Editor's note: They power our homes and supply clean water - utility companies fulfill our most basic needs. This week we're showcasing the Utilities Industry and the ways they’re relying on Google Maps for Business to improve operations and keep the lights on. Today's guest blogger is Pascale Bernal, CIO of Gaz réseau Distribution France (GrDF). 

The GrDF natural gas pipeline is 194,600 kilometers (120,900 miles) long. In other words, it’s almost five times longer than the circumference of the earth. Google Maps for Business has made it possible for us at GrDF to manage every detail of that network and build on top of it.

In less than six months, we used Google Maps for Business, including Google Maps Engine and Google Earth, to import and organize more than 18 million data points about our pipeline. Google’s map solutions helped us create Gazm@ps Raccordabilité, an online platform that better serves our customers, technicians and partners.

Gazm@ps helps us run more efficiently by providing our sales, marketing and technical teams with continuously updated views of streets and municipalities served by GrDF. Each day, more than 1,000 employees access customer locations, geographic coordinates, Google Maps Street View, and municipality information through the familiar Google Maps interface. Our natural gas technicians use Google Earth’s 3D maps in Gazm@ps to plan installation and service work before they go out into the field. We also use Google Maps for Business to combine our geographic information system and customer relationship management systems inside Gazm@ps. With one click our salespeople can instantly see anything they need to know about a potential customer’s property, including location, coordinates and Street View. This costs 60 percent less than our previous customer relationship management system.

Prospective customers use Gazm@ps when they visit our customer website and enter their address to instantly find out if they are eligible for GrDF service. Each eligible customer is connected with a salesperson who can access relevant information, including a Street View of the service location and details about the municipality they live in. Since we launched Gazm@ps in July 2012, our user base has grown by 30 percent per quarter and the site now accounts for 10 percent of GrDF’s overall site traffic.

We’re also using Google Maps for Business to create Gazm@ps System, an external site that will help heating and plumbing service providers, home builders and local authorities access our mapping data. Using Google Maps to share this information is much easier than the expansive spreadsheets we used before. We’re also developing Gazm@ps Zio, a tool for infrastructure operators that verifies mapping data the partners send to the government for its national database of power distribution, sewerage and telecommunications systems in France.

We serve more than three-quarters of the French population while managing vast amounts of infrastructure, so having accurate, easily accessible data about our pipelines and our customers is essential. While we connect all the pipes underground, we use Google Maps for Business to help us better connect with our new and old customers above the ground.