May 24, 2022

How Hardware-Accelerated Web Mapping Can Improve Vegetation Management & Fire Risk Assessment

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One of the greatest challenges facing utility companies is vegetation management. It may not sound like a hot button issue, but utility vegetation management is a complex operation that is critical to ensuring public and environmental safety. Neglect and improper management of vegetation incidents over the vast distances of power lines and power grid infrastructure can result in penalties for safety regulation violations, costly damage to infrastructure and assets, massive disruptive power outages, and even devastating wildfires

Antiquated, unoptimized manual procedures used for the planning, practice, and reporting of utility assets just don’t work in today’s modernized and digitized world. Paper maps and documentation are outdated, impractical, time consuming, costly, and imprecise, and often lead to reactive rather than proactive field maintenance. 

That’s why utility companies are increasingly developing utility vegetation management plans and adopting utility vegetation imagery, LIDAR, IoT sensor data, and other various data sources in combination with web mapping, also known as online mapping, in order to visualize vast landscapes and potential vegetation hazards.

What is Web Mapping?

Web map services are the means by which users can work with and apply GIS for big data, and can be used in web browsers, on smart mobile devices, and in desktop applications such as ArcGIS Pro, an esri web mapping application. There is both proprietary and open source web mapping software available. Geographic datasets used in web mapping include open source web mapping applications like OpenStreetMap and proprietary datasets owned by HERE, Huawei, Google Maps web application, Tencent, TomTom, and others. The five different types of web maps include: analytical web maps, collaborative web maps, animated and real time, static web pages, and online atlases.

Web mapping, which consists of online maps created with software like ArcGIS Online, the ArcGis web mapping application, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a web browser capable of client-server interactions, provides tools that enable users to interact with geographic content organized as data layers. After geographic data sets delivered by GIS software over the World Wide Web are layered, users can then add tools like HEAVY.AI 6.0 that support storytelling, analytical studies, field data collection, and operations management and monitoring. 

Big Data Requires Accelerated Web Mapping

In order to manage the sheer volume, variety, and velocity of these big data streams, utility companies are increasingly leveraging powerful, hardware-accelerated web mapping services. 

Legacy web based mapping software solutions are not equipped to handle such massive data sets. 

Hardware-accelerated web mapping software enables utility companies to get a granular, accurate, real-time visualization of the utility grid and surrounding vegetation; and to analyze the most relevant data with context, at scale, and identify patterns and anomalies, gain insight, draw conclusions, and make predictions that facilitate an optimized, proactive workflow. 

Accelerated Web Mapping Aids in Disaster Preparedness

One of the most critical issues that utility companies can address with web mapping services is fire threats. Due to climate change, catastrophic wildfires have sparked in record-breaking instances and intensity around the world, especially in the American west, where a total of 8,835 fires burned 2,568,948 acres of land across California in 2021 alone. 

Longer dry seasons and higher temperatures combined with high winds are making it all the more crucial for utility companies to use hardware-accelerated web mapping to visualize and manage their power lines and surrounding vegetation with greater precision and timeliness. 

HEAVY.AI Hardware-Accelerated Web Mapping In Practice

A major utility company in the United States actively leverages HEAVY.AI to support vegetation management for utilities projects using advanced modeling, remotely sensed imagery, and hardware-accelerated web mapping. HEAVY.AI combines interactive web maps, web GIS intelligence, visual analytics, and hardware-accelerated SQL with an advanced analytics & data science framework to support granular, real-time visualizations of circumstances on the ground that may lead to fire outbreaks. 

With HEAVY.AI, this utility company is able to quickly and easily view, process, distill, and report on large amounts of data generated by their in-house atmospheric modeling operations for the purposes of assessing critical weather and fire potential. Geospatial big data associated with high fire risk area assets combined with these weather model outputs help provide a powerful weather and fire threat visualization tool. 

HEAVY.AI’s hardware-accelerated web mapping fire data visualization tools enable meteorology and fire science groups to see, analyze, and derive critical insights from the full scope of output generated by atmospheric models - output that is far too expensive for legacy tools to handle. Accelerated mapping helps meteorologists better understand and communicate the risk and potential scope and impacts of predicted weather, and give more specific and targeted forecast outlooks, by providing accurate and timely reports on data related to weather model outputs, active fires, burn scars, and other locations with weather sensitivities. 

Dynamic Data Visualizations as the Standard

Leveraging the most advanced modern technologies for wildfire and disaster preparedness and vegetation management plans should be standard practice for utility companies. The importance of utility companies having access to real-time, dynamic, geospatial interactive data visualizations at scale cannot be overstated. A granular view of geo data points, layered in a way that gives context and shows correlations, enables decision makers to really see the big picture, identify patterns, and draw conclusions. 

Hardware-accelerated web mapping and immersive visualizations help utility workers minimize the impact vegetation has on providing safe and reliable electric service, and help meteorology and fire science groups make predictions about wildfire risks that are extremely valuable to utility companies. 

Final Thoughts

While we cannot control the forces of nature, we can mitigate risks associated with human behavior that may contribute to natural disasters and major disruptions to our lifestyle. Hardware-accelerated web mapping is the new frontier for fire data visualizations and utility vegetation management, and HEAVY.AI is at the forefront of empowering utility companies to fully understand and utilize the wealth of data available to them, and create a more efficient, safer environment for everyone. 


HEAVY.AI (formerly OmniSci) is the pioneer in GPU-accelerated analytics, redefining speed and scale in big data querying and visualization. The HEAVY.AI platform is used to find insights in data beyond the limits of mainstream analytics tools. Originating from research at MIT, HEAVY.AI is a technology breakthrough, harnessing the massive parallel computing of GPUs for data analytics.