Astute asset mgt in Vancouver with geospatial software

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With the 2010 Paralympics and Olympic Winter Games barely three years away, the City of Vancouver is banking on an automated infrastructure management system to coordinate the municipality’s maintenance and revitalization projects.

Last December, Vancouver officials signed an $8.5 million consulting and support contract with Autodesk Consulting, the project consulting arm of Autodesk Inc., a San Rafael, Calif-based maker of 3-D software.

The deal will involve the use of Autodesk’s geospatial software to plan and manage work on key infrastructure assets.

Geospatial software products, also known as geographic information systems (GIS), capture, store, analyze and manage data which are referenced to a specified geographic location.

As prime contractor, Autodesk will be working with Hansen Information Technologies, a Sacramento, Calif-based developer of software for government use, and Ideaca, a technology consulting firm in Vancouver. The project is expected to be completed in 2009.

Long-term replacement work on a number of the Vancouver’s infrastructural resources is in its early stages.

Some elements of this infrastructure were originally built in the 1960s and 1970s, according to Peter Judd, deputy city engineer, Vancouver.

Judd said a spike in operational demands is expected as a result of the upcoming sports events.

That and recent regulatory requirements that municipalities produce a full accounting of city resources make it very important to have a “coordinated” infrastructure management system (IMS), he said.

“Infrastructure and maintenance work has to be seamless. For example we don’t want to finish paving a city street only to find out that concrete has to be ripped out to lay some hydro lines.”

There are three components to Vancouver’s IMS project, according to Mark Marback, solutions executive, Autodesk.

He said phases one and two involve the integration of Vancouver’s current Autodesk systems with the Hansen 8 infrastructure management system. (The city currently uses AutoCAD Civil 3-D, AutoCAD Map 3-D, Autoesk Design Review and Autodesk MapGuide Enterprise software products).

The integrated applications will be run on an Oracle Spatial database.

During phase three, Ideaca will deploy a middleware product to connect Hansen software with Vancouver’s current financial and human resources systems.

Marback said the ultimate goal is to overlay information such as asset data, job schedules and schematics on the 3-D mapping applications to aid in project planning and accounting.

The plan aims to enhance efficiency and foster integrated operations by weaning away departments from their segregated databases, Marback said. “The current system is not optimized for enterprise-level operations. Everyone is working away in their little silos, doing their own thing.”

In the past, the coordination of infrastructure projects was done by manually checking maps and assignment schedules.

The system got the job done but was “not as effective as we would [wanted] it to be,” said Judd.

An effective GIS-enabled IMS will help personnel from various departments coordinate disparate but overlapping projects, according to the deputy city engineer. “From a single database, engineers and crews will be able to tell which work has to be done first.”

Route optimization is another area where the systems can provide an advantage.

For instance, the systems can help line up street lamp repairs in an area and plot out the most efficient route for a repair crew to take. “This way, rather than driving over the save route several times, the crew can tackle multiple close proximity repair jobs on a single trip,” Judd said.

Judd says the system will also help the city monitor customer service, set up service benchmarks and analyze processes.

“[It] will help us document citizens’ requests and feedback, as well as enable engineers to determine which facilities are in need of extra attention.”

The new system will also enable the City of Vancouver to manage the lifecycle of nearly $7.5 billion worth of roads, infrastructure and facilities, to meet the asset accounting demands of Ottawa.

Geographic information systems such as those to be deployed in Vancouver are increasingly being adopted by municipalities across the globe, according to Alison Brooks, senior analyst, IDC Canada.

She said GIS applications, along with case management and content management software rank as the top priority buys of most government organizations.

As municipalities expand or consolidate with other jurisdictions, these systems will become almost indispensable says Louis Shallal, director of IT service, York Region, Ont.

“Managing an ever growing number of resources will become difficult, if not nearly impossible, to do manually,” Shallal said.

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