Author Archives: Andrew McIntyre

Carlow County Council

Transforming the planning application process

At a time when the Irish economy is beginning to revive and new development projects are taking off again, Carlow County Council is set to process a significant increase in planning applications with the same number of employees. It has used Esri’s ArcGIS platform to transform its planning application system and deliver a high quality of service for citizens.

Planners are saving time thanks to automated GIS analysis capabilities

The council has better information to support faster, well informed planning decisions

Citizens, developers and professionals have better access to information online

The Challenge

The IT systems used to process planning applications in the town and county of Carlow in south-eastern Ireland had become outdated. They were slow and unreliable and, to make matters worse, the IT vendor had announced that it would be discontinuing support. So, when Carlow County Council was required to merge with Carlow Town Council in 2014, this significant reorganisation provided precisely the catalyst needed for a brand new approach to managing planning applications.

“ In a recovering economy, we will be able to process a far larger volume of planning applications and deliver a service that is low in cost and high in quality

William Barry – IS Project Leader, Carlow County Council

The Solution

Having used Esri’s ArcGIS Online for nearly two years and been highly impressed by it, Carlow County Council approached Esri Ireland for help in designing and developing a state-of-the-art planning application system, based on geographic information system (GIS) technology. The resulting solution, known internally as ‘Planning GIS’, is based on Esri’s ArcGIS platform, seamlessly integrated with the council’s existing iPlan planning administration  database.

Now, when new planning applications are received, the site location maps are digitised and verified, to make sure that site details are correct.  The planning register is then accessible to employees right across the council and can also be accessed by the general public and commercial organisations via an ArcGIS web map service.

ArcGIS then automatically draws in supplementary information from external sources, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment. Using these diverse data sets, it automatically analyses the site location, detects potential conflicts, such as proximity to a special area of conservation (SAC) and presents planners with all of the relevant spatial information necessary to make better informed planning decisions.

To further enhance its planning application process, Carlow County Council has scanned and geo-registered its vast collection of old hardcopy planning maps using ArcGIS. Consequently, planners can open these historic maps from within the planning system, turn them on and off, or layer them over up-to-date maps, to gain a clear perspective on land changes over time. “Having ready access to this information is really important,” says William Barry, IS Project Leader at Carlow County Council. “We can see at a glance the planning history of a site and make decisions accordingly about necessary planning conditions.”

 

“ If an area is designated or is located close to a protected structure for example, planners can see that straight away

William Barry – IS Project Leader, Carlow County Council

The Benefits

Planning GIS has delivered significant advantages for Carlow County Council, including:

Greater internal efficiency
The automated analysis capabilities of Planning GIS help to improve the productivity of the council’s planners, by reducing the amount of time required to check site locations for potential environmental or historical conflicts. As Barry explains, this efficiency gain will be particularly important for the council when the number of planning applications increases in the future. “In a recovering economy, we will be able to process a far larger volume of planning applications and deliver a service that is low in cost and high in quality,” he says.

Better-informed decisions
As planners have instant access to the full history of a particular site and all the environmental data that relates to it, in one place, they are able to make faster, better decisions. “Everything we need is there in front of us,” Barry observes. “If an area is designated or is located close to a protected structure for example, planners can see that straight away.”

Added support for developers
Developers, construction firms and other organisations working in the building industry can use the ArcGIS web feature service to view the council’s planning register on demand. Consequently, they don’t have to waste time visiting the planning office for information and have better insight into upcoming projects. As Barry says, the planning application “Helps the local construction industry as a whole, by allowing developers and other professionals to do their jobs more efficiently.”

Improved services for citizens
Employees across all departments in the council can access Planning GIS to help them make better long-term decisions about new road infrastructure projects and other public services, to ensure that investment is made in the right areas to meet the needs of citizens. Equally, individuals and companies, who have applied for planning permission, can now monitor the progress of their applications online and don’t have to keep phoning the council for updates.

More reliable IT
Finally, the council’s IT department is now relieved of the pressure of trying to maintain an IT system that had begun to outlive its usefulness. “Planning GIS is a faster, more responsive and more reliable system,” reports Barry, adding simply, “It just works well.”

