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February 08, 2010
Accela’s Mobile Office Drives GIS in the Field
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by GISCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

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Industry News

Accela's Mobile Office Drives GIS in the Field

By Susan Smith

At the beginning of February Accela announced its Accela Automation 7.0, the newest version of its flagship enterprise application. Brian Wienke, product manager, said the new release's innovations in data management, geospatial mapping, and mobile technology are designed to boost the ability of governments to streamline critical tasks - such as permitting; licensing; code enforcement; community planning and development; asset management; and emergency response - at the same time offering greater self-service capability for citizens via the Web. The company also announced its Accela Mobile Office solution for tablet PCs, which embodies some of the same ease-of-use functionality.

Piggybacking on the trends in government to do more with less and improve transparency of data, Accela Automation 7.0 offers more user control, so that users can limit the access of a map service so that other agencies can see only certain land use layers, for example. The Accela administrator can turn off the layer so others can't see it. On the other hand, the product brings traditional counter services directly to the public.

The democratization of geospatial data is a primary concern with Accela, i.e., how people are accessing Google Maps on cellphones, and want more information than they have had before. Allowing the public to add data to maps is another aspect that is pushing maps forward.

“We want to do give the user as much information as they need,” said Wienke. “You have the mashup, the aerial imagery from Bing Maps, or the Street data from Bing Maps or ESRI and from ArcGIS servers as well, so the county can publish one map service for land use and parcel data. The public works department can have their own ArcGIS server with all their infrastructure data - their streets, lights, signs. You can have various other things displayed on the maps, such as code enforcement cases, work orders, etc. all stuffed into one map viewer.

The drag-and-drop feature is one of the primary usability features of this release. With it the user can select a property next door to a particular parcel, and once the selection tool is hit, it will tell the user what layers he or she has to choose from. The user can select the parcel, hover over it, and drag the parcel over to the map marker. It will ask if he wants to associate the select feature to this permit. If the user is out in the field working on assets, he can select the property on the map and drag it over to the order and drop it in to add to the work order. Mashups and data come from many different sources.

Accela Mobile Office

Accela Mobile Office is a wireless, tablet-based application has been long awaited by those who work in the field doing field inspections for work order management, case management investigations and others. It is fourth generation in the company's line of wireless applications.

GIS is infused into the Accela Mobile Office experience.  This screen shows the touch-enabled interface for field-based workers to manage their daily tasks, including a route on Bing Maps.

The product is designed for the tablet PC as it is the device of choice for most of Accela's mobile users. They are using not only Accela applications but also Microsoft Word and Accel “The folks that make use of this product are probably the biggest challenge to technology - the people working in the field,” said Wienke, referring to the maintenance level worker. The touch screen technology is the equivalent of Silverlight, in this case the client-side version of WPF. Those are compatible functionalities. If anyone wonders who the new Apple iPad is designed for, this is definitely one of its market segments.

Wienke said Accela offers “mapping across the enterprise.” The customer comes to the front counter, and the counter personnel can use the map to do research and analysis and create a new permit or inspection, right from the map. This is all done through a browser through Silverlight. With the same Silverlight control, Accela dropped it into the Windows WPF application called Mobile Office. With the thumbnail map in Office, a user in the field with a GPS device on their computer, could identify the location of the user and other points of interest.

Accela Mobile Office delivers real-time access to maps, work assignments, and historical data. This screen shows search results for water pumps in a specific district.

The GPS can be used via the full map viewer to locate where the user is on the street. The user can make selections of parcels already highlighted, and make a new record, permit, case, etc. The user can also add it to the route, with map control at his fingertips and using a touch screen device.

“The big change between our previous version of Accela Wireless and our new Accela Mobile Office, is more than just renaming and making it look good,” said Wienke. “We want users to map everywhere and we want it to be more role driven as well as we want to be able to show your tasks on the map.”

Job lists include various inspections. The user can go back to the server and do routing automatically. By clicking on the job list, the user is directed to the job list, showing al the jobs that are assigned to that person and where they are located and perform the routing. This routing could be the same one the supervisor or dispatcher set up in the back office, and it comes out to the mobile product and downloads it. Users can also reschedule, reassign and otherwise amend the routing just by dragging and dropping the event to the right time.

If a user sees that another hydrant down the street, for example, has the same problem as the one he's looking at, he can drag and drop that hydrant to the work order he is currently working on and record it.

Bandwidth comes up as a topic repeatedly in discussions of mobile display capability as mobile products are bandwidth dependent. In Accela Mobile Office, Wienke said the WPF handles the display of maps very efficiently. Most customers use air cards.

