Accelerating Adoption of Open Source Geospatial Software in the Global Utility Market

For the first time in a hundred years, the electric power utility industry is undergoing a momentous change. Distributed renewable power generation is introducing competition into an industry that has been managed as regulated monopolies. Consumers with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs and companies like Solar City are fundamentally changing the traditional utility business model. As a result the electric power industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation that is changing every aspect of the utility industry. One of these changes involves the role that geospatial data and technology play in the electric power industry.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are currently applied tactically by utilities in a number of areas. For example, GIS has been widely used by utilities for years for automated mapping/facilities management, back office records management, asset management, transmission line siting, and more recently for design and construction, energy conservation, vegetation management, mobile workforce management (MWFM), and outage management (OMS). Utilities are integrating GIS with automated meter infrastructure (AMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

Improving process efficiency is a major challenge for the utility industry. Geospatial technology is a key technology that helps utilities improve the efficiency of their business processes (such as designing-constructing-maintaining and operating their network infrastructure) and the productivity of their staff. An analysis by Research and Markets identified the key factors driving growth in the utility GIS market including the growing need for knowledge infrastructure, data quality, managing the mobile workforce, and changing the organizational structure of utilities.

A recent report from Navigant Research estimates that the market for smart grid technologies will reach $73 billion in annual revenue by the end of 2020. Navigant forecasts that the increasing penetration of GIS into smart grid workflow applications, such as mobile workforce management (MWFM), distribution management system (DMS), energy management systems (EMS), outage management system {OMS}, customer information systems (CIS), and analytics will be the primary driver for electric utility GIS software and services growth. Research and Markets sees one of the key factors driving this market growth is the growing need for knowledge infrastructure.

Navigant Research's analysis forecasts that geospatial will become a foundational technology for the smart grid - "the smart grid is all about situation awareness and effective anticipation of and response to events that might disrupt the performance of the power grid. Since spatial data underlies everything an electric utility does, GIS is the only foundational view that can potentially link every operational activity of an electric utility including design and construction, asset management, workforce management, and outage management as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management systems (DMS), renewables, and strategy planning."

The move to smart grid creates a major challenge for small to medium utilities. Smaller utilities don't have the in-house information technology (IT) skills or the budget to implement expensive proprietary GIS and other IT applications required by the industry move to smart grid. This has created a major opportunity for commercial open source software vendors such as those represented by the LocationTech community. The Research and Markets report Global GIS Market in the Utility Industry 2014-2018 identifies an important new market trend in the increasing penetration of open-source geospatial software into the utility market. According to the report many small and medium-sized organizations that cannot afford to invest in expensive proprietary GIS solutions are now choosing open-source software. In the U.S. most of the 3000 electric power utilities are small to medium-sized organizations, primarily municipal and rural electric coops.

The Research and Markets report forecasts that the global utility GIS market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.27 % over the period 2014-2018 with improving process efficiency a key market driver. The Research and Markets report assesses the present global utility GIS market and its projected growth prospects for the period 2014-2018. The report covers the Americas, and the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. To estimate market size and vendor share, analysts looked at revenue generated from sales of software, data, and services in several segments including traditional GIS, global positioning system (GPS), photogrammetry and remote sensing, geospatial engineering, and other GIS applications. The report was prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. Vendors included in the study are Bentley Systems Inc., GE Energy, Hexagon AB, Autodesk Inc., AvisMap GIS Technologies, Beijing SuperMap Software Co. Ltd., China Information Technology, Esri Inc., Google Map, Hitachi Zosen Corp., MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., Pitney Bowes Inc. and the US Geological Survey.

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