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OSI GeoHive

Unlocking the economic benefits of geospatial data & maps

Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) has an online mapping service that helps to unlock Ireland’s vast reserves of geospatial data. Called GeoHive, this free web app is supporting the Irish economy and helping to deliver cost savings for public and private sector organisations.

GeoHive provides a single portal to hundreds of layers of geospatial data from multiple public sector organisations

 

Users can create and share meaningful maps of Ireland, for free, using any PC, laptop or mobile device

The solution presents trusted geospatial information to support evidence-based decision making

The Challenge

OSi is in no doubt of the incredible value that geospatial data can deliver for the Irish economy. In 2013 it commissioned an Economic Assessment of Ireland’s Geospatial Industry, which concluded that better use of location-based information could lead to annual cost savings of €82m in the public sector, time savings with an economic value of €279m and competition benefits of €104m. Inspired by these findings, OSi decided to take a lead in making Ireland’s vast geospatial data resources more widely available via the Internet.

The national mapping organisation already had an online map viewer, which attracted over 1.5 million unique visitors a year. However, the technology behind this web service was becoming out dated and couldn’t deliver digital cartography to tablet and mobile devices. OSi therefore launched an ambitious project to replace its existing map viewer with an online portal that would improve the user experience, as well as make third party, public sector data easily accessible from a single location.

“ArcGIS has enabled OSi to deliver a service that has the potential to really boost the value of geospatial data to the Irish economy.”

Colin Bray, Chief Executive, Ordnance Survey Ireland

The Solution

A long-standing user of Esri geographic information system (GIS) technology, OSi worked closely with Esri Ireland to completely redevelop and modernise its online mapping capability, using Esri’s ArcGIS platform. Named GeoHive, the free-to-use web service now delivers significantly enhanced facilities for users, including a ‘make your map’ capability. “For the first time, users can access current and historical OSi maps on their mobile phones and tablets, whenever they need them,” explains Hugh Mangan, general manager of business and marketing, OSi. “GeoHive also gives users the ability to create maps in a much simpler way, save them and share them instantly with colleagues using any device.”

Most importantly, GeoHive combines OSi mapping with data from a wide range of public sector partners, to create an authoritative national Spatial Data Infrastructure. “GeoHive is a classic portal, in that it provides an access point to lots of existing sets of spatial data that have already been published,” Mangan says. “However, it is unique in Ireland in the way that it combines hundreds of layers of third party data from multiple public sector bodies and presents them seamlessly to the end user from a single site.”

In 2018, as part of an ArcGIS software upgrade, OSi took the opportunity to incorporate further datasets, tools and functionality into GeoHive, to expand and enrich the geospatial data and apps available to end users. In particular, users can now view geostatistical information about Ireland through the GeoHive platform, as part of a single data catalogue, for the first time.

“GeoHive also gives users the ability to create maps in a much simpler way, save them and share them instantly with colleagues using any device.”

Hugh Mangan – General Manager of Business and Marketing, OSi

The Benefits

The online portal delivers:

 Greater access to geospatial information

With the development of GeoHive, OSi is now able to expose many more individuals and organisations to the vast reservoirs of geospatial data that exist in Ireland. From one single website, users can combine and layer different data sets against the background of up-to-date OSi maps, to uncover fresh insight into situations and easily share that information using mobile devices.

Trusted evidence to support investment decisions

GeoHive has helped to encourage new investments in Ireland, supporting the Irish economy. “If a business owner is considering opening a new office or factory in Galway, GeoHive presents all the information that they need to help them understand the area and make informed decisions,” Mangan says.

Substantial opportunities to make cost savings

OSi is confident that GeoHive plays a key role in helping organisations to improve their efficiency and thereby unlocks the significant cost savings opportunities identified in its Economic Assessment of Ireland’s Geospatial Industry. According to OSi’s chief executive, Colin Bray, “ArcGIS has enabled OSi to deliver a service that has the potential to really boost the value of geospatial data to the Irish economy. By making location-based data more accessible, useable and meaningful for everyone, GeoHive will help public and private sector organisations to reduce costs and save time.”