“Is this map going to render as quickly as it would over the internet in the office? Probably not, but I think because it is so context centric and it gives you just what you need, there's not a lot of panning and zooming that you have to do, the map it presents is the map you need,” Wienke said. “It takes 20 seconds to display that and it only has to do that one time.”

Mobile Office is not internet dependent yet users can use the internet if they're in the right location. While connected to the internet, users can get ArcGIS Server Map Services published through their ArcGIS Server in the office. “We do have the option for users to use maps in the field if they're disconnected because Mobile Office has to work whether you're on or offline, it's not a browser based app,” Wienke explained. “They can go out into the field, if they don't have aircards or wireless connectivity, if they tell us they need mapping in the field without internet connection we have an option for that, we have an app for that. We have ArcGIS Engine ability
and what that does is you can download Map packages so the Accela GIS administrator will set up Map packages on the server. All the field worker needs to do is go to the settings page and go to the GIS section. They only have to hit this button for office use, they can get an email or an instant message that shows up in their Mobile Office product that says a new map package is available - download now. They download what they need, so if they lose connection or choose to be offline, they can use ArcGIS Engine and have that same mapping experience with Bing Maps, offline.”

Wienke predicted that while people have other options, they're going to stay on their map for the most part, and they'll use that to manage their work, which is all occurring via GIS. It is a big paradigm shift for government agencies in particular to be able to leverage the extent of their own GIS services and use it to drive their business.

Being able to see relevant maps on a touchscreen is motivating to users and lets them see their work wherever they are.

In summary, Accela Mobile Office streamlines additional daily tasks by allowing mobile government workers to:

  • create new inspections, investigations, or code enforcement cases;
  • cancel, reschedule, or reassign field appointments;
  • sign off on jobs and submit results back to the agency in real-time;
  • review record summaries;
  • draw and attach sketches to cases and inspections;
  • and create and print reports in the field.

  • Managing government agencies and departments

    A recent customer example of the use of Accela GIS is the city of McAllen, TX which hosted their own GIS Day in November, to demonstrate to citizens its new GIS approach to managing city government departments.

    The city has gone from a paper-based system where permitting fees were not collected correctly to a full GIS with Accela GIS and Accela Wireless with ESRI ArcGIS Server Mobile ADF. The implementation is not limited to just one department however, as health, code enforcement, public works, building, utilities and water all use the GIS. Currently eight departments utilize the GIS, and lead programmer analyst Jose Pena said that many more are interested in coming on board.

    Top News of the Week

    Topcon Positioning Systems (TPS) introduces 'next-generation' field controller technology with its new FC-250. The FC-250 is designed to give users increased power and performance in a rugged and compact unit.

    The FC-250 has the operating system power of the latest Windows Mobile® Version 6.5. The PC performance with 806MHz processor and 256MB SDRAM is designed to significantly speed up data collection in the field. The FC-250 also has a built-in Bluetooth® modem and wireless LAN capability as standard features.

    Aero-Metric, a major provider of professional geospatial services with locations across the United States, has acquired its third Intergraph Z/I Imaging Digital Mapping Camera (DMC) to expand its high-quality, aerial imaging capabilities. The deal marks the 100th Intergraph large-format DMC to be put into operation and in flight by customers around the globe.

    Acquisitions, Agreements, Alliances

    Trimble announced it has acquired the assets of privately-held Pondera Engineers LLC based in Post Falls, Idaho. Pondera is an engineering and development company offering services and software tools for siting, designing, optimizing, and maintaining high-voltage power transmission and distribution lines. The acquisition is part of Trimble's strategic initiative to bring productivity solutions to the electric utilities industry. Financial terms were not disclosed.

    Intermap Technologies announced a collaboration with Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., a leading provider of innovative driver assistance systems, regarding a predictive front lighting system based on Intermap's reliable 3D road geometries.

    The partnership integrates Intermap's high-resolution 3D road geometries, and information supplied by camera systems in an automobile, into Hella's front lighting demonstration system - ultimately providing a significant increase in visibility for drivers at night and during inclement weather by automatically directing the headlamp before the driver manually steers the vehicle into a bend or up and down a slope.


    Dr. John P. Holdren, President Barack Obama's science and technology advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will give the Keynote Address at the ESRI Federal User Conference (FedUC) on February 17, 2010, in Washington, D.C. He will address an audience of government leaders and geographic information system (GIS) professionals from all levels of government.


