November 29, 2004
GIS Expo in Albuquerque - Focus on Mobile GIS
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Last Friday's GIS Expo held in Albuquerque drew a full house for the main sessions which included a discussion of the "Elements of the Geodatabase" by ESRI, a presentation by Sally Baxter on Mobile GIS and desert dumping, and an ESRI presentation on integrating field and office with mobile GIS. The afternoon session focused on GIS analysis using ArcGIS 9, using GIS for work order management, and publishing your own GIS data.

From November 29 through December 1, I will be at Autodesk University in Las Vegas. Hope to see many of you there. In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

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Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

GIS Expo in Albuquerque - Focus on Mobile GIS

by Susan Smith

ArcPad is loaded with the county's parcel basemap, road centerlines, and jurisdictional boundaries so the officers can answer jurisdictional questions by displaying their location on the map.
Last Friday's GIS Expo held in Albuquerque drew a full house for the main sessions which included a discussion of the "Elements of the Geodatabase" by ESRI, a presentation by Sally Baxter on Mobile GIS and desert dumping, and an ESRI presentation on integrating field and office with mobile GIS. The afternoon session focused on GIS analysis using ArcGIS 9, using GIS for work order management, and publishing your own GIS data.

I heard some people say there were fewer exhibits at this expo than in previous years. I wasn't there for the opening, but arrived in time to hear Sally Baxter, GIS manager, Doña Ana County (D.A.C.), New Mexico give her talk "Mobile GIS helps Fight Desert Dumping."

The problem Baxter outlined is common to New Mexico. The dumping of solid waste in arroyos and surrounding areas near transfer stations is a disease that spreads through a beautiful, spare and variable countryside. The trash mutates from black plastic garbage bags that disintegrate in the hot baking sun, with high winds that blow the contents far and wide, leaving flags of black and white plastic fluttering from barbed wire fences and mesquite across the open range. Not to mention the bottles and cans that don't disintegrate and are left to get buried in the sand. The long uninterrupted stretches of desert and varied terrain make it hard to reconcile driving directions, sketched field maps
and aerial photography to GIS.

To combat this growing problem, the County used a mobile grant from ESRI and Trimble to fight desert dumping in Doña Ana County, a county of "a distorted rectangular shape" of over 3800 square miles, 180,000 residents, with four incorporated cities in the area, located in south central New Mexico. Of the 180,000 residents, half live in Las Cruces area, the other half along the Rio Grande. The land boasts mesas, mountains, orchards, communities, airports, museums, crops such as cotton, chile, pecans. "It's a very pretty part of the state," said Baxter. The first thing the County Environmental Services Department did was to hire code enforcement officers dedicated to environmental code
enforcement, and they were the first in the state to do so.

The Department was seeking innovative ways to improve what they do. Begun in the early '90s, the Doña Ana County GIS has matured to a system that contains over 100 unique datasets (with over 175 total, including historical data), is available in many departments, and is customized to facilitate County business.

In 2003, GIS Division staff set a goal for themselves to increase awareness and use of the system by showing coworkers that the system was designed for their use and convenience. The work done garnered them the Special Achievement in GIS Award at the 2004 ESRI User Conference. They were already prepared for what they were about to take on with the fight against desert dumping.

For six months, they used GIS to map locations of illegal dumpsites, determine property ownership, and locate potential responsible parties. The officers needed mobile GIS and used ArcInfo on a ruggedized tablet PC, and ArcGIS on a laptop or ArcPad on a handheld device.

This is what the grant consisted of:
  • Hardware --Trimble GeoXT
  • Software - ArcPad Application Builder
  • ArcPad loaded on the GeoXT
  • ArcPad Studio for in office form creation
  • Trimble GeoXT has submeter GPS rugged design with a TFT--outdoor color touch screen and integrated Bluetooth technology. Some Trimble products allow users to map to survey grade. The TFT outdoor color touch screen was useful because the brighter the sunlight is outside the easier it is to read the screen.

    Bluetooth allowed officers to talk back and forth and field GIS consisted of a handheld computer with GPS receiver (ArcPad). For field mapping they could take part of the desktop GIS they needed with them.

    ArcPad Studio allows custom form creation, drag and drop so that people in the field who are accustomed to writing on something have three screen forms that will walk officers through the type of data they already took. The quality of the forms can be checked, and you can pick 'investigate' or 'revisit.' The forms start off with site data, and then the next form is the materials page, where the officers asked for specific materials they encounter often -- white waste ( washing machines), garbage, trees, metal construction material, mattress, wood, car part. Also there is an input field where there are have control data input "radio buttons" with pick lists.

    GeoXT has an onscreen keyboard with a design that allows you to see what you type in.

    ArcPad allows the scheduling of follow up and activates calendar control. "The more you do in the field the less you have to do in the office," Baxter noted.

    With cursory knowledge of programming, ArcPad users can develop more advanced input forms in ArcPad, Activate or deactivate the GPS, and add site by GPS or by address. Data are uploaded to desktop GIS, and with the data in there, they can map incident locations, and analyze with respect to other data sets.


    The pilot project revealed higher incidences of illegal dumping near transfer stations. Most likely, Baxter said, people would pack up their trash in their truck, find out their transfer station was closed, and, not wanting to haul the trash home, they would dump it nearby.

    The County then took stock of what they needed to do: inform the public of hours of operation of the transfer stations, and determine ownership at the dumpsite using the parcel base.

    "We have a lot of government land in Doña Ana County where people dump trash- we can't make the government clean it up," said Baxter. "The project helped us think about where to build transfer stations and how to get the hours of operation information out to the people."

    What made the project a success? At first many at the county worried about whether it would work or not. It was up to the technology to prove itself, and it did. "As part of ground proposal, I promised to go around to other agencies and show them what we did, but when I got to them the officers (Jerry Ford and Richard Guerra) had already shown them."

    What did D.A.C. learn?
    • Mobile GIS leverages power of county's GIS for field use
    • Savings - vehicle and fuel expense
    • Increased productivity - faster field data collection, eliminate the need to re-enter data back at office
    • More accurate data - more accurate positional information, avoid transposition/typographical errors
    • Code enforcement officers are stakeholders in project
    • "Since we completed this in the spring, the county's hired two more code enforcement officers and budgeted to get them GeoXTs," Baxter reported.

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