Harnessing the Power of Facility Mapping Data

We can see the facility operator’s centerline running through the right of way of a major highway, showing that this is an area that may require traffic control, or other support for locating. The facility operator data is displayed within the interactive map.

As members of the damage prevention industry, we not only strive to obtain more or better data, but to also identify better ways of harnessing and accessing the data we have.

A new feature that is quickly gaining popularity among facility operators is the ability to see their facilities displayed on the notification center’s map alongside the excavation polygon. With the cuttingedge integration of Web Map Service and Web Feature Service functionalities (WMS and WFS, respectively), utility owners can now easily and effectively combine their own mapping data within all of the providers’ mapping tools. This includes the maps delivered with notification tickets, within Locator Ticket Management (LTM), and in iMap, the tool used to manage facility operator notification areas.

WMS and WFS make facility operators’ and locators’ jobs easier and empower them to put their data to work in more efficient ways. With these tools, they are able to enhance every aspect of their interactions with the notification center.

INNOVATING MAP-SHARING

Keyhole Markup Language, or KML, is a standard method the provider uses to share facility mapping information. Facility lines and points are stored in a database. When a user submits a ticket that has KML lines stored, the notification center computer determines whether or not the KML geometry intersects the excavation polygon. When there is an intersection, a limited amount of the KML geometry is displayed on the map associated with the ticket.

While the KML method works, it falls short of tapping the fullest potential value of the data. Since only the portion of the facility that intersects the polygon is shown, the geometry might not display at all when there are a high number of vertices. The centerline data is also static, requiring a facility owner to contact the provider whenever it needs to be updated, risking obsolete data potentially being displayed. Additionally, there are limitations on styling, which may make it difficult to know which facility the KML line on the map represents.

Figure on Left: We can see the facility operator’s centerline data intersecting the excavation area on the north end of the site. Figure on Right: We can see that the facility operator’s lines run parallel to and through the center of the excavation area.

HOW WMS AND WFS WORK

This is where WMS and WFS come in to change the way we look at map data. WMS allows the One Call center’s geographic information system (GIS) to show features in real time, based on encrypted data supplied directly by facility operators. The facility operator can customize feature styling and labeling to meet their needs, further improving the functionality.

WFS has the same, yet enhanced, benefits. It is able to show attributes like depth, which can be styled as desired. Instead of map image tile, WFS returns a geometric feature. This allows the user to click on each feature in the map and access a display with additional details and information that may be too cumbersome to display within the map.

Once the WMS/WFS is set up, putting it to use is a straightforward process:

1.Facility operators create and publish a WMS or WFS service within their inhouse GIS databases, deciding which layers to make visible on the ticket and packaging them accordingly.

2.Facility operators provide the WMS/ WFS link, an encrypted URL, along with the name of the layer to be displayed on maps.

3.The provider enters the server URL and layer names into the notification center computer system and selects which applications will have the mapping data applied (such as IMAP, Ticket Check, Ticket Link, or Locator Ticket Management applications).

That’s it! Once these steps are completed, the map features are linked and displayed in the notification center’s applications the same way they are displayed on the facility operator’s maps.

In cases where WMS/WFS aren’t a viable option but centerline data is available, the notification center can host the WMS data on behalf of the facility operator. While all other benefits apply, one drawback is that this data is static so any changes on the operator’s end have to be submitted to keep the data up to date.

The work is shown in the orange shaded box; the GSOC notification area is shown in green. All nearby facility operator data is visible through the integration of WMS/WFS.

THE BENEFITS OF WMS AND WFS

Security. The facility operator has exclusive control of and access to their data. The notification center manages access through logins or encrypted links.

Real-time review. The data is displayed directly from the facility owner’s system when the ticket is viewed, not from the WMS tiles that are stored locally. As soon as the facility owner updates the data, changes will be reflected on the map. Additionally, there is no size limitation on the features that can be displayed. Image tiles are requested depending on map zoom level and location; performance is typically exceptional but is also subject to server performance from the provider of the layer. With up-to-date data, facility operators can quickly and easily review notification areas, screen tickets and allocate resources.

Toggle between map layers. Facility operators access the notification center map and facility map data in one place. Users can toggle between map layers and see how the excavation and facility polygons interact over the base map or satellite images, eliminating the need to compare dig site ticket information to a separate map application.

Styling consistency. The map features are displayed on the One Call center’s applications the same way they are on the facility operator’s maps (including color, labels, line width and symbols).

Efficient locating. Locators can quickly identify underground assets as soon as a ticket is received. They have enough detailed information to identify access points such as junction boxes, potential challenges such as high traffic roadways in the work area, or special circumstances that may affect response such as high priority/risk assets in the area of excavation. There may even be enough information available to clear the ticket during this review.

Adam Franco is the Director of Operations at One Call Concepts Inc. and has been working in Damage Prevention for 18 years. Learn more, or sign up for a demo, at occinc.com.

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