How To's, Product Review

And now, in the left corner… Utility LINE!

This month at the ULINE blog we’ve been considering the various features that a small, municipal or community broadband utility, co-op, or private firm might look for in linear asset management tools. Two weeks ago, we looked at questions of features, difficulty of use, and the quality of customer service and tech support. A flashy program is only of good quality when it doesn’t cost too much to train your staff to use it, when it doesn’t charge too much for features that your network doesn’t need, and when the firm that designed the software provides prompt and comprehensive support when things go wrong.

I also discussed our editor’s DIY fiber route mapping solution. Then, last week, we took a close look at how New Light Technologies (NLT) has been helping DC-Net to manage its fiber network using an in-house custom built GIS application by providing the economy of features, ease of use, and comprehensive support that municipal or community broadband organizations might seek when considering asset management software.

NLT has been hard at work building a commercially available linear asset management system called, Utility LINE. (Full disclosure: NLT hosts this blog.)

I caught up with a few New Light staff members and asked about their software. Below is what they told me:

First what Utility LINE is: Utility LINE is a linear asset management software package that’s currently under development and is available for early access to select customers, and it offers an easy-to-use, mobile open source solution that can reduce a firm’s operational costs and increase operational efficiency. It’s also easy to tailor to your own needs with respect to data configuration, maps and reports.

NLT is targeting the software to engineers and operators who support telecom infrastructure, and the program allows its end users to map, track, and manage network inventory, service provisioning, network configuration and fault management data sets simply and flexibly. In addition to program features, NLT will include data migration services and long-term customer service and technical support – just as the company does for DC-Net.

In short, according to New Light staff, with Utility LINE, NLT is taking on the COTS-based software packages that “include hundreds of tools with thousands of options [for expert analysts]… [that] have little to do with the day-to-day duties of the people who work in the industry.” And it’s improving on simpler incumbent technologies, which “are too slow, too big, and too complicated for the no-nonsense workers in the industry.” NLT is doing so not just with features, but with price: “A number of software companies,” NLT told me, “provide similar products [to ours], but they are expensive to license, install, use, and maintain.”

So am I just writing a commercial for my client here? Not entirely: My colleagues and I at Billingsley Research, LLC, were given a demo last week of Utility LINE, and it is indeed quite easy to use. The program has a simple user interface with an Open Street-based map that updates as you change information using simple check boxes and drop down menus. The menus include facility, organization, equipment, and networking lists; and the map enables you to draw in routes, hubs, and cable pathways to let you find the most cost effective paths from Point A to Point B.

In short, even I could use it – and I’m a social scientist, not a computer engineer or GIS-trained urban planner. When Utility LINE is released, a competitive price point with similar GIS-based linear management assets on the market, might encourage organizations that are considering switching systems to consider Utility LINE.

For more information on Utility LINE, and/or if you’d like to become an early adopter, please contact Jason Longenecker.

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