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Optimizing Assets with Enterprise GIS and Innovative Apps

From trees to buildings and parking, Alberta Infrastructure’s GIS team is helping the organization track and manage its assets intelligently. Find out how.

Alberta Infrastructure is responsible for planning, building and managing government-owned infrastructure. This not only includes the physical building, but also the land the infrastructure sits on as well as the space and features associated with these facilities. Parking lots, trees and even cubicle spaces are manageable assets that require planning and management throughout their lifecycle.

Most organizations looking to improve their asset management have one top priority – consolidating legacy systems into one robust system that will bring better results – and help them make better decisions to extend asset life and optimize assets. With its powerful capabilities for integrating data, systems, people and processes, GIS is emerging as a leading technology for supporting organizations’ asset management strategies.

Alberta Infrastructure’s use of GIS to track its assets began in 2003, when land planners sought a more effective way to contextualize and visualize land sale and acquisition. Darren Oksanen, Alberta Infrastructure’s GIS supervisor, chose to use existing software to develop a web-based data viewer to provide just that.

Alberta Infrastructure GIS (AIGIS) rapidly grew from its humble beginnings and over the course of the next 12 years, it became a mainstay application as datasets were added to provide more users with more options. “As business groups saw what we had to offer, the requests to add more data kept rolling in,” says Oksanen. AIGIS linked the existing asset management systems by combining visual context to tables and reports.

“AIGIS caused a distinct drop-off in paper maps being produced as our clients found the dynamic and data aspects of a web map, a simple web map, to be more useful and informative in their day-to-day decision-making,” notes Oksanen.

Twelve years can take a toll on a system. Hardware and software support ends, features and capabilities stagnate, processes become outdated and file types become obsolete. By 2016, AIGIS was in desperate need of a facelift.

The GIS team at Alberta Infrastructure moved to modernize by implementing Esri’s ArcGIS technology as their enterprise GIS solution. Using Portal for ArcGIS, a component of ArcGIS Enterprise, they started serving data and solutions across the ministry more efficiently and effectively than AIGIS ever did as a data viewer. The team used Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS to develop focused applications, which addressed users’ needs with specific data and tools in a way like never before.

“Finding something in AIGIS used to be like drinking from a fire hose –  you had more data than you knew what to do with,” says Oksanen. “Our system needed to become user-focused and user-friendly.”

In the two years since the decision to replace AIGIS was made, Alberta Infrastructure has successfully implemented an enterprise GIS and reached out to internal business groups to see how GIS could serve them better in tracking and managing assets.

Alberta Government Centre Tree Inventory

One of the first projects Alberta Infrastructure’s new GIS supported was the Alberta Government Centre Tree Inventory.  The ministry wanted to create a complete and current tree inventory of the Alberta Legislature grounds. The gardening staff at the Legislature grounds not only wanted to know what trees they had and where, they also wanted to know the condition, maintenance required and ultimately the monetary value of the trees on site.  When they reached out to the Spatial Information Management team, the GIS staff knew what to do.

A database was created allowing the gardeners to input details such as species, type, size and condition.  Once the database was set up, a tablet with the Collector for ArcGIS application and a high-accuracy GPS was linked to it to provide tree locations and data input capabilities.

In the summer of 2017, the team finished collecting and aggregating data for more than 1,200 trees, followed by monetary valuation.

Using Collector for ArcGIS, the Alberta Government Centre Tree Inventory app manages more than 1,200 trees on Legislature grounds, valued at over $12 million.

The trees on Legislature grounds, previously untracked assets, were valued at over $12 million. Aside from their monetary value, gardening staff can now monitor and manage the health of these valuable assets more effectively than ever before. Currently, the gardeners are working with the GIS team to implement an easy workflow for tree inventory tracking and management using Survey123 for ArcGIS.

