when they are at a remote location to justify travel costs. The system comes with its caveats, says Bangay, some of which arise from limitations in Google's systems. “Our system is accurate to the nearest centimetre, but the powerline sag isn’t always modelled accurately. Google has positioned its Streetview bubbles inaccurately,” says Bangay. “Google drives around with these cheap cars taking photos of the street. Their intention wasn’t to pinpoint power lines to centimetre accuracy, their intention was to put labels in front of shops. “This is a conversation we’re continuing to have with Google.” Bangay says an unexpected issue with the ROAMES project was the vast amount of data produced from the aerial photography, two tonnes of data disks are used for every two weeks of surveying according to him.
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