Improved public services for citizens

GeoHive enables all participating public sector organisations to deliver a better customer service, by making their data more accessible to a wider number of potential users. Citizens can not only find public information more easily, but also have simple-to-use tools to help them apply it to their areas of interest and make informed choices that will enrich their lives. Summing up, Mangan observes, “GeoHive provides a window to a wider world.”

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Galway County Council

Safeguarding lives and property from devastating floods

When exceptional flooding occurred in the west of Ireland, Galway County Council employed Esri’s ArcGIS platform to coordinate a fast and effective emergency response.  The council’s rapid and intelligent use of mobile and web GIS technology helped it protect property and safeguard lives during the crisis.

The GIS solution improved public safety by making up-to-date flood information instantly accessible to everyone

ArcGIS supported multi-agency coordination during the emergency, leading to better decision making

GIS helped give the public, partners and employees confidence in the council’s ability to handle the incident

The Challenge

In December 2015, a chain of severe storms swept across the county of Galway, causing devastating floods. 472 properties became cut off, 62 homes were flooded and major transportation routes became impassable, leading to significant concerns for public safety.

Right from the outset, when the first flood warnings were issued, Galway County Council was acutely aware of the challenges it would face. A similar flooding incident had occurred in the county six years before and, on that occasion, the council had struggled to collect data about the rising flood water quickly enough to support the emergency response. It also hadn’t had an effective mechanism for sharing information with the public and stakeholders. This time, however, the council was better prepared. It had recently implemented new geographic information system (GIS) technology from Esri Ireland, which gave it the ability to react incredibly quickly to the emerging crisis.

“The out-of-the-box functionality of ArcGIS allows us to develop new GIS web services and apps at a moment’s notice and address the challenges of a rural county, as they occur.”

Mark Conroy – IS project leader, Galway County Council

The Solution

Galway County Council had replaced all of its separate, multi-vendor GIS packages with Esri’s ArcGIS platform. In tandem, it had used ArcGIS server to create the council’s first centralised store of spatial information, eliminating multiple databases, removing data duplication and making a single source of accurate data available to all of the council’s GIS apps. “For the first time, ArcGIS gave us seamless integration of data and GIS services across mobile, desktop, server and web platforms, online and offline,” says Mark Conroy, IS project leader at Galway County Council.

While the 2015 storms still raged over Ireland, the council used ArcGIS to quickly set up a GIS-based web service to capture information about the floods and store it in the cloud using ArcGIS Online. It then used the ArcGIS Collector App to allow regional engineers, technical staff and other council employees to conduct surveys in the field and upload flood details to the web service via their smart phones and tablet devices. At the same time, staff in council offices used ArcGIS desktop to add information about road closures and uploaded new satellite imagery when it became available. All this information was combined on interactive maps in ArcGIS Online, with no manual intervention, and made visible immediately to all staff, partners, the general public and the media.

“Everyone could follow the progress of the flooding, see which roads were closed and plan safer routes accordingly. By enabling us to share flood information instantly, ArcGIS certainly helped us to improve public safety.”

Mark Conroy – IS project leader, Galway County Council

The Benefits

A faster emergency response

The use of ArcGIS enabled Galway County Council to see precisely which homes and businesses were in danger of flooding and deploy resources promptly to those places where they were most needed.  Rather than wasting time collating data and responding to requests for information, staff could instead focus on making arrangements for drains to be cleared, roads to be raised and culverts to be dug. 63 properties were saved from immediate threat in the wake of the storms, thanks to the timely implementation of such protective  measures.

Greater public safety

Galway County Council was able to use Twitter, Facebook, the council web site and local media to direct people to its online flood map and keep citizens informed about areas of risk. “The general public was getting updated information as quickly as we were in the council,” says Conroy. “Everyone could follow the progress of the flooding, see which roads were closed and plan safer routes accordingly. By enabling us to share flood information instantly, ArcGIS certainly helped us to improve public safety.”

Improved  multi-agency coordination

Every day during the height of the crisis, Galway County Council used its ArcGIS maps to help it share situational information with partners including the Office of Public Works, Health Service Executive, the Gardaí and defence forces who were called in to assist. The maps helped the different agencies to better coordinate their activities and make effective decisions. Conroy observes, “Without a doubt, ArcGIS played a key role in helping us to focus on vulnerable households, deliver constructive support and alleviate suffering in the worst affected communities.”

