GPS and Location Data: Powering Efficient Utility Field Operations

Posted 7.03.24 by:

A utility technician gives a thumb up to digital reporting and location data. Read GPS and Location Data: Powering Efficient Utility Field Operations now at

Utility providers like you face a number of unique challenges that set you apart. From asset distribution to servicing and maintaining multiple facilities, often in remote locations, to safety concerns and emergency response, you see it all. But you can’t see all the places at once, all the time, can you?

The integration of global positioning systems (GPS) with location data in your field team’s service reporting is a crucial aspect of efficient field management for top utility providers. With mobile reporting, teams can respond swiftly, share vital data in real-time, and offer clear oversight when it’s most needed.

The 1st Reporting app caters to many industries, but few resonate as well as the needs of utilities (well, okay, maybe more than a few resonate with it, but that’s not the point). The fact is that the 1st Reporting app was designed from the ground up to take the challenges of mobile field reporting and face them head-on.

In this article, I’ll dive into how you can integrate integral systems like field reporting apps that include features like GPS integrations and location data. We will journey through each challenge and provide you with actionable, data-driven solutions that you can use to help drive your teams forward into more efficient and effective field operations.

Real-Time Asset and Team Tracking with GPS

Utilities teams at a remote site working on a power pole. Learn more about location-based field reporting at

Having mobile field teams and personnel is nothing new to you, and you likely have GPS tracking on your trucks already, but does your GPS truck tracking talk to your team’s field reports? Not likely. Well, we’ve got a way to do just that (and a whole lot more) to help streamline your field operations and give you better oversight of your crew’s positions and actions in the field.

I’m going to assume you track your truck’s GPS, but does that tell you what stage of work your mobile teams have completed? 

Let me propose a scenario: 

You have a few crews out fixing a pole that came down in a storm. Your team does a quick safety inspection of their truck before taking it out, as per your safety regulations. They complete the truck inspection on their mobile device using 1st Reporting. The 1st Reporting app, using a custom notification trigger you added earlier, sends you a message telling you that teams 1 and 3 have completed their truck safety inspection (and so, they are leaving the shop and on their way to the site). All this information and oversight, and all you needed was a simple notification to know exactly what your teams were doing and their respective locations.

Next, in our scenario, the teams arrive on site and perform a quick initial hazard analysis. Again, they submit the report via their mobile device, and again, due to some clever notifications you added earlier, you receive a notification that they’ve identified a hazard. Also, your safety officer gets the same notification because you added them as a recipient of the notification.

You could open the hazard analysis, and within seconds, you are looking at the very same information your team member input miles away – all because of the secure cloud storage of 1st Reporting. Each report has the location and timestamp to show you exactly when and where your team completed each report. This information can provide you with all manner of details you can use to assess and improve your routes, team performance, and management oversight.

You can see how having real-time data can be an advantage – and that was only a straightforward scenario. Imagine how better your management would be if you had location data included in each report automatically.

Route Optimization Tips for Utility Field Crews

Managing mobile teams, delegating jobs, and dispatching teams to various locations is a challenge on the best of days. However, leveraging location data can significantly improve route optimization and streamline operations for utility field crews. Here’s how:

Analyzing Historical Routes

You can take advantage of location data to analyze past routes taken by your field crews. By examining historical data, managers such as yourself can identify patterns, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies in service routes.

Try looking for opportunities to optimize routes based on things like traffic patterns, road closures, and geographic obstacles. Of course, you can utilize mapping tools and GPS data to pinpoint areas for improvement.

Using the 1st Reporting app, you could use the location data embedded in your team’s field reports to easily determine travel times and team process efficiencies to educate your team management decision-making better.

Proactive Schedule Adjustments

It is best practice to encourage proactive schedule adjustments based on real-time data and field conditions. Rather than adhering strictly to pre-planned routes, empower field crews to adapt their schedules on the fly to minimize travel time and maximize productivity.

You can provide field teams with access to live traffic updates and weather forecasts to make informed decisions about route adjustments and scheduling changes. That is if you don’t give the teams predetermined routes.

Collaborative Feedback Mechanisms

One of the best lessons I learned working in the service dispatch office back in the day was to establish collaborative feedback mechanisms. These feedback channels between field crews and management helped continuously improve route optimization strategies. 

Try to encourage open communication and feedback loops to identify recurring challenges and brainstorm innovative solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask your teams for their opinions. Not only will this method give you ideas you may not have considered, but it will encourage a team mentality, making your team members who provide feedback feel essential and integral to the team’s overall mission.

Foster a culture of continuous improvement by soliciting input from field crews on route preferences, road conditions, and potential obstacles encountered during operations.

Data-Driven Insights for Utilities

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Data-driven decision-making is one of the most powerful transformative forces in business today. However, in order to go head first into data-collection mode so you can start analysis for decision-making, you need to go through the ‘digital transformation.’ Unfortunately, not many businesses or organizations genuinely prepare for the magnitude of the change to come. And so, they fail.

You read that correctly. In fact, according to research on the transformation going back to 2016, 70% of corporations attempting to adopt a digital transformation program failed to complete the implementation. (1)

One of the big reasons why these digital transformations into the world of data-driven decision-making fail is because, frequently, organizations of magnitude don’t have good communication between departments. So, these communication-forsaken organizations try to adopt a platform and force their different departments to use it.

