Smart antenna enhances accuracy in GIS utility mapping

How Belgium’s PIDPA integrates the Leica Zeno GG04 plus to collect GIS data of large-scale water infrastructure

PIDPA, one of Belgium’s leading water utility companies, supplies over 1.2 million people in the Antwerp region with 175,000 cubic metres of water daily. Managing its extensive network—spanning roughly 13,500 kilometres of water pipelines and 5,000 kilometres of sewage systems—poses a significant challenge as this complex infrastructure demands stringent oversight and precise mapping to maintain operations.

To enhance its water infrastructure management and operational efficiency, PIDPA adopted the Leica Zeno GG04 plus Smart Antenna as part of their utility mapping solution, greatly improving mapping accuracy. As a result, the Zeno GG04 plus has become invaluable to PIDPA, transforming asset management and enhancing oversight of the water infrastructure. This strategic technological upgrade helps PIDPA reliably provide essential water services to communities across the region.

Digital transformation challenges in utility mapping

The digitisation of utility networks is challenging. For utility companies like PIDPA, accurately documenting every pipeline and asset within their vast systems is a formidable task. The dynamic nature of these networks, which are constantly expanding or undergoing maintenance and repairs, makes this work even more complex. As a result, utility companies require a mapping solution that is both highly accurate and adaptable to the changing infrastructe landscape.

Additionally, digital transformation in the utilities sector highlights a demand for geographic information system (GIS) tools capable of integration with existing platforms. These tools must align with current location service providers like Esri’s ArcGIS Platform and be compatible with the wide array of devices used in the field, ensuring that data collection and updates can proceed smoothly without disrupting ongoing operations.

Bart Reynaert, PIDPA’s Manager of Geo-ICT & Asset Applications, underscores the importance of high-accuracy mapping, stating, “Accurate asset management is extremely important for PIDPA. Knowing the exact location and detailed attributes of each asset allows us to maintain our network efficiently and sustainably. This detailed information can support PIDPA in performing advanced analyses, predicting network longevity, and making informed investment decisions.”

User-friendly GIS data collection with the Zeno GG04 plus

PIDPA embarked on an ambitious project to enhance utility mapping accuracy of newly constructed assets and central to the project goal, says Reynaert, was the need to blend a high-accuracy solution with user friendly operation. To achieve this, the project utilised the Leica Zeno GG04 plus Smart Antenna and unfolded in three distinct phases.

The initial phase involved a proof of concept, deploying a single Leica receiver paired with ArcGIS Collector on an Android phone. Despite delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the results were well-received and facilitated optimisation of the ArcGIS template for future phases.

In the second phase, the project expanded to six additional devices, transitioning from Android phones to iPad minis to enhance the collection experience with a clearer, larger screen. An expanded team of field workers received training to accurately register the positions and attributes of newly constructed assets within the water network. This phase, like the previous one, was a success, setting the stage for further expansion.

The third phase, which is currently underway, added 24 more combinations of GG04 plus receivers and iPads equipped with ArcGIS Field Maps. According to Reynaert, this phased approach optimised the mapping process and significantly increased the volume of digital data collected, enhancing PIDPA’s water infrastructure management. “By choosing a solution that directly communicates with the PIDPA GIS backend through services, we can register data immediately and centrally for viewing and post-processing by others,” Reynaert explains.

Leveraging GIS tools for efficient asset management

PIDPA has transformed its asset management and enhanced its fieldwork efficiency through its use of the Leica Zeno GG04 plus, which integrates with SAP work orders and GIS network data. This approach ensures accurate and comprehensive documentation of every modification within PIDPA’s network, capturing both location and detailed asset attributes. The transition to using the Zeno GG04 plus, in conjunction with ArcGIS Field Maps, enables field crews to efficiently register as-built information before assets become buried underground, directly storing this data online in the GIS database.

This process marks a significant evolution from traditional methods, transitioning from an end-project edit-create process, which took weeks or even months until all data was available, to a validation-focused approach with daily data additions. PIDPA has become quicker at processing as-built data, thereby enhancing the accuracy and accessibility of information for all stakeholders.

Reynaert notes, “The implementation of this solution has notably improved data quality through accurate XYZ position registering and has saved considerable time by digitising and centralising data collection.”

Empowering field crews with a versatile and simple utility mapping solution

The Leica Zeno GG04 plus equips PIDPA with the capability to gather precise geospatial data with easy-to-use smartphones or tablets. Its compatibility across various operating systems—including Apple, Android, and Windows—positions it as a valuable instrument for utility professionals. This adaptability is especially beneficial in challenging conditions, such as those encountered by PIDPA's field teams when managing pipelines and underground equipment, allowing for the collection of precise data in real-time.

The Zeno GG04 plus’ durable design combined with advanced Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) and Precise Point Positioning (PPP) capabilities support accurate data collection across environmental conditions, anywhere in the world. The convenience of Bluetooth connectivity and device flexibility further enhances operational efficiency, permitting field personnel to utilize existing smart phone or tablet devices and software to view and edit data in the field.

Shaping sustainable utility management

Accurate asset data that, in addition to location, includes technical characteristics, status, supplier, date constructed, and more enables PIDPA to maintain and manage the drinking water network with greater resources for analysis and sustainable planning.

“This data enables us to analyse network quality and predict lifespan, and also forms a solid base for addressing challenges in leak reduction, monitoring of optimal water flows in hydraulic models, and more,” says Reynaert.

The integration of the Leica Zeno GG04 plus into PIDPA's operations represents an important ingredient in their improved asset collection processes and highlights a scalable solution for utility companies seeking to refine their mapping and infrastructure management practices. High-accuracy data collection within a flexible setup provides realtime results, in-field registration, and, significantly, lays the foundation for improved infrastructure management overall.

To learn more about how Leica Geosystems’ Zeno solutions, from smart antennas to our mobile data capture app, enable better asset collection in the utility environment, explore our case studies focused on the utility sector or access the Leica Zeno Mobile One software license trial.