Increased confidence in the council

Now that the flood waters are subsiding, Galway County Council looks back on its handling of the crisis with satisfaction, knowing that no lives were lost in the county. It also has a full GIS-based record of the extent of the flooding, which will help it collaborate with the Office of Public Works to plan flood alleviation and mitigation schemes going forward. “ArcGIS has helped give internal employees, partners and the general public confidence in thecouncil’s ability to manage floods and other similar emergencies,” Conroy notes. “When the next incident arises, we can be confident that we have the ability to handle it quickly and effectively.”

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Education Authority Northern Ireland

Driving changes in school transportation

Parents in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, can now use an ingenious little web app to check if their children are eligible for school bus travel and apply online. The solution, developed by Esri Ireland, has received enthusiastic feedback from families following a highly successful pilot.

Greater convenience and better information for parents

Potential time savings of over 58 days a year, when the app is rolled out nationally

More accurate address information to assist decision making

The Challenge

Among its numerous responsibilities, the Education Authority is required to facilitate transportation for pupils who live more than a stipulated distance away from their allocated grant-aided school. Northern Ireland is a predominantly rural country and, as a consequence, over 90,000 children are eligible for free travel on school buses. Every summer the Education Authority must consider in excess of 25,000 new applications in time for the start of the academic year. It is a very complicated process, which involves measuring the walking distance to school for each individual applicant and ensuring that

all decisions about whether or not to fund transportation are made both quickly and fairly. Until recently, this entire process was driven by information collected and communicated in paper-based forms.

“The time had come to change this,” says Dale Hanna, transport manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region. “We want to make it really easy for parents to find out if their children are eligible for free travel and then submit accurate information for the application process online.”

“ When the GIS web app is rolled out nationally, we expect to save over 58 says a year, which will free up staff to focus on delivering other important educational services

Dale Hanna – transport manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region

The Solution

To help it achieve its goal, the Education Authority approached Esri Ireland and asked it to use Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) technology to create a web-based app that would be mobile friendly and accessible 24/7. Developed using Esri’s ArcGIS Platform, the solution integrates live Ordnance Survey map services and address data from Land and Property Services (LPS).

This ingenious app is now up-and-running as a pilot and available to parents of pupils moving from primary to post-primary education in the Dungannon area. When parents log in, a screen is presented that is already prepopulated with all of the pupil’s details. A map view shows the street where the pupil lives and an arrow marks the assumed location of the house or flat. If the arrow is in the wrong place, parents can simply slide the map using their touch screen or curser to indicate the precise location of the property.

When parents tap the ‘submit’ button, the GIS-based app automatically calculates walking distances. If the pupil is clearly eligible, parents will receive an instant ‘yes’ response, and their application is automatically forwarded to the transportation team.  Equally, if the pupil is evidently not eligible, parents are immediately notified.  In other cases, such as if pupils live in areas marginally outside the eligible distance, the applications are forwarded for more detailed consideration. “It’s beautifully simple, yet a terrific demonstration of the power of digital geography,” says Eamonn Doyle, chief technical officer at Esri Ireland.

“ This app moves our engagement with citizens to the next level and, in doing so, improves the quality of service to our customers

Colm Daly – information manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region

The Benefits

A convenient service for parents
The school transport app has transformed the quality and availability of information for parents. In the majority of cases, parents can get an instant answer to the question ‘is my child eligible for school transport?’  Parents also have the convenience of being able to apply for transportation online, and don’t have to fill in lengthy forms. “The feedback from parents has been very positive,” says Colm Daly, information manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region. “This app moves our engagement with citizens to the next level and, in doing so, improves the quality of service to our customers.”

Greater public confidence
The new online app also helps to give parents a better understanding of the eligibility criteria for school transport and instils greater confidence in the application process. Whereas previously, the Education Authority only received a postal address for applicants in its paper forms, it now receives emails with a precise map and the coordinates of pupils’ homes. “This helps us to make better, faster decisions,” Daly states, adding that, “the app may over time reduce costly appeals.”