Well, you can imagine how that implementation would go. That’s why a custom solution is important in today’s changing landscape. You need a robust mobile solution that is as flexible as today’s markets, especially if you want good data collection from your operations to drive data-driven decision-making. That’s one of the reasons why integral GPS functionality is critical to getting the location-based information you need without the headache of getting it right.

Tailoring GPS for Utility-Specific Needs

I mentioned how a custom solution is crucial in today’s market. However, that doesn’t do justice to the actual needs you face in terms of field reporting, location data, and mobile team management.

In the utility sector, you and your team members face some of the most hazardous conditions possible – electrocution, arc flash, and explosions are just a few of the severe dangers you face day in and day out. However, many solutions for mobile team management don’t include things specific to your industry. Instead, they try to deliver a blanket solution that just doesn’t do your team any favors.

The 1st Reporting app shines when it comes to offering utilities, construction, and other hazard-ridden industries a tailored solution for safety inspections, incident reporting, and related operations. GPS is a standard integration of the 1st app, so your mobile crews can complete custom safety reports, inspections, and more with location data included by default. It really does bring field team reporting and crew management to the next level.

Emergency Response and Incident Mapping

A utility site from an aerial view shows the complexity of the substation. Learn about field reporting in the utility sector at

In 2023, the US had planned to add more than 56.1 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale electric generation capacity. According to the US Energy Information Administration, it’s the most significant jump in capacity growth since  2002. (2)

More capacity means more potential for failure, emergencies, and generally more of everything involved in managing, operating, repairing, or even retiring equipment and facilities.

Weather, fire, lightning, and even wind can bring down a powerline, causing your team to have to step into action at a moment’s notice. Consider each of these events requiring your team to complete a report. Furthermore, consider how your mobile teams complete those reports. Do they come back filthy, waterlogged, or illegible? If they do, I can tell you from experience that you’re not alone. Don’t even get me started on technician handwriting!

Let’s talk about emergency response times for a moment. You likely have operations in place that ensure your on-call crews are dispatched to the site in a timely manner. However, how do you and your teams communicate vital information while on-site? Information like the extent of damage, requirements to get things back up and running, and other equipment needed is critical to relay quickly to increase how efficiently your teams are responding.

The 1st Reporting app again stands out in the crowd with its secure cloud storage mechanisms for reporting data coming in from the field. Furthermore, add in custom notifications (that include custom triggers and custom conditions), and you can get notified when a report is started so you can track, review, and respond to report information in real time. Imagine how you could increase your team’s response time and response management with such a customizable app like 1st Reporting.

What Sets 1st Reporting Apart for Utilities

We’ve discussed multiple features that make 1st Reporting your first choice for a new mobile reporting solution for your teams. Whether you work in hydro, LNG, water, sewage, or telecommunications, you need a robust yet flexible solution – something that works for you and doesn’t try to make you work for it. That’s 1st Reporting. 

Let’s look at some of the features utility teams are benefiting from:

  • GPS enabled – Take advantage of GPS and location-based information connected to every report. Using the 1st Reporting report manager, you can select the map view of your choice and filter by report type. This feature enables you to see location-based trends that could otherwise potentially slip past.
  • Offline capable – Teams out of reach of internet service can complete reports on their mobile devices, and 1st will capture that data, storing it locally on the device until a signal reconnects.
  • Custom form building – Create forms catered to your processes, your types of emergencies, your local regulations, and more. Ensure your team has the proper documents in the field with total control over form building.
  • Dynamic linking – Connect repair requests to damage incident reports and more with a dynamic linking element you can insert in the custom form builder. This dynamic linking enables you to capture and connect forms and documents to make workflows and incident analysis more accessible, faster, and more comprehensive.

Optimizing your field reporting processes with a digital reporting solution like the 1st Reporting app makes sense. After all, data-driven companies are known to outperform those who are yet to become digital masters of their operations. (3)

Elevate Your Utility Operations with Location-Driven Efficiency

Location data isn’t just a convenience; it’s a necessity for optimizing efficiency, ensuring safety, and maintaining compliance in utility operations. By harnessing the power of GPS and location-based insights, utility companies can streamline field reporting, enhance emergency response, and drive overall operational excellence.

Now, it’s time to take action and explore how 1st Reporting can revolutionize your utility company’s field operations. 

With features like GPS-enabled reporting, offline capability, custom form building, and dynamic linking, 1st Reporting offers a comprehensive solution tailored to the unique needs of utility teams.

Don’t settle for outdated reporting methods or inefficient workflows. Embrace the future of utility management with 1st Reporting and unlock the full potential of your field operations. Get started today and experience the difference firsthand.

Article Sources

  1. Bucy, Michael, Adrian Finlayson, Greg Kelly, and Chris Moye. 2016. “The ‘How’ of Transformation.” McKinsey & Company. McKinsey & Company. May 9, 2016.
  2. “Electricity Monthly Update – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).” 2024. 2024.
  3. “Why Data Driven Companies Outperform Companies That Only Focus on Becoming Digital” 2024. 2024.

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