Water Utilities

Geoenabling the Modern Water Utility: Integrating Esri and SAP in the Cloud

Loudoun Water provides drinking water, wastewater, and reclaimed water services to over 80,000 homes and businesses in Loudoun County, Virginia, a Washington, DC, exurb. For decades, Loudoun Water has used Esri geographic information system (GIS) technology as the system of record for linear assets (like pipes, maintenance holes, and hydrants) and synchronized them with an asset management solution to support maintenance, operations, and engineering activities. Keeping the data between GIS and an asset management system synchronized was always a challenge, but it came with a high reward for business users, who have realized untold value.

In 2014, Loudoun Water implemented SAP software to run most aspects of the business including asset and maintenance management. At the time, there were only a handful of organizations in the world that had achieved Esri-SAP technology integration in the form of a solution called GEO.e. GEO.e ran inside SAP software and included both a map for visualizing/interacting with objects and a custom synchronization toolset that maintained the data integrity between the two systems.

Loudoun Water Broad Run Water Reclamation Facility.

Challenge

Implementing GEO.e at Loudoun Water was a big success and added tremendous value to business users who wanted one version of reality, knowing that objects they saw in the GIS were the same objects they worked with in SAP and vice versa. With this success came additional requests to add other synchronized objects and attributes and improve the mapping capability. However, making modifications to GEO.e proved to be difficult and costly with few technical resources to draw on. The complex code base also made routine incident management a challenge, and there were performance limitations when working with a large dataset. Furthermore, Loudoun Water plans to move to using SAP S/4HANA in the coming years, which will necessitate a change to GEO.e. These factors presented a challenge to Loudoun Water, so alternatives were investigated.

This screenshot of Spatialitics Asset Mapper (SAM) shows how easy it is to explore object details and work order status/history while using the map. In this example, the user clicks on a hydrant to see a list of all work orders from SAP, which can then be examined and acted upon. Getting the SAP and GIS attributes for this object takes just one click.

Solution

Loudoun Water has a cloud-first policy for technology and the company moved its Esri and SAP solutions to separate Microsoft Azure cloud instances several years ago. Living with GEO.e highlighted the preference for proven commercial off-the-shelf software over a custom one-off solution. Keeping this in mind, the industry was canvassed for a GEO.e replacement. Loudoun Water identified Spatialitics as the perfect fit since it offered a cloud-based solution designed to simplify the Esri-SAP integration challenge. The solution comes in two parts: a map called Spatialitics Asset Mapper (SAM) and a robust synchronization framework called Unity Engine.

This screenshot of the Unity Engine administration console shows a list of the synchronized objects along with the synchronization configuration. The synchronization schedule can be set to run automatically or on demand. Clicking on an object leads to another screen (not shown) where the attributes from one source are mapped to another.

Partner

Spatialitics LLC is a fully owned subsidiary of CyberTech and specializes in providing spatial analytics products and platforms. Spatialitics’ cloud-based approach to digitalization delivers operational excellence and field user delight. The company covers a wide range of industries, including health, public safety, and utilities—all with zero footprints.

Results

After a thorough requirements-gathering exercise, the project team from Loudoun Water and Spatialitics successfully constructed an architecture that securely connects the three (Esri, SAP, and Spatialitics) cloud environments. Cybersecurity is a top priority for Loudoun Water, and the Spatialitics solution was ready to be configured to unique and demanding specifications. Loudoun Water also has an Esri enterprise agreement, which meant that software licensing was not a factor as the team architected and tweaked the optimal design.

Spatialitics hosts configuration data (not the underlying business data) and enables real-time communication among the three environments. Because Unity Engine is SAP certified, Loudoun Water has the confidence that the future move to S/4HANA won’t be complicated by the Esri integration.

Each part of the solution meets a different business need by supporting the following: the front office—typical end users who are using SAM; and the back office—technologists responsible for managing the synchronization, who are using Unity Engine. In the front office, there are daily users from across the business, solving multiple problems. For example, the team responsible for managing meters has adopted SAM as its mobile work order solution because it is real-time technology and easy to use to complete work orders. The asset management team members like SAM because they can quickly access work order history while working directly in the map with many objects. Maintenance planners must use a map to create work orders, and SAM includes functionality to do this individually or in bulk, which saves a lot of time. Customer service representatives can be talking with a customer while getting a real-time view of open work orders nearby, informing them of what’s happening in this customer’s neighborhood.

In the back office, the technologists responsible for managing the synchronization are thrilled with Unity Engine, having realized multiple benefits. The easy-to-use interface makes it simple to manage the process and understand how objects and attributes in one system relate to the other. The synchronization can be scheduled or run on demand. All activities are logged for auditing of synchronization performance, and any problems are easy to spot. Unity Engine includes transformation capabilities, making it possible to automatically perform calculations each time the synchronization runs. Since the solution is hosted by Spatialitics, which is responsible for routine operation and maintenance, Loudoun Water staff can focus on higher-value activities like extending the synchronization and map functionality in the direction that the business leads.

As the technology owner, I’m pleased that the Spatilaitics solution meets our business needs, satisfies our strict cybersecurity requirements, is easy for us to operate, and is S/4HANA ready.

Mike Beardslee, Managing Director of Technology ServicesLoudoun Water

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ArcGIS is an extensive information system that enables modernization of workflows with easy-to-use applications for the field and office. Strengthen your organization with smart water solutions that will increase efficiency and provide insight for decision-makers. Visit the Esri Water Utilities web site for more information.

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About the author

Christa Campbell

Christa is an experienced water industry professional with 20 years of success using and promoting technology to solve problems in the water industry. Recognized for Industry thought leadership, strategic thinking, and building success with organizations across the globe. She is a passionate GIS advocate, lifelong learner and collaborator. Builds success jointly with teammates, peers, and customers. Christa is a certified GIS Professional and holds a graduate degree in Geography.

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