Matthew McConaughey, an Oscar-winning actor, famously appeared in a Superbowl LVI promotional urging us to focus on improving Earth rather than fleeing to other planets. Alors que others look to the Metaverse and Mars, lets stay here and restore ours. He has a point.
Today, we were all on the front lines of climate change due to unprecedented drought conditions, harsh wildfire seasons, more frequent and severe winter storms, and even more severe departures from normal conditions. California is drying, New England is flooding, and Texas is freezing. What remains is the infrastructure necessary to adapt to changing ecosystems. Communities across the country are confronted with new challenges. There are amazing, unsung technologies to assist us meet these challenges.
I am fortunate to be part of a team at a public utility (San Jose Water) who utilizes one of these technologies: geographic information systems. Every day, we work to develop water safety and public resource stewardship for over a million people in Silicon Valley. We hope that someday our blueprints will be integrated across the country.
GIS technology is assisting us to improve operations as well as monitor and manage the vast infrastructure network of San Jose Waters underground pipes. In a variety of ways, this large system of data collecting and analysis tools improves conservation, agility, and maintenance capabilities.
GIS thinking helps bring data to life, because it gives us the opportunity to find and understand the dynamics of our infrastructure and how they all interact. It''s a unique field in which data scientists can pursue future solutions alongside their current technological goals.
For example, our GIS collects spatial information through 8,000 acoustic sensors in fire hydrants that monitor leaks within the system. Its a way for us to identify and fix problems we couldnt see otherwise. According to the Environmental Protection Agency''s initial GIS designation in 2008, the average family can waste 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually, causing the company to quickly triple and triple, depending on how much water it needs to have in place in 2021.
GIS past and present
The first computerized GIS was developed in 1963 and used by the Canadian government to map natural resources for a national land-use management program. Soon thereafter, The Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics was established and became a research center for GIS and computer map-making software.
In 1969, the Environmental Systems Research Institute, later known as Esri, established as a land-use consulting company. This GIS institute applied computer mapping, visualization, and spatial analysis to help geographers, land-use planners, and natural resource managers. In the 1980s, Esri became a software company and became the de facto industry standard for GIS. Many other GIS innovators have since sprung up across the globe.
GIS technology is now being used in a broad spectrum of applications, from sustainable energy transitions to improved farming practices and even disaster response.
Historically analog industries, crudely drawn paper maps were the only form of mapping, thus allowing teams to estimate infrastructure maintenance locations based on age or topographical disruption. Today, GIS mapping allows engineers and field crews to clearly pinpoint leaks and anomalies with an accuracy of one centimeter.
GIS'' spatial data improves familiar visualization tools such as Tableau and Power BI. The ability to place information relative to space and location has prompted a scientist''s ability to deduce meaning. GIS allows users to visualize the data and explore situations. It also allows users to see the shape of various pipes, materials, installation date, or the height of the water main at my workplace. GIS also allows network traces to identify which valves or customers would be affected in the event of a leak or shutoff in different
Our GIS was originally built on the Esris cloud but further digitizing our assets eases the IT burden and allows us to scale dynamically. This kind of digital situational awareness also mitigates potential damage from large breakages or piping failures in a drought- and earthquake-prone region like ours.
Climate change and the future
GIS is assisting our conservation efforts on the West Coast, but it was also crucial when SJWTX received the Texas Freeze of February 2021. Emergency personnel in central Texas were able to quickly locate and repair frozen and burst pipes with precision imaging.
Future GIS innovations may include the integration of augmented reality (AR) for visualizing whole geographic plains or interactive data-driven maintenance plans with high-quality GPS on a phone or tablet.
GIS will be a critical tool to provide real-time data in disasters as we continue to face the effects of climate change. Agencies may use drones to map wildfires and hot spots or drain floodwaters to protect human lives and show where water should be directed.
In addition, the use of GIS and IoT for community-based data collection will be enhanced. For example, as more houses install air quality sensors, that data might be shared and used by city planners, public health agencies, and businesses in order to target air filter supply or distribution of N-95 masks during the wildfire season. Incredible possibilities are awaiting.
GIS isn''t a singular subject of study, but it is a critical thinking process, and technical skills vary depending on industry and application. Esri offers online courses on a range of GIS-related topics, from cartographic design to spatial analytics. Other GIS specialists include a combination of color theory and graphic editing software, and intuitive design sense. GIS is also developing a large number of open-source applications that can be used to visualize, view, edit, or view spatial data. GIS is expanding
Even without Matthew McConaughey''s encouragement, we all have the responsibility to help us live better in our country and our communities. However, ongoing research and investment in this incredible technology are vital for everyone on #TeamEarth.
Totran Mai has been working as a GIS supervisor at San Jose Water for 14 years, primarily for cartographic products and GIS systems, and for the development and administration of enterprise databases.