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2007 Accomplishments
2008 Accomplishments
Water Quality Workflow Modernization
Automating Field Data Collection Workflow for the Water Quality Group

In North Carolina, part of the responsibility of a County’s Public Health Department (PHD) is the inspection and permitting of water supply wells and septic systems. The Environmental Health Division (EHD) of the PHD includes groups that are involved in the inspection of these items. These groups, known as the Water Quality Service Group and the Onsite Waste Water Service Group (collectively known as “Water Quality”), have relied on manual methods of field data collection for many decades and as a result have thousands of paper-based files containing site information.
As part of the installation of a multi-departmental permitting system, the Water Quality (WQ) Groups desired a method to modernize their field data collection efforts. They felt that their current methods, which relied on paper-based forms, was not allowing for the effective and efficient collection and storage of data. The initial response to this problem was to purchase Trimble GeoXT® GPS devices and instruct their personnel on their use. The initial implementation of these devices had limited success due to a multitude of reasons, but because of the magnitude of the investment made in the data collection units and the promise they held, Water Quality and the lead support group, the GIS Department, regrouped and discussed using a different approach.
Some of the problems identified with the initial implementation attempt included a reliance on “out-of-the-box” solutions and the overly manual processes needed to collect and process field data. These processes were both cumbersome and time consuming and forced the WQ group to learn more technology than they had time to absorb. The remedy would be to develop a workflow that would allow the GPS data collection process to be as automated and streamlined as possible, and directly integrated into the County’s centralized enterprise GIS.
Soil Evaluation and Well Site GPS Data Collection
Work on the new process began in late 2007. The GIS Department and the Water Quality Team met to reinvigorate the project and rededicate commitment to the common goal. The first step of this new approach was to take the time to assess the current situation and to commit the time needed to make sure every team member had the necessary knowledge and skills. During this step, GIS personnel worked in the field with WQ staff and the WQ staff attended ongoing GPS and GIS training classes.

While team members were mutually absorbing the basics of the technologies and the processes involved in this project, they were also working together on ways to use our existing tools and knowledge to design a new workflow. It was felt that we could use the tools available within our existing systems to help automate and shift the field data collection processes from the paper-based methodology to a digital methodology. Since the data would reside in a multi-user GIS environment, it would also be available to other departments and to the public.

A discussion of the tools and ideas used to implement this process are in the sections below. It is worth noting that Guilford County consolidated on the ESRI platform in June of 2007, until that time three GIS platforms; ESRI, GenaMap and MapInfo were in active use by the County. The project described in this document was our first attempt at developing an integrated solution on the consolidated platform without assistance from outside consultants.

Mobile Device and Data Management
Moving data on and off the mobile GPS units was one of the most problematic processes to resolve in the initial implementation. A WQ technical leader was expected to manage data on and off multiple (up to 9 in each group) GPS units. This process would take several hours to complete and they simply did not have the time. With this in mind, the proposed GPS post-processing routines would need to operate at least semi-automatically and would need to minimize the effort and time needed to move data on and off the GPS units.

To solve this portion of the problem we implemented a mobile device management application called MobiControl® from SOTI Software (this was the only new investment and was less than $1,000 for the necessary licenses). This product allowed for direct connectivity to the GPS units over the County network. Using the tools within MobiControl, we were able to create software policies that would allow for the synchronization of files between the GPS devices and a centralized server. This tool played an important role in moving the field data from the GPS units to a stable area on a server for GPS post-processing. Post-processing GPS data is critical in this implementation as it provides the required level of positional accuracy needed to obtain sub-meter coordinates.

ESRI ArcPad® and ArcPad Application Builder®
The ESRI products ArcPad and ArcPad Application Builder are the software tools used for the GPS field unit. This helped to increase data entry productivity in the field and improved overall data integrity.

ESRI ArcSDE® and ArcIMS®
The final repository for the field data is the Countywide, ArcSDE–Oracle database. From this stable location, the data is accessible by all Guilford County GIS users and the public through the ArcIMS based GIS Data Viewer application.

ESRI ArcGIS Desktop®
Another component of moving and processing the GPS data through the workflow is ArcGIS Desktop. This application provides the conduit through which data flows to and from the GPS units (remember that MobiControl provides for connectivity). The ArcGIS Desktop, along with the Model Builder, the Trimble GPS Analyst® and custom VBA code for report generation all contribute to the data movement, consolidation, GPS post-processing.

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