Australia’s utility sector is undergoing a significant transformation. The Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 (ACIC Act) mandates stricter compliance for utility companies, demanding robust data management and security protocols. Simultaneously, the race towards net zero requires a major shift to digitally driven infrastructure. Australian Spatial Analytics (ASA) is positioned at the forefront of this evolution, offering a unique blend of geospatial and engineering data services that empower utilities to navigate these challenges and create social impact from their supply chains. 

ASA: an introduction 

ASA is one of Australia’s largest and fastest-growing work-integrated social enterprises. Since 2020, ASA has created geospatial and digital engineering careers for more than 150 young neurodivergent adults, including autistic individuals, across Australia. Australia’s 375,000-strong (one in 70 people) autistic community faces a staggering 34 per cent unemployment rate, ten times higher than the national average. Autism is the fastest-growing ‘disability’ in the Western world, yet few alternative pathways are available for them to access well-paid jobs in the data economy.  

At the same time, the geospatial and engineering professions are experiencing talent shortages, adversely impacting Australia’s ability to deliver critical infrastructure. The utility sector is also facing a critical talent shortage at a time of massive change as it deals with the challenges of decarbonisation and digital transformation. However, an untapped talent pool is available to fill these crucial positions right now. Research shows neurodivergent people are outstanding with pattern recognition, accuracy and diverse problem-solving – invaluable for any big data industry. 

ASA helps solve Australia’s skills shortages and data sovereignty concerns by empowering young neurodivergent adults to perform essential work that typically occurs overseas – eliminating modern slavery risks as they pay above-award wages. ASA consistently delivers professional, award-winning, high-quality data services for real-world projects, specialising in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Survey, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Machine Learning. 

ASA’s experience with Esri’s Utility Network Model (UNM) is of specific interest to the utility sector, which transcends utility types. Designed to model the interconnected components that make up any utility system, it can be applied to electricity grids, water distribution networks, and gas pipelines with equal effectiveness. By representing pipes, wires, valves, and other elements as a cohesive network, the UNM allows for intelligent management of these systems. This translates to tracing outages in electrical grids, analysing water flows, and ensuring safe and efficient gas pipeline operations – all within a single, unified framework. These analysts have also gained skills with GE Smallworld, which many utilities around Australia use. 

Queensland’s electricity assets: a model of success 

ASA’s expertise has been instrumental in digitally documenting one of the world’s largest electrical networks. Working with Enzen Australia and Energy Queensland, this project involves merging multiple legacy datasets spanning decades of operation from Ergon and Energex. This project represented a significant challenge due to inconsistencies and variations in data formats. 

ASA’s team is meticulously integrating data, leveraging advanced data cleaning techniques and validation procedures. The result? A ‘single source of truth’, encompassing over 300,000 subnetworks and 25 million spatial features. ASA now has over 50 qualified UNM users – one of the largest of any spatial consultancy in Australia.  

This unified database delivers significant benefits, including improved efficiency in planning, maintenance, and asset management. Additionally, standardised data enables regulatory compliance and empowers Energy Queensland to make data-driven decisions for future network expansions and optimisation. This project won the 2023 Geospatial Council of Australia Award (Queensland division) for Technical Excellence. 

Compliance and the digital transformation 

The ACIC Act has an increased focus on data security and risk management for critical infrastructure assets. This includes maintaining accurate and up-to-date spatial data for power lines and substations, water pipelines and other essential infrastructure that all Australians rely upon. This digital transition requires a robust and adaptable digital infrastructure. ASA provides a comprehensive suite of services to meet these requirements.  

In the geospatial field, ASA’s data analysts undertake cartography, plan digitisation, asset register cleansing and validation, data classification and spatial analysis, and land use mapping. Their neurodivergent team are proficient with multiple software including the Esri suite, Precisely MapInfo and QGIS. Partner clients include the Department of Resources (roads and address validation, cadastral maintenance systems), Brisbane City Council (emergency management spatial data), Brisbane Airport Corporation (data validation) and Downer (defence base mapping).  

In the digital engineering space, ASA delivers Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), engineering drafting and design, engineering As-builts, Common Data Environment (CDE) maintenance, 3D Modelling, Scan to BIM and Clash Detection Services. Software proficiency includes AutoCAD, MicroStation, Revit, Civil3D, ArchiCAD, Revizto, Navisworks and ProjectWise. Projects include Acciona Engineering and Design (Coombabah Sewerage Treatment Plant upgrade, MacIntyre Wind Farm (Queensland), Kenwick Rail Facility (Western Australia), Major Roads Interchange (South Australia)), FSC Range (St Leonards Boat Ramp design modelling, Victoria) and Ventia (fibreoptic cable rollout). 

Utilities can create enormous social impact from their supply chains 

ASA offers a compelling value proposition for utilities navigating today’s complex landscape. Their comprehensive data services ensure compliance with the ACIC Act, empower the transition to net zero with digital transformation solutions, and create positive social impact via partner supply chains. Many young neurodivergent adults have been brought out of long-term unemployment, with some terminating disability support pensions. As Australia’s utility sector continues evolving, ASA remains committed to being a key partner in building a more sustainable and resilient future for utilities. 

ASA is also creating the big data workforce of tomorrow. Their Talent Services offering creates long-term, stable employment with other organisations in the growing digital economy. ASA has four data analysts embedded within the Department of Resources in Brisbane and Acciona Engineering and Design in Melbourne, working on multiple projects. One of ASA’s first transitions, Blake Morrison, has worked long-term at the University of New England as a GIS Officer after spending many years struggling to find employment, with his contract recently extended for another three years. 

ASA’s on-the-job training, an alternative to traditional education, prepares their talented people for sustainable careers. ASA has employed more than 180 people (80 per cent neurodivergent) after starting in 2020, attracting business from over 40 clients. Plus, they’re developing tomorrow’s geospatial and engineering workforce for utilities. With offices across Australia, ASA is aiming for 300 employees by 2026.  

You can meet the ASA team at the LOCATE24 conference in Sydney from May 7-9, 2024. 

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Australian Spatial Analytics. Find out how you can embrace (neuro)diversity as a competitive advantage whilst creating social impact at 

©2024 Utility Magazine. All rights reserved


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