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Product Abstract

Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) as a Situational Awareness Platform: Innovative Uses of GIS in Network Operations

Product ID:3002003020
Date Published:15-Oct-2014
Sector Name:Power Delivery & Utilization - Distribution & Utilization
Document Type:Technical Results

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Geospatial information systems (GIS) are paramount to the successful integration and efficient use of data across a utility for wide area situational awareness (WASA). This report seeks to identify innovative uses of GIS in network operations in order to help utilities deal with challenges and take advantage of the plethora of data afforded by smart grid technologies.


The concept of an enterprise GIS denotes that data and information from various departments across a company are integrated and configured in such a way as to allow for a “single source of truth” for wide area monitoring, protection, and control. The role of GIS in situational awareness is to provide an accurate, holistic view of data for enhancing proactive and diagnostic decisions within a geospatial context. In particular, superior situational awareness has the potential to decrease outage time and costs associated with power interruptions.


  • To identify the past and present utility GIS landscape.
  • To describe common challenges associated with WASA for utilities.
  • To examine innovative applications of GIS in network operations through case study examples.
  • To identify future opportunities and research needs surrounding GIS for WASA.


Section 1 explores the historical approach to situational awareness, describes how utilities may conduct WASA procedures today, and identifies utility challenges associated with GIS. Section 2 discusses the importance of GIS as a situational awareness platform and examines innovative uses of GIS through case studies from utility companies and other industries. Section 3 summarizes the findings and includes a brief discussion on the future of GIS for situational awareness.


This report explores the current situational awareness landscape, with discussions of field force data visualization, social media filtering, crowd-sourced damage assessment, and weather awareness, among others. Several challenges have emerged surrounding the use of GIS as a situational awareness tool. In terms of data-related issues, the main areas identified include data accuracy, integration, and availability. The sheer volume of data that utilities collect plays into all three of these categories. The report identifies infrastructure as another major challenge, touching on aging infrastructure, the complexity surrounding integration, demands for increased mobility, and effective visualization. A third challenge discussed in the report is organizational and spans both internal and external needs, focusing on communication and data maintenance. Finally, the report addresses the future of GIS, with emphasis on additional research needs in the area of data quality, convergence, connectivity, standards, and security.

Applications, Value, and Use

The benefits of GIS will continue to emerge as smart grid technology continues to mature. The identification of novel techniques using GIS for WASA reveals that GIS technology can be a hub for an integrated, interoperable utility network. Knowledge transfer of these tools and processes not only allows for more widespread adoption but also may spark further innovation.

2014 Program 161   Information and Communication Technology
  • Asset management
  • Data visualization
  • Geospatial information systems (GIS)
  • Wide area situational awareness (WASA)

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