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Optioneer Release Notes
Optioneer Update: Summer 2023 ☀️
Optioneer Update: Summer 2023 ☀️
Adam Anyszewski avatar
Written by Adam Anyszewski
Updated over a week ago

We’ve been purposely quiet on the “new feature” front.

But after months of burning the midnight oil and listening to our user's feedback, we have now unleashed a system that we hope will knock your socks off! From the heart of the engine to our most popular functionalities, this upgraded version of the software is set to transform the way you plan, design and communicate about your projects.

So what is new? And what has received a little makeover?

Undertake a more robust and in-depth analysis

Trade-off analysis with multi-objective optimisation (a first in the world of routing models!)

🏆 Why this is a game-changer:

- it suggests solutions that are the optimal trade-offs between costs and impacts of a new development

- it doesn’t require to ‘translate impact to cost’ - both are considered simultaneously, removing bias

- it allows you to explore a wider range of solutions, with multiple opportunity corridors, instead of a ‘preferred option with alternatives’

- it helps you to clearly tell a story of how trade-offs were considered and how a shortlisted solution was developed

At the heart of Optioneer is what we call the Evaluator, our model for generating scenarios and options. After months of work, we have developed a system that offers a much more in-depth and complete functionality than its previous version.

Let’s start with the theory:

The planning process for infrastructure is fundamentally built around the analysis of trade-offs and alternatives between conflicting views (what is the least costly alternative? What is the most environment-friendly option? Which one has the most negligible impact on communities?).

Each of the contrasting views can be represented as an objective within Optioneer and optimised simultaneously.

These objectives are:

  • Impact - a way to model impacts on the environment, communities and risks associated with planning.

  • Cost - based on CAPEX / TOTEX models for specific infrastructure

  • Following existing corridors - staying close to an existing network or existing rights-of-way

Objectives can all be considered at the same time, or selected individually to suit the project requirements.

Above: The graphs on the right identify which options have a low impact on a given consideration and which options have a high impact - each point on the graph represents a distinctive route option. We can see which options have the lowest impact in areas of interest.

Above: Routes perform differently from the perspective of cost, impact on the environment and impact on communities. Each of these routes can be represented as a dot on a graph that shows their cost and magnitude of impact.

Above: From left to right, we see all possible options to connect various locations. Obviously, options that are ‘bad on all accounts’ are removed, leaving the choice of options demonstrating valid trade-offs. In these groups, clusters of options highlighting the opportunity to minimise cost or impacts (penalty) can be identified (in light blue). There is also a set of options that are the best trade-offs and they are located on the dashed red line.

What does Optioneer do with all this?

There are three types of outputs that support tradeoff analysis in Optioneer. You might already be familiar with heatmaps and options. We are now introducing “Opportunity maps”!

This addition allows you to visualise route corridors that are optimised for cost, or environmental impact, or impact on communities, or overall consentability/ease of permit.

In summary, Optioneer can develop various options that highlight key tradeoff criteria and the various outputs from the software are different representations of the same underlying data.

What else does Evaluator 2.0 bring to the table?

With this makeover, you are now able to:

  • combine overhead/underground lines

  • configure detailed cost and impact models

  • follow existing corridors, rights of way and easements

  • optimise the placement and number of towers

  • define multiple assets to optimise the cost, for example (non-exhaustive list):

    • specify which sections of an overhead route should be trenched and/or trenchless

    • specify underground-only solutions with detailed technical parameters and selection of crossing techniques

    • perform HVAC vs. HVDC trade-off for offshore cables

    • obtain a list of angle, suspension and terminal towers

See your project’s constraints at a glance

🏆 Why this is a game-changer: it is now possible to make routing and siting decisions without the project team having to deep-dive into every single constraint in the area.

Representing all constraints on a single map can be challenging. Automatically generated resistance maps bring together all constraints and represent how much influence they have on route selection.

Resistance maps provide an overview of constraints from:

  • Technical and risk perspective

  • Impact on communities/consent

  • Environmental impact

Ultimately, resistance maps give you a better intuitive understanding of what corridors/routes will perform best and help increase the transparency and clarity of routing decisions.

Understand your project’s visual impact early on

🏆 Why it is a game-changer: you now have the ability to identify potential public concerns early on, empowering the project team to strategically mitigate impacts during the initial phases of the project.

Optioneer is now able to objectively assess the visual impact of your project and provide metrics against this.

With this viewshed analysis, you have the ability to identify potential public concerns, empowering the project team to strategically mitigate impacts during the initial phases of the project. Armed with this foresight, you can proactively address these concerns, ensuring a smoother and more successful project execution while fostering positive relationships with stakeholders.

Demonstrate evidence behind every decision made

Use comments and links for audit trail

🏆 Why this is a game-changer: As the different teams go through the project space, they will enrich the constraints with additional data and context. Over time, you and your team will build a full picture of the project space, giving you and your stakeholders better insights into how decisions were made from day one.