Improved operational efficiency
The Education Authority can now operate more efficiently in the pilot area, as it no longer has to waste time processing applications from parents who have used the app and discovered that they are not eligible. “In our Dungannon pilot, 15% of the people who used our app received a ‘no’ response,” explains Hanna.  “We estimate that it takes 10 minutes to manually process a ‘no’ application, so in the pilot phase alone we saved over one working day. Across the whole of Northern Ireland there are around 2500 ‘no’ applications every year. When the GIS web app is rolled out nationally, we expect to save over 58 days a year, which will free up staff to focus on delivering other important educational services. Additional efficiencies are achievable by future advancements in integration with our back office systems.”

Enhanced data quality
One additional, unexpected, benefit has emerged, as Daly explains. “Because parents can correct the locations of their homes on the online map, they are effectively doing quality control on the address data and that’s pretty interesting from a GIS perspective. It means that we can actually go back to LPS and other data providers in the future and supply them with updates. I don’t think that anybody else in the UK or indeed in Europe is doing that right now.”

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Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council

Improving the commissioning of school transport for vulnerable children

Norfolk County Council is using Esri’s ArcGIS platform to help it arrange the most suitable school transportation for pupils with special educational needs.  This insightful application of GIS is improving services and safety for children, while also helping the local authority to achieve its cost savings target.

With greater understanding of pupils’ travel needs, employees can commission safe, appropriate journeys

The council can easily see opportunities for pupils to share journeys or make shorter journeys to reduce travel costs

Efficiency savings from the use of this app will contribute to the SEN team’s £500,000 cost reduction target

The Challenge

Every year, Norfolk County Council is required to arrange travel to and from school, by minibus, car or taxi, for over 2,000 pupils with special educational needs (SEN).  The county is predominantly rural and covers a large area of 2,074 square miles, so the annual budget for SEN transportation in Norfolk exceeds £10 million.  In common with all departments within the council, the SEN transportation team was under pressure to reduce its operating costs and downscale this budget, but its priority none-the-less remained the same: to provide safe and secure journeys for vulnerable young people.

At the time, the SEN transportation team made decisions about journeys based on manual reports and commonly referred to a map pinned to the wall to help them understand distances between pupil addresses and schools. It was a lengthy, manual process, which relied largely on people’s experience and knowledge of the county, and this was neither efficient nor sustainable.

“ Our new ArcGIS app allows us to provide a high quality transportation service for children with special educational needs, while operating cost efficiently

Tracy Jessop – Assistant Director of Highways and Transport, Norfolk County Council

The Solution

Norfolk County Council has been licensing geographic information system (GIS) solutions from Esri UK and gradually introducing new solutions for the council based on the Esri ArcGIS platform for over six years.   So, when it came to creating a solution for the SEN school transportation team, the organisation already had both the technology and skills it needed in-house.  “We married ArcGIS with our new data warehouse to create the solution,” explains Tony Collins, Senior Analyst Programmer, GIS and Data Warehousing, at Norfolk County Council.  “From the original concept, it took us just two months of development.”

The solution, known internally as the SEN Travel Viewer app, allows the SEN transportation team to view a map of Norfolk and see at a glance, where pupils live, which schools they attend, what kind of vehicle they travel in, if they travel alone and how far they travel.  The team can now easily see and investigate anomalies, such as two pupils in adjacent villages having separate transportation to the same school.  They can also use the app to plan and commission the most appropriate journeys for pupils who are new to the area, reaching school age or changing schools, taking into account existing transportation arrangements for other pupils nearby.

“ The app speeds up the whole SEN transportation process, from beginning to end

Tim Hudson – Information Exploitation Team Manager, Norfolk County Council

The Benefits

Reduced costs in the provision of school transport

As Norfolk County Council can now more easily identify opportunities for pupils to share journeys or make shorter journeys, it can reduce its expenditure on transportation, while continuing to meet pupils’ needs.  In its first year of use, the council expects the SEN Travel Viewer app to make a significant contribution to the SEN department’s savings target of £500,000.  “Our new ArcGIS app allows us to provide a high quality transportation service for children with special educational needs, while operating cost efficiently,” says Tracy Jessop, Assistant Director of Highways and Transport, Norfolk County Council.

