Using Map-Based Software to Manage City Operations

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Cities around the world are going through major changes with 68% of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas by 2050. Pressure is building to keep up with the needs of the places that most of us will soon call home. One of the important functions of a city is to manage its infrastructure investments and operations that surround it. Cartegraph OMS is a map-centric software application that brings together the public works activities of a city under one system. It enables cities to better manage their assets, keep track of where work is getting done, and respond to problems that people find in a city.

Why should something like Cartegraph be used in place of existing procedures? Increasing demands, and often reduced resources, requires leaders to have a better understanding of what’s going on in their city. Making data-driven decisions is the only way to effectively manage the increasing complexity of the urban landscape. I’ve had the opportunity to work with OMS over the last few years and help the City of La Mesa change how they approach one of their most important responsibilities.

A real-world look with the City of La Mesa

I spoke with Hamed Hashemian, an Engineering Project Manager at La Mesa, and asked him how OMS has changed the way he approaches projects. Hamed has worked in local government for the last twenty-four years and has seen the methods move from hand-drafting techniques to the cloud-based, online mapping tools we see today.

La Mesa did an inspection of every metal pipe in the city using iPads in the field to prioritize an upcoming capital improvement project. OMS was used to identify metal pipes, create inspection tasks, and dispatch employees to inspect and rate those pipes. “Using map-based tools can shine light on the priority of the CIP and address situations where you can gain more for your money. A pipe failure in a busy road has more consequences than one in an easement”, Hamed said. The collected data was mapped and used to identify pipes that needed repair. They took it a step further and used a streets layer to select the worst pipes that also ran under roadways to highlight locations at risk of sink holes.

Sample page of rated storm pipes with a streets layer underneath

Fixing pipes before they become a problem is a proactive approach that can save money and have potentially life-saving consequences. “Keeping roads open is critical in case of disasters or emergencies. If a sinkhole forms in a disaster due to sub-standard or inadequate infrastructure in a roadway, it will add a significant amount of response time for first responders to get to their destination.” This is the thing that keeps engineers awake at night when a storm moves through the city they’re responsible for.

Public infrastructure is foundational to a city's prosperity: interrupt this and the road to recovery can be a long one. The value of this pipe rating data doesn’t have to degrade over time either. OMS has asset management capabilities that can apply degradation curves to any asset. From an initial date and overall condition index, or OCI, you can predict what condition a storm pipe will be in the future. Hamed and the city can start prioritizing future capital improvement projects today and secure additional funding for tomorrow with that information.

Data-driven decisions and the smarter city

Cartegraph OMS has enabled La Mesa to take a proactive approach to CIP planning. “OMS serves as a unifying system that brings infrastructure data, mapping and maintenance together in one place. It makes data-searches more comprehensive, processes more efficient, and assists the end-users with their tasks.” Having quick access to current data can ensure that repairs to infrastructure can be done before storms arrive during the rainy season. Furthermore, engineers can take the data to city council and better communicate why extra funding may be needed. Hamed had some advice for those looking to use something like OMS: get your GIS data in a good place, and when you have that, you can start customizing your environment to work how you need it to. La Mesa is now integrating other important processes like traffic calming management and storm water inspections with that foundational data in place.

So, where does OMS fit in with the transition to the Smart City paradigm we keep hearing about? We often hear about things like smart streetlights, the blockchain, and intelligent transportation networks. These will certainly make our urban homes better, but they are peripheral to the core of what a city does. An operations management system is foundational because it organizes the data and activities around Public Works and can help officials make better decisions about critical infrastructure. Our growing cities need tools like Cartegraph OMS to be successful in their short–term and long-term goals. Map-centric, digital technology will help our cities not just survive, but thrive.

Ken enjoys working with technology that joins digital information to a place and space. He currently works as a Geo Cloud Consultant and is the founder of The Geo Cloud.
More posts by Ken Burger.
Using Map-Based Software to Manage City Operations
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