Paul Collins, a GIS analyst at Alberta Infrastructure, points out: “We have fundamentally changed the way that tracking and maintenance is approached by Legislature gardeners. We’ve given them a dynamic and innovative tool that will improve not only the way they work but also the work they do. We’re hoping that this success will expand beyond trees and into other assets such as monuments and irrigation systems.”

Online Parking Request and Administration (OPRA)

A highly valued and sought-after asset with the potential to impact tens of thousands of employees’ day-to-day life is parking. OPRA is the government-wide parking web application used by employees to find parking spots in government buildings, and by parking administrators and parking coordinators to assign parking. With over 2,000 parking facilities spread across the province, the only way for parking coordinators and parking administrators to know where they were assigning parking was to look up the OPRA application for PDF maps, the production date of which is unknown. Initially, the OPRA administrators requested updated PDF maps for parking facilities in an effort to provide more current and complete mapping information, but the GIS team had different ideas.  Knowing that PDFs are static and thus out of date the moment they are produced led the GIS team to find a solution that was always dynamic and low maintenance.

The top 40 parking facilities queried within OPRA were redrawn and placed in Esri’s Web AppBuilder application. Leveraging the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, OPRA and the OPRA Lot Maps web-mapping application were linked using an API call. Simply put, if one of the 40 parking facilities were to be queried within OPRA, a link to its map would appear.  This provides parking administrators and parking coordinators the ability to contextualize the asset that they are responsible for – enabling better decision-making.

The Online Parking Request and Administration (OPRA) application helps manage more than 2,000 parking facilities across the province.

Additionally, the GIS team has developed an editing application for parking administrators to allocate handicap stalls and visitor stalls, thereby improving the understanding of the composition of these parking facilities. Continuing to grow the number of mapped facilities is a priority in the coming years. 

Floor Plan Viewer Application

When Rafael Lucero joined Alberta Infrastructure in late 2016 as the manager of the Building Information Modelling (BIM), Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and GIS sections, he brought a fresh perspective on how to integrate and use the asset data of the sections he managed. Having stumbled upon Esri’s Campus Place Locator application online, Rafael realized how he could leverage CAD, BIM and GIS data for asset management.

“When I came across Campus Place Locator on Esri’s website, I knew instantly the kind of apps we could create with it to support our public asset management, and there’s been no looking back,” says Lucero.

Alberta Infrastructure has long maintained detailed floor plan drawings of government-owned buildings within CAD. These floor plans are frequently requested by engineers, planners, interior designers and project managers across the ministry to visualize and plan projects, as well as to create interior building maps.

Lucero saw an opportunity to integrate the groups he managed by converting the meticulously maintained CAD floor plans into GIS.

Lucero and Oksanen set to work creating a proof of concept, converting and georeferencing the floor plans, symbolizing space types and adding details such as 360° photos of conference rooms and search capabilities for people or spaces. This application challenges users to think about space as an asset and how assets, such as computers or printers, could interact with space. Alberta Infrastructure is currently working to move this proof of concept to a full application within the ministry.

The Floor Plan Viewer App, currently in its proof-of-concept stage, serves as a quick visual and data-rich tool for ministry employees to plan projects or create interior building maps.

Alberta Infrastructure’s progress with its enterprise GIS has been rapid since its implementation. In addition to what has been mentioned above, the Alberta Infrastructure Mapping System (AIMS) has been soft-launched to replace the aging AIGIS while replicating and enhancing its functionalities. AIMS has already begun to provide basic mapping capabilities to Alberta Infrastructure. It has opened up a new realm of increased opportunities for collaboration with clients and stakeholder groups for custom web applications and improved asset management and integration.

“We’re currently in the process of collaborating with clients and stakeholder groups for custom web applications within Alberta Infrastructure. We are also looking at the potential of data collection using drones and laser scanners, and integrating BIM and GIS. As well, we’re creating partnerships with other government ministries and external consultants, and working with GeoDiscover Alberta to better share information with the public,” concludes Lucero.