Fine-tuned services that meet the needs of vulnerable pupils

Using ArcGIS, members of staff now have better access to information, which enables them to ensure that travel arrangements are the most appropriate for pupils’ needs and security.  “ArcGIS enables the council to take an evidence-based approach to commissioning school transport and justify the need for explicit transportation services for specific pupils, based on a better understanding of the journeys they need to make,” says Tim Hudson, Information Exploitation Team Manager at Norfolk County Council.

Improved staff productivity and faster decision making

The app has been well received by members of staff, who can now work more productively.  The rapid visualisation of schools and pupil locations enables the SEN transportation team to make quicker decisions about the most suitable transportation routes and methods.   Consequently, the team can process applications in less time and advise families about travel arrangements more promptly.  As Mr Hudson says, “The app speeds up the whole SEN transportation process, from beginning to end.”

Better information to support future planning

In the future, the SEN Travel Viewer app will also be used to help pinpoint the most advantageous locations for new SEN schools and facilities, based on the proximity of the young people who require access to these services.  The council will be able to identify central locations and plan strategically to reduce journey times and improve convenience for pupils and their families.  In this way, ArcGIS will continue to play a key role in helping the council to improve both the quality and cost efficiency of SEN provision throughout the county in the years ahead.

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South Dublin County Council

Helping the people of Dublin through the use of ArcGIS

Responding directly to the needs and wishes of citizens, South Dublin County Council has used web and mobile solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform to create and enrich a new Community Facilities web app.  This online service is expected to help improve the quality of life for people living, working and doing business in the area.

Accessible information about facilities that citizens can access to improve their lives

A service designed and created specifically to meet the needs of citizens

The ability to enrich and update the web app very efficiently with a small team

The Challenge

In its Corporate Plan 2015-19, South Dublin County Council set out its mission to make the county of South Dublin the “best possible place in which to live, work and do business.”

This strategic document clearly articulated the council’s focus on citizens, stating that “the health and well-being of the people of South Dublin County” would be a key measure of success.  To help it achieve its mission, the council decided to create a new online, map-based information service to give citizens better information about nearby community facilities that they could use to help them lead healthier, more fulfilled lives.

The Solution

As a long-standing user of Esri technology, South Dublin County Council already had the ArcGIS Platform and GIS skills it needed to create its new web app, with no additional investment in software. It was also able to develop the solution very quickly and easily in-house, without the need for outside consultancy, using Esri’s ArcGIS Online and the available templates.

At the outset of the project, the council held a series of focus groups with members of the public, to find out what information citizens would find useful, and then designed the app to cover precisely these themes. Through this citizen engagement, the council received requests for data that it didn’t hold, such as information on allotments and accessible parking spaces around the county. Rather than leave this information out, and fail to meet citizens’ expectations, South Dublin County Council allowed employees to access ArcGIS Online from a wide range of tablets and smart phones, empowering them to collect the specific information citizens wanted to see.

In addition, South Dublin County Council sourced information for citizens by streaming data directly into its Community Facilities web app from third party organisations using web services. For instance, the council pulled in census information from AIRO, which saved time and avoided reinventing the wheel. Moving forwards, the council plans to use Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS app to allow staff members to collect supplementary data using mobile devices, to enrich the app while travelling around the county. As new information is col lected, it can be uploaded directly into the ArcGIS Online app and made visible to citizens immediately.

The Benefits

The new GIS-based Community Facilities web service is now helping South Dublin County Council to achieve its corporate mission by:

Engaging with citizens to encourage healthier lives
The web service makes it very easy for citizens to discover local facilities that might help enrich their lives and enhance their sense of well-being. Whether they are looking for their nearest library or checking local sports facilities, all the information they need is easy to find in one simple web app.

Delivering just what the citizen wants and values
South Dublin County Council now has the impressive ability to collect and publish additional information for citizens very quickly – at a low cost for the council but with a high value for the general public. For example, it can now easily gather and share information about not only where social clubs and sports centres are located, but if these facilities offer yoga, boxing or chess clubs.

