ArcGIS Mobile is an area that generates endless attention. And it’s little wonder. ArcGIS Mobile extends GIS beyond the office and provides an accurate, reliable, common operating picture for field staff.
Following the recent Queensland floods and Tropical Cyclone Yasi, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service leveraged ArcGIS Mobile to convey important information from cyclone and flood ravaged areas back to their headquarters at the Department of Community Safety. ArcGIS Mobile enabled people who were working in the field to rapidly convey critical data back to headquarters to support emergency relief. We spoke to Mark Wallace, the GIS Manager at the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, Department of Community Safety about his recent experiences with ArcGIS Mobile.
EA: How have you used ArcGIS Mobile in the field?
MW: The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) has been utilising ArcGIS Mobile for near real time intelligence gathering and sharing during disaster events and incidents since late 2008. ArcGIS Mobile has been mainly used by the QFRS Air Operation Unit but we are currently in the process of moving our Rapid Damage Assessment (RDA) capability onto ArcGIS Mobile. The RDA capability is part of the work that is carried out by the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams that have been recently deployed to all parts of Queensland and to Christchurch, New Zealand. As part of the move of the RDA onto the ArcGIS Mobile technology, we will be aligning our workflows, business processes and reporting activities with the Air Operations capability.
EA: Do you have a practical example where ArcGIS Mobile has assisted in the field?
MW: Immediately after Tropical Cyclone Yasi, the Air Operations unit was utilising their implementation of ArcGIS Mobile to carryout the initial intelligence gathering exercise that became the basis for the first wave of response by emergency crews in affected areas. As information was streaming back to the State Operations Coordination Centre (SOCC) in real time, everyone from the Minister and senior executives like the Director General and the QFRS Commissioner through to operational staff out in the field were monitoring the information through the Department of Community Safety’s web based mapping system.
EA: What have you found to be the benefits of using ArcGIS Mobile in the field?
MW: The ability to seamlessly and reliably synchronise with ArcGIS server over low bandwidth connections or connections that regularly disappear. E.g. flying or driving and out of 3G coverage areas.
EA: What else would you like to learn in this area?
MW: I would like to learn more about how to ensure ArcGIS Mobile remains stable, as this affects the confidence by users in the systems that utilise ArcGIS Mobile. The more confidence a user has in the system, the more ownership they take in the system which leads to improved performance . Improved workflow management is another area of interest.
EA: Do you see the value in undertaking any training on mobile in the future?
MW: Yes, we have a lead technical staff member registered for a course at the moment.
EA: Would you recommend ArcGIS Mobile?
EA: Just finally Mark, you were a presenter at last year’s Ozri – tell us about your presentation?
MW: I presented on Aerial – Total Operational Mapping (A-TOM), a solution developed by the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service’s GIS Unit in response to a business need of the Air Operations Unit. They needed us to provide them with a near real time view of fire intelligence gathering and sharing for use during an incident to support strategic and tactical decision making. Based on Esri’s ArcGIS Server Mobile technology, it is a simple, easy-to-use information gathering and mapping tool that works with or without network connectivity.
Information collected by Air Observers located in either fixed wing or rotary aircraft are able to share the information in near real-time with incident control centres. The solution, while dependant on low bandwidth network connectivity to share information, doesn’t fail when connectivity is lost. This is achieved through caching of information and a syncing process to update a central spatial database used for information dissemination. The solution is designed around the use of touch screen based hardware platforms such as the Panasonic Toughbook and has involved the end user at all stages of development and testing. This has led to a successful end solution for the Air Operations Unit and a high level of interest in the solution from both internal and external groups and agencies.
EA: Thanks Mark, well done on a truly great system!
PS – watch a video of Queensland Fire and Rescue Service leveraging ArcGIS Mobile here.