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Problem Solving with InfoNet 8: Linking InfoNet to modeling software

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The previous articles in this series of InfoNet Problem Solvers have discussed using InfoNet as a water company's asset network data repository, plus some of the additional functionality of InfoNet. The benefits outlined in those articles are quite independent of hydraulic modeling, applying to water companies whether they use hydraulic modeling or not.

In contrast, this article deals with InfoNet only as it relates to hydraulic modeling, and the problems described relate only to users of hydraulic modeling software.

The problem

Most water companies use drawings, paper files, spreadsheets and electronic databases for the storage of details on their existing network. The electronic databases are usually a GIS, but other databases may also be used. That collection of data is maintained as the up-to-date master repository of details of the water network, and is the starting point for hydraulic modeling.

The first task for the modeler when building and running a new model is to locate and then import the network data from that master database, and then to ensure that all the required data is present. Often however data is missing, can't be found or is wrong. All this data is used throughout a company, and consequently data that only modelers are concerned with, such the ground levels at a specific point, may be missing or wrong. All modelers know that this data validation and clean-up stage is a vital but time-consuming stage of drudgery before the more rewarding later activities of the modeling process.

Another possible problem of the input data relates to connectivity. The other users of the GIS system are not concerned with connectivity, and modelers frequently find that the network as stored in the GIS system needs careful validation and update before it represents the true network that is the essential start point for sound modeling.

The use of InfoNet

Companies using InfoNet are addressing the issue by exploiting InfoNet's powerful import, data validation, cleaning and inference tools to reduce significantly the burden of removing data errors.

Some water companies are adopting to use a historical corporate GIS based system as their company-wide repository, and InfoNet as the repository for use across the asset management department, both water supply and wastewater. Sometimes another database may be used in place of the GIS, but the same principles apply - the two databases are kept in step by their respective owners/administrators, who follow systems and procedures of update and validation to ensure that both are as accurate and current as they can be for the purposes to which they are put.

A variation of the two database organization is to use InfoNet for both the GIS functions and as the engineering asset data repository – InfoNet has all the capability to fulfil the function of an asset management GIS within a water/wastewater company.

A sound InfoNet database means that the engineering department the InfoNet database has an accurate and complete physical model of the water network. Control of data input and use of the validation features have been illustrated in ‘Problem Solver 2 – The problem of wrong and missing data'. Using these features can ensure that the InfoNet database is always an up-to-date physical model of the network.

The next issue is getting that data into the hydraulic modeling software. For users of both InfoNet and InfoWorks this could not be simpler. In the first instance of the data transfer there are a few parameters to be set using drop-down menus – even simpler than the easy data transfer into InfoWorks from other systems using the Open Data Import Center. Subsequent imports require a single click. The problem of keeping hydraulic modeling “in sync” with the latest network is solved. Subsequent to the completion of hydraulic modeling the “new” or amended network can be exported back to the Infonet network for ongoing maintenance or operational departments to use.

Of course users of modeling software other than InfoWorks can also use InfoNet, and benefit from its complete, up-to-date and error-corrected data sets. The interfaces between other modeling software and InfoNet will not be as smooth, but the import is still possible.

The benefits of importing InfoNet data into models are powerful – the time-consuming and error-prone task of getting a good data set from which to start is simplified to the point of being eliminated from the modelers tasks. The location, preparation, and validation of data set, and the building of the water networks could be done by other departments within the water company or even by the survey companies and engineering consultants. No other software combination offers, or can consistently offer, this same seamless interface as the InfoNet/InfoWorks combination.

In summary, the result is that the people best suited to doing it carry out the data management using the best system for that task! InfoNet is less expensive to purchase and easier to use than the more powerful hydraulic modeling software. InfoNet requires a different skill set to use and manage, and is easily made available across the engineering department and framework partners

The process of building a model is then accelerated because the imported data is clean, it's source known and the specialist modeling staff are able to focus their time and energies on the important later stages of the project. Using this approach, undertaking the activities where they best fit, with best in class solutions, the onerous problems of getting sound data as the start point for modeling are greatly reduced.

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