Empowering members of staff to work  efficiently
Over recent years, the headcount within some council departments has reduced, so teams have to be able to work more efficiently to deliver a good service. The use of ArcGIS Online and the Collector for ArcGIS app enables the council to capture, update and publish information for citizens with smaller teams. The information can also be updated more often, making it more accurate, and updates are instantly visible online.

Improving decision making and strategic  planning
While the app was first and foremost developed to deliver an enhanced service for citizens, it has also proven exceptionally useful as a decision support tool for senior executives. It is very easy to see, for example, whether play parks and youth facilities are located in the regions that have the highest densities of families with young children. Senior managers have an instant view of the facilities – or lack of facilities – in a given area, allowing them to focus on deploying new services where they are most needed and continually improve community facilities for citizens.

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Red Kite Community Housing

Putting insight into action

Red Kite Community Housing deployed Esri’s ArcGIS Platform to gain a deeper understanding of not only what assets it owned, but also how to best maintain and develop them. The company is now amassing rich business insight that will help it to put innovative business improvement strategies into action.

Easy access to boundary data allows employees to respond to customer queries in minutes

Improved understanding of land ownership and plot sizes reduces ongoing operational costs

GIS analysis reveals previously unknown development sites and pinpoints the most advantageous opportunities

The Challenge

In the housing sector, the importance of clear business insight cannot be understated. Whether organisations want to improve the cost efficiency of their property maintenance programmes, respond more effectively to customer needs or identify the development opportunities that are most likely to gain planning permission, they need a detailed understanding of their homes, land, customers and communities.

Red Kite Community Housing wanted a more efficient way to improve the accessibility of information about the 6,700 homes that it owns and maintains in the district of Wycombe. It was unable to easily determine the ownership of property boundaries, or even locate the nearest grit bins, without having to find and refer to often disparate records. This reduced the efficiency of day-to-day operations and the ability to easily and flexibly devise and implement business improvement schemes. It therefore decided to deploy a geographic information system (GIS) to give employees more information about land assets, as well as reveal business insight to inform new strategies.

“ Our continuing use of ArcGIS for analysis will give us added insight into important issues and help to inform new business strategies

Jessica Horwitz – Insight Team Leader, Red Kite Community Housing

The Solution

Red Kite Community Housing selected Esri’s ArcGIS Platform after visiting Esri UK’s annual conference. “We didn’t want a software solution that was bespoke to the housing industry, as we felt this might constrain our ability to innovate in the future,” says Jessica Horwitz, Insight Team Leader at Red Kite Community Housing. “We wanted a solution that would give us the flexibility and the advanced technology to drive improvements to our business for many years to come.”

After receiving training from Esri UK, Red Kite Community Housing began using Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop initially to digitise its paper records, add layers of business data and plot the locations of adjacent features such as lamp posts and telegraph poles. It then made interactive maps available, using ArcGIS Online, to at least one employee in every business department, including the call centre and the field-based neighbourhood team. These users can now see everything from property boundaries to the locations of play areas, at a glance, from their desktops or mobile devices.

Subsequently, employees within the insight and business teams began to use ArcGIS Desktop to interrogate and analyse the newly collated asset information, to gain a deeper insight into homes and land, as well as new business opportunities. While Red Kite Community Housing has only been performing GIS analysis for a few months, on specific projects, it is already evident that the new business insight will prove invaluable in helping the organisation to improve the efficiency and quality of its services for customers.

“ ArcGIS is revealing strips of land, previously not identified as having development potential, and unlocking new revenue opportunities for the business

Jessica Horwitz – Insight Team Leader, Red Kite Community Housing

The Benefits

Insight for improving business efficiency
ArcGIS Online has replaced cabinets of printed maps and ledgers, creating time savings in multiple business areas. In the ‘Relationship Stem’, the first point of contact for customers, it might previously have taken several hours for a member of staff to respond to a boundary issue, but queries can now be answered in as little as a few minutes by simply checking a web app. In the future, Red Kite Community Housing plans to analyse maintenance requests and the sequencing of repair jobs to reduce travel time, look at service demand and use this intelligence to shape the service it offers.