    ITT Corporation reported 2009 fourth-quarter revenue of $2.9 billion and income from continuing operations of $196 million, or $1.06 per share. Excluding special items, income from continuing operations for the quarter was $178 million, or $0.97 per share, representing 18 percent year-over-year growth, as productivity benefits and lower restructuring costs more than offset lower volumes.

    Trimble announced revenue of $277.5 million for its fourth quarter ended January 1, 2010, up approximately 4 percent from revenue of $268.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. Operating income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $12.7 million, up approximately 21 percent as compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. Operating margin in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 4.6 percent, as compared to an operating margin of 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.


    1Spatial is pleased to announce a change in the senior management team structure. Dr Michael Sanderson, the former Chief Executive, is now the Executive Chairman and Nic Snape has taken over the day-to-day running of the 1Spatial Group as Chief Executive.

    PCI Geomatics has announced the appointment of Anne Skinner to the position of Global Channel Manager. Anne will be responsible for the on-going development of PCI's international presence by managing the global reseller channel. She is joined by Steven Corr, newly appointed Global Channel Sales Representative.

    New Products

    Adapx announced the availability of Capturx Mobile, enabling mobile workers to instantly send and share data collected on paper using Capturx digital pens with Bluetooth-enabled BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices. Central teams can now get immediate access to field data without requiring workers to bring mobile computers, applications, or source files into the field. Mobile workers simply collect data on standard paper forms, notebooks, or maps and then Capturx instantly sends and automatically integrates handwritten data into Microsoft Office, SharePoint, or ArcGIS.

    Integrity Logic announced the release of Geograph VA, the latest version of the popular GIS (Geographic Information System) for the iPhone/iPod platform, covering the commonwealth of Virginia. This release features over 45 layers of geographic data which can be combined and merged.

    Gone Out - Later Folks is a location aware safety notification application for kids, teens and young adults. The application utilizes the GPS, Google maps, calendar and camera features of the iPhone. Gone Out enables the user to record where they are going, when they are leaving and returning, who they are going with, how they are getting to where they are going and what they are taking with them.

    The application provides the user with the option of sending an email containing their plans and location details, to their parents, guardian, other family members or friends. Gone Out also enables the user to post a message on their Facebook wall or on Twitter, detailing their plans for the day. Going Out just got safer for young people.

    SuperGeo Technologies announced that SuperGIS Desktop and SuperPad, its powerful Desktop GIS and full-function Mobile GIS software respectively, are going to support the extension for SuperGIS Image Server, its enterprise server software.

    SuperGIS Image Server, the large Image enterprise server software, is capable of managing images, on-the-fly image processing, and distributing large quantities of images. SuperGIS Image Server also enables users to obtain the data within the search area from the quantities of images on the server side.

    New functionality continues the focus on full integration of image analysis and geospatial production capabilities in one intuitive product, which makes it possible to accomplish multiple tasks quickly and efficiently. The new release offers high-definition video analysis, real-time visualization, terrain profiling, and hyperspectral and multispectral (HSI and MSI) image processing.

    New video analysis capabilities for SOCET GXP v3.1 give analysts a convenient way to work with video and transmit critical data and reports to decision-makers. The Video Analysis tool reads and displays live video feeds or saved video files from airborne sensors. It is geospatially enabled to provide a highly accurate resource for analyzing video and uses the real-world geographic information embedded in many UAS and UAV streams, such as country, region, city, postal code, latitude, longitude and time zone, to provide up-to-date intelligence data. The Video Analysis tool is integrated with Google Earth™ to provide sensor position, field of view, and situational
    awareness for video footprints.

    Skape, a new 3D city mapping service designed for architects, planners, local authorities and surveyors, was launched. Created and developed by Infoterra, a leading provider of geographic information products and services, Skape enables users to manipulate urban landscapes online by combining high resolution 3D textured city models with 2D mapping and terrain data - a technological first.

    E-SPONDER, a leader in incident management software, unveiled a new daily crime fighting application at the Microsoft Worldwide Public Safety Symposium. Working in conjunction with the Tampa Police Department, E-SPONDER leveraged their acclaimed incident management software to deliver a day-to-day solution that tracks and visualizes criminal activity, streamlines information sharing between personnel and reduces time spent manually researching crime trends.

    GeoVector Corporation, inventor and developer of mobile technology linking digital information with real-world places, has announced the availability of GeoVector World Surfer 2.0 for the iPhone. World Surfer 2 provides ease of use feature enhancements to GeoVector's popular directional search and pointing application.

