Ubisense offers location intelligence solutions and recently became a Google Enterprise Maps Authorized Partner. The company’s latest product, myWorld 2.0, integrates Google Maps for Business technologies to enhance an enterprise’s operational awareness (press release). Directions Magazine interviewed Peter Batty, co-founder and CTO of the geospatial division of Ubisense, to explore the product and how the company works with its customers.
Directions Magazine (DM): myWorld first launched in November 2012 and was built on Google Maps. What new features are available in V 2.0 that draw on Google Maps for Business offerings?
Peter Batty (PB): We have expanded myWorld capabilities significantly over the last 18 months. A key platform enhancement is the ability to run offline on Windows, Android and iOS devices. We have a common development environment across both our Web applications and all the offline platforms using Apache Cordova. The application switches seamlessly between online and offline mode. We have also significantly enhanced our data creation and editing capabilities for both spatial and non-spatial data, and we have added printing capabilities with configurable templates and WYSIWIG previews.
We have developed a rich set of configuration tools so that many aspects of the system that previously required coding to change can now be configured through an intuitive GUI. And we’ve added support for corporate authentication using LDAP / ActiveDirectory, as well as a rich authorization system to control which groups of users can access different datasets and functionality. myWorld has really matured into a serious enterprise platform for Web and mobile geospatial applications. We have also added integration to more enterprise systems such as SAP, Remedy, Maximo and Oracle. One enhancement drawing on Google Maps for Business offerings is the ability to view network assets directly in Google Street View (see image below). We are leveraging this platform to develop vertical, business-centric applications for our utility and telecom customers including Damage Assessment, Vegetation Management and Network Operations, among others.
Ubisense myWorld and the Google Street View feature. The network asset data appear in the Street View pane.
DM: The development of myWorld harkens back to lessons learned during Hurricane Sandy. Version 1 was announced one month after the storm. How did Ubisense work with customers to learn what sort of tool to build? What sort of feedback drove development of Version 2?
PB: We work closely with our customers to ensure that product enhancements meet their needs. It’s an interactive process that involves a lot more listening than talking. We use prototyping and agile development cycles to quickly deliver new functionality to them. And it’s rapid; our development cycle is so short that we don’t typically build anything that isn’t adding real, immediate value to a customer.
During one of our customer’s response to Hurricane Sandy we were delivering enhancements every day or two, which is unusual but we were able to help a lot with their recovery efforts. After the recovery effort, we sat down with the customer to look at how to roll these enhancements back into the product.
An example of Version 2 functionality developed based upon customer feedback is our seamless online/offline functionality. Our customers told us that they want all the benefits of an online, “connected” solution. But they also want the security of knowing that the product will work when a connection is not available. We worked closely with our customers to develop this functionality.
The main thing is that we work in partnership with our customers to address their top needs and this ensures the kind of unity and momentum that’s required to meet goals and stay competitive these days.
DM: The press release states:"Ubisense myWorld incorporates network asset data, work orders, customer information, and other critical operational data from a variety of spatial and enterprise systems vendors.” Can you give some examples of software and data that are incorporated? How are the systems or datasets integrated?
PB: From the start, myWorld was designed to be simple and flexible, and this is true for how we integrate critical enterprise data and systems. For example, not everything needs to be real-time so we approach each source of information in a practical way. Geospatial design and engineering work orders are normally posted daily – at best – so we work with that approach and provide incremental updates accordingly.
Customer accounts and addresses can often be refreshed daily as well. Trouble tickets and field work orders are handled more frequently, such as hourly. Network status and performance information has to be near real-time on a large scale and in real-time when troubleshooting urgent issues. To accomplish all this, we use a variety of technologies such as ETL [extract, transform, load] tools like Safe Software’s FME, Web Services, WMS [Web Map Service Specification], EAI [enterprise application integration] and messaging, REST APIs, database integration, and even flat files and spreadsheets.
DM: Scenarios about dashboards tend to be about an “emergency” like a downed power line. However, the myWorld solution is meant to be used day-to-day. How have existing users implemented it across an organization? What kinds of services does Ubisense offer to determine what sort of implementation makes sense?
PB: The majority of our applications are for everyday use by a growing community of groups like network operations, outside plant inspection and maintenance, customer service, audit and compliance, security, planning, etc. Our goal is to unlock data held in the enterprise and provide it to the operations people who need it. Applications include streamlining inspection of assets in the field, allowing anyone to report data quality issues back to the GIS team with a simple note and redline, automating leak inspection reporting, integrating to call centers to provide a real-time view of the customer, and network status to improve responsiveness and customer service.
Because of the rapidly evolving technology, we work with our clients to determine the best solution for their spatial problem regardless of the technology required to meet the requirements. If we do not have the right solution we will bring in solutions from our partner network that can meet the requirements.
Finally, we form collaborative teams with our clients so that everyone has a stake in the outcome, and we take advantage of every pocket of expertise, whether it’s the IT group, field workers, executives, operations, or customer service.
DM: Ubisense has 26 customers in five counties using myWorld. Again from the press release: "Ubisense myWorld customers gain the ability to react to issues and potentially harmful situations sooner and are better prepared to solve issues faster, work more efficiently, and enhance their customer service and support.” Can you share some examples?
PB: One of our early adopter customers was able to combine large-scale, company-wide data from network design, trouble ticketing, billing, network monitoring, field services, and performance trending within a few months. myWorld handles this customer’s three million customers, 10 million devices, and thousands of miles of network which represents over one billion updates every day. The implementation was so successful that it was named one of the top four operations support systems in the company. Real KPI [key performance indicator] and operational metric improvements have been recorded within their organization that are attributable to myWorld. Today, this customer continues to deploy new capabilities for things like audits, inspection and real-time operations.
In several cases, our customers started with a general purpose Web/mobile application to view their network asset data outside of their GIS department, and then quickly realized the benefit of operational awareness. And because adding other vertical applications, like damage assessment and inspection, are natural extensions to the platform, many are taking that next step.