With our enhanced comment functionality, you can now capture vital information from surveys, walkovers, public consultations, and stakeholder engagement events, including detailed meeting notes, into Optioneer. Critical files are now efficiently linked to geospatial features, enhancing the overall information structure and making it more tailored to the project's needs.

You can link comments and files directly to points, lines, and polygons on the geospatial map. This capability enables project teams to provide specific feedback and attach relevant documents to particular features, making collaboration and information sharing more efficient and focused. Project teams can easily track which comments are linked to specific geospatial features and vice versa.

To better manage and prioritise the vast amount of feedback and information generated throughout the project, we have also implemented a categorisation system for comments. You can label comments based on risk level or attention required, allowing your team to focus on critical issues and efficiently allocate resources.

Furthermore, the system allows you to track and document versions and changes within the project, creating a comprehensive audit trail of decisions made throughout the project's lifecycle.

Create a live narrative and storyboard with saved views

🏆 Why this is a game-changer: By replacing slide decks that are often scattered in data silos, this feature saves valuable time and administrative effort while facilitating more meaningful interactions with stakeholders.

Optioneer users are now able to save customised views of their project space.

With this functionality, you can save your progress and configurations and easily return to where you left off, allowing you to streamline your workflow.

Users can pre-configure map styling with defining elements such as visibility, colour schemes, map position, angle, active options and base map selection. In the future, we plan to integrate metrics into this feature as well. These saved views can be searched, edited, shared, overwritten, and used as a basis for new views, enhancing consistency across the project.

You can then use these saved views to prepare a clear story for external stakeholders during public consultations. This functionality gives you the ability to address questions live during public consultation sessions and facilitates real-time feedback.

Compared to slides and screenshots that are static and frozen in time, this live presentation of your project scenarios and options ensures that stakeholders are always presented with the latest and most accurate information, further enhancing transparency and trust.

The fly-through capability along the line also offers a dynamic way to explore and present geospatial data.

Streamline the tracking of datasets used to make decisions

One of the key improvements here is the ability to easily edit, copy, and modify layer properties. This means that users can customise their data layers to suit their specific needs, making the data visualisation more intuitive and relevant.

This improved data management system also:

  • Allows to show everything on the map on the basis of custom properties but also augmented properties (with the help of your Customer Success Representative) so that you can see the severity of constraints

  • Allows to use these properties to pre-fill Optioneer’s fields

  • Allows to group datasets into routing-relevant groups to see various versions of the data

  • Allows to add hand-drawn or uploaded survey features to the analysis

In turn, the streamlined tracking of datasets used to make decisions facilitates retrospective audits.

Prepare for permitting and legal requirements

Analyse your project’s biodiversity impact early on

🏆 Why this is a game-changer: biodiversity impact compensation is expensive and will be legally mandated in England and Wales starting in November 2023. Considering biodiversity early is key to reducing the impact and therefore long-term compensation costs or cost of credits that have to be bought from the government if biodiversity gain cannot be achieved on or off-site.

Optioneer now has the functionality to automatically calculate baseline biodiversity units for hundreds of potential route options. The software combines industry-standard datasets, official calculation frameworks and cutting-edge AI to analyse and suggest routes that highlight biodiversity value from the outset.

Optioneer includes biodiversity impacts earlier in route development to unlock the following benefits for both infrastructure developers and the environments in which they work:

  • Minimising impact on biodiversity while balancing with other routing pressures

  • Improved route selection decisions in the long term

  • Time-saving without compromising quality

  • More robust evidence towards eventual planning application and EIA

  • Minimised biodiversity loss and therefore minimised costs of compensatory measures

Our unique methodology can be configured so that areas with the highest biodiversity are weighted appropriately against other factors and avoided where practicable.

Complete automated reporting and analysis

Understand the impact of multiple projects in network development scenarios

🏆 Why this is a game-changer: It enables users to group individual options into scenarios, wherein one option can belong to multiple scenarios. This grouping capability is especially valuable for network development, allowing for a comprehensive comparison of various scenarios and entire portfolios of development that may otherwise appear disconnected.

The system offers automatic aggregation of metrics for scenarios with multiple individual developments. This automation streamlines the process, saving time and effort while ensuring accurate and reliable results. Moreover, the system eliminates the need for manual calculations on Excel, making it much more efficient and user-friendly in modelling networks and analysing strategic options.

Configure custom report metrics to match your organisation’s requirements

🏆 Why this is a game-changer: This is a completely automated reporting system within Optioneer based on your project and organisation’s key requirements.

This functionality allows you to compare up to 25 metrics of your routes in one table and group these metrics by impact type. It is designed as Red-Amber-Green (RAG) table exports that suit your company’s reporting requirements.

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