    Rolta UK announce the release of a free Loader for OS VectorMap Local. Version 1 of this software which is released simply and quickly translates and loads OS VectorMap Local GML (Geography Markup Language) formatted data into ESRI SHP format. This software is available to download from the Rolta Europe Website at
    www.rolta-europe.com A second version of this software which translates OS VectorMap Local data into MapInfo TAB format will follow shortly.

    WeoGeo now supports vector files along with raster datasets. You can customize them just like you can the raster ones by clipping and transforming into new projections and file formats.

    Around the Web

    GISCafe Today Blog

    Google Puts New Focus on Outside Research by Steve Lohr, Feb. 1, 2010, The New York Times (registration required)

    With Apple Tablet, Print Media Hope for a Payday Brad Stone and Stephanie Clifford, January 24, 2010, The New York Times (registration required)

    With a click, Mass. team aiding Haiti by Hiawatha Bray, Jan. 24, 2010, Boston.com

    2010 census forms to be mailed soon New form shortest and simplest in Census history. January 10, 2010 By Gabriel Khouli, CovNews.com

    Out of Africa all the way to Seaside (PHOTOS) Deborah Wheeler, January 9, 2010, The Walton Sun



    Date: February 8 - 10, 2010
    Place: The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center

    The Woodlands, Houston, TX USA

    SPAR 2010 is all about the business and technology of capturing, managing and integrating 3D information. We search the world for the smartest, most experienced people we can find to exchange information and share their fresh ideas, new technologies, and inspired work processes with our conference attendees.
    Date: February 15 - 18, 2010
    Place: Barcelona, Spain

    Welcome to the The 3GSMA Mobile World Congress is the world’s leading mobile communications conference, Fira and exhibition. Held annually since 1994, the event has attracted over 70,000 visitors from 175 countries, more than 1500 exhibitors and 2000 media and press representatives. The 3GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona promises to continue its dominance of the industry calendar as a crucial week of networking and learning.
    Date: February 17 - 19, 2010
    Place: Washington, DC USA

    Professionals across government organizations are invited to the ESRI FedUC, the ultimate resource for making better decisions using the geographic approach.
    Date: February 21 - 24, 2010
    Place: JW Marriott

    Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    After having researched with our past attendees and over 116 professionals, IIR Middle East have developed this year’s pan-industry programme:
    GIS WORLD 2010 will address burning issues that are relevant and current to GIS practitioners world wide: lack of geospatial understanding, challenges with executive buy-in, data sharing policies, lack of funding, data maintenance and emergency management.

    Date: February 22 - 24, 2010
    Place: Houston, TX USA

    Oil and gas professionals will take away ideas and tools useful immediately. See how to widen the scope of your GIS investment.
    Date: February 22 - 25, 2010
    Place: ESRI

    Redlands, CA USA

    Join us for Redlands GIS Week, an annual series of events bringing together thought leaders from academia, government, and industry to advance the science and application of geospatial technologies. Events will feature keynote presentations, lightning talks, and workshops, as well as opportunities for informal brainstorming with leading geospatial thinkers and implementers.
    Date: February 24 - 25, 2010
    Place: The Grosvenor

    London, United Kingdom

    AIE2010 is designed to find a solution to the increasing military imagery exploitation and dissemination challenges. The agenda is tailored by international armed forces to help industry understand how technology needs to blend with current and future operational requirements.
    Date: March 3 - 5, 2010
    Place: Hyatt Regency

    Denver , USA

    ILMF 2010 will be held from March 3 – 5, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency in Denver at Colorado Convention Center. The tenth in the series that has long established itself as the premier LiDAR event attracting professionals from around the world with one focused objective of sharing information on LiDAR technology and services.
    Date: March 3 - 5, 2010
    Place: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

    WA USA

    USGIF, NOAA and the Department of Commerce have partnered to bring international business and government leaders together to explore the current issues facing this important community.

    The 2010 International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) will bring attendees two and a half days of discussions on the issues affecting the international commercial remote sensing community such as perspectives from the user community; industry providers and capabilities; and export control, licensing and policy concerns.
    Date: March 9, 2010
    Place: USA

    Reliance on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is expanding into industries such as natural resource management, environmental planning, homeland security, defense and intelligence, marketing, telecommunications, economic development, transportation, law enforcement, and public health and other health care industries.

    Join us at our online information session to learn more about how you can earn a certificate in Geographic Information Systems completely online. During the info session you will get to learn more about the certificate and ask questions.

    Please RSVP online here:

    Time: 7:00p.m. - 9:00p.m. EST

    You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.