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GNSS, GIS help small town utilities operate efficiently

Photo: Trimble

Photo: Trimble

Small towns and cities face tight budgets for operating and maintaining public utilities. By sharing resources for common activities, a city can improve cost efficiency in its gas, electric, water and sewer services. In southern Minnesota, the city of New Ulm has modernized its approach to utility asset location and identification management. The effort is reducing costs and improving service for its 13,000 residents.

For more than a decade, the New Ulm Public Utilities group used a computer-aided design (CAD)-based system to track assets for six different utilities. After evaluating its approach for asset mapping, the city transitioned to a geospatial information system (GIS) which provided an opportunity to streamline data collection and management across all of the city-owned utilities.

The city turned to the Trimble Positions Desktop add-in software for Esri ArcGIS Desktop. The approach enables New Ulm field technicians to use Trimble TerraSync field software and Trimble Geo 7X GNSS handhelds for data collection for utility assets and then process the GNSS data in Trimble Positions Desktop. Using this method, the city can provide customized field workflows needed by the different utilities while delivering completed information to a single, centralized GIS database.

In addition to recording the locations and attributes of utility assets, the Trimble solution helps New Ulm technicians return to specific assets when needed. Using real-time GNSS positioning, field crews can navigate directly to specific assets. “Looking for a shutoff valve during a snowstorm isn’t easy,” said New Ulm GIS technician John Bendix. “The Trimble handhelds help them find an asset quickly.”

Bendix uses the Trimble solution to manage connectivity and geographic relationships for new assets. Assets connected to a feature (such as pipes connecting to a manhole) can be automatically adjusted as needed when new field data is checked into the database.

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