GIS - who's in charge ?


Is PatchMap a viable option ?

If you describe GIS to someone it usually revolves around imagery and design and computers in dark rooms and educational programs both tech and professional but what seems to be missed more and more is the fact that GIS is just an effort to represent the world around us in an as easy to understand way as possible and so actually belongs in the hands of those actually out in the real world.

In practise we find a certain ‘exclusivity’ to the accessing of this knowledge and protectiveness that from our point of view, as one of those who sees behind the scenes, often amounts to little more than job protection … ie what we hear between the words is “That’s my job, if I let you in, the spell will be broken and I will loose my superiority and maybe my livelihood.”

Some companies have taken IT/GIS (often if not the same department, then share personnel) protectionism into a new artform where employees cannot even download a picture from their camera to document a situation that they need to complete a report! … basically, keeping them from doing their job correctly or efficiently or perhaps, at all.

SkyBase has seen this progress for many years and we expected that this would ease up, get with the times, come to their senses but with the recent downturn it almost seems to have gone the other way … maybe it’s the above mentioned job justification, who knows?


Well, we have a solution for those frustrated field operators that cannot get satisfaction from internal GIS processes … embrace what has always been and always will be the better tool, PatchMap.

PatchMap is a light GIS system that runs completely separately from the company GIS and already has in it the bulk of what you need to operate in the field whether it is oil & gas or municipal or forestry or transportation.

PatchMap is a system of products from

  •   *  a specialised map for a Garmin GPS
  •   *  to a PC software that communicates with Garmin GPS so you can either document where something is or on the other hand navigate to that location
  •   *  to a web version that allows any internet connected device to assess the underlying PatchMap information
  •   *  Vehicle and asset tracking software companies leverage our map as an overlay to their basemap
  •   *  and other software creators can do the same through our API

What all of this means is, that no matter where you look at a map, the same information, look and understandability is recognisable as being PatchMap. Is the map erroneous somewhere? get it corrected as early as next week … or next month with the regular update … How? just drive it with a Garmin GPS and share with us via a free tool (that’s good for a whole slew of other things) called MapBuddy.

Where is all of your collected data kept? well depending on the product used, either

  •   *  on your GPS alone
  •   *  on your computer alone (you have to  chose to share with us, instance by instance) but emailable to others
  •   *  or under your encrypted log-in location on a cloud server, accessible by only you and those you choose to share with

So … really, how is this useful to a company that has a GIS system in place already? Well how about I give you some scenarios of how PatchMap is used by others and you go ask your GIS department if they can or more importantly will do this for you so you can do your job properly:

  1. the O&G field office has a spreadsheet (ya, the company has a GIS system but the field office operates from spreadsheets) that contain all the wellsites that need to be looked over for reclamation work … how do you proceed (there are 316 of them) … the spreadsheet has no Lat/Longs so you pull out a paper map and start cross correlating via township and range then overlay a see-through grid and estimate that it is about here … then make a mark and write the location number on the map (hopefully there won’t be another under where you are writing) … well you see where this is going; nowhere fast. SkyBase has a solution (PatchMap).
  2. the O&G summer spray and mowing program is about to begin so a list has to be drawn up  so the work can be bid on … this is a good one as again, it is a spreadsheet with bottomhole names mixed with surface location names and really neither the O&G company representatives nor the contractor have a clue what precisely they are bidding on nor where they are … mix that with LOC (roads) PIL (riser locations) and PLA (pipeline) numbers and how can this NOT be a cluster f*** ? SkyBase has a solution (PatchMap).
  3. AER wants to know where all the water crossings are within a particular O&G field operation. How do you suppose this gets started? … how about by pulling out the spreadsheet … ya, kind of old school when the GIS department is sitting (literally) on a system with all of this information in it … then from the spreadsheet, drawing in item by item as they relate to the dispositions, subsequently deciding where there might be conflicts with water … but who knows how to do this? … even the GIS department would likely be hard pressed to do it. SkyBase has a solution (PatchMap).
  4. some O&G companies are using gas sniffing equipment connected to helicopters that fly the pipeline right-of-way looking for leaks … how do they know where to fly (which pipelines are theirs) … is it from a spreadsheet again? … afraid so and how do they document that the work is done and where the gas spikes are? … then how do they act upon that? how do they know where their pipe is in a corridor of 5-6 others? How does the O&G company know that they even flew the correct lines or didn’t miss some?  BTW: same goes for camera versions of gas detection flights. Not ONE flight has ever been QC’d by the O&G company … why? ’cause it’s almost impossible for them to do without the GIS department’s help and furthermore, it’s just a box that they check off that claims that that has been taken care of and they can prove it as they have a paper report from the helicopter company that has a few pictures in it. SkyBase has proper solutions.
  5. what about pipeline midstream companies … their GIS department has a plethora of detailed information of the entire route … but today, we need to fly the pipeline with an interest to inspecting the environmentally sensitive areas …. how are these shared with a pilot and does he know where he needs to fly higher to avoid the elk farm (remember that there is an agreement in place that you need to respect) … and do you even remember where it is? SkyBase has proper solutions.
  6. moving onto forestry; the burn piles from the winter logging operations need to be assessed for flameout on 57 locations so this will be happening via helicopter with an IR camera operator on board and we need to document this … how do you begin? SkyBase has proper solutions.


I could go on all day but we both have other things to do … but let me say that each one of these scenarios can be handled with various components of software that SkyBase has created to specifically make these uncomfortable situations become smooth field operations … like the office thinks they should be but has no idea that you don’t have the tools to do it with.

For those of you who are GIS personnel and have actually read this far, fear not, our tools do not put your job in jeopardy. Nor does it take you out of the position of ‘holder of all that is important’ as anything done within our tools can be shared with you so it can be input properly into your GIS system … on your terms, noone elses. In addition, any shape files requested from the field to allow them to do their job better will be limited to tidbits here and there that simply enhance the particular job at hand … most of what the field staff will need is already supplied in PatchMap products.

– Rob Coutts

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