Insight for reducing operational costs
Through the use of ArcGIS, Red Kite Community Housing has found parcels of land that it was maintaining but didn’t own, which has opened up conversations with the local authority about maintenance costs. It can also now produce development site plans and documentation to support Access Permits in-house, rather than paying outside agencies to generate them, which contributes to further ongoing operational cost savings. Moving forwards, when new contracts like grounds maintenance come up for renewal in the months ahead, the organisation will be able to provide contractors with more accurate land measurements, leading to fewer assumptions and more competitive tenders.

Insight for informing development planning
In a key business initiative, Red Kite Community Housing is using ArcGIS Desktop to identify areas of land suitable for development and narrow down the search to plots of land of the right size, in the best locations, taking into account potential to work with other third party adjacent land owners. Red Kite Community Housing will also be able to consider the ongoing time that will be required to manage new development opportunities as part of the business case. “ArcGIS is revealing strips of land, previously not identified as having development potential, and unlocking new revenue opportunities for the business,” Horwitz says.

Looking ahead, Red Kite Community Housing plans to use ArcGIS to gain insight into other areas of its business by analysing customer satisfaction surveys, home turnover, geo-demographics and rental income and turning this data into actionable intelligence. Horwitz concludes, “Our continuing use of ArcGIS for analysis will give us added insight into important issues and help to inform new business strategies.”

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connect-plus3

Connect Plus Services

Driving the sustainable operation of the M25

Within the grass verges of the M25, one of Europe’s busiest motorways, Connect Plus Services is taking innovative steps to conserve some of Britain’s protected species and to promote pollinator species.  Using Esri’s ArcGIS platform, the company is able to better understand the environmental impacts of its business, implement schemes to enhance the natural environment and, at the same time, operate more cost efficiently.

Improved schemes to conserve habitats and species

25% more productivity in field workers

The ability to share enhanced quality data

The Challenge

The joint venture company Connect Plus Services works on behalf of Highways England, as part of a DBFO (Design, Build, Finance and Operate) contract comprising all motorways and A roads within Highways England’s Area 5 network around Greater London. As well as maintaining this 228-mile road network, the company has a legal obligation to protect the natural environment, a challenging requirement that also involves monitoring and improving approximately 15 km2 of soft estate on roadside verges.

“ ArcGIS has become a critical tool in helping us ensure that the ongoing maintenance of the M25 has minimal adverse impacts on the environment

Jennifer Banks – GIS Specialist and Environmental Assistant, Connect Plus Services

The Solution

Connect Plus Services has been using geographic information system (GIS) technology ever since its foundation in 2009, when it was awarded the 30-year M25 contract by Highways England.  The company’s Environment Department selected Esri’s ArcGIS platform to meet Highways England’s EnvIS (Environmental Information System) data requirements and improve the quality and quantity of environmental asset data available for the M25 network. It drew together a diverse range of data sets, from on-site surveys and street-view video to water drainage reports and public rights of way data, to build up a valuable and informative picture of the natural environment under its stewardship.

In addition, Connect Plus Services took advantage of ArcGIS Online & ArcGIS Server to create a Corporate GIS for the visualisation of operational data.  Using this platform, the company can make its rich environmental data accessible to all employees, across all departments, via a secure, intranet-based map viewer.  This solution not only displays environmental and asset-related information on an intuitive mapping interface; it also puts basic GIS capabilities in the hands of all employees, enabling them to conduct analysis on demand, to help them make better decisions.

More recently, the Environment Department has used the ArcGIS Collector App to create a versatile mobile GIS solution, integrated with internal systems, that removes the need for surveyors to rely on paper maps and survey forms. Field-based employees enter their survey findings into mobile devices, from the roadside, and the data is automatically and securely transferred directly into Connect Plus Services’ central systems, without any need for further manual data handling.

“ Working with GIS data in apps such as Collector streamlines the digital data hand-over process because our client, Highways England, also use an Esri GIS system to store, view and analyse information

Jennifer Banks – GIS Specialist and Environmental Assistant, Connect Plus Services

The Benefits

ArcGIS now plays a key role in helping Connect Plus Services to meet its environmental obligations more efficiently. The advantages include:

Reduced adverse environmental impacts
Employees use ArcGIS to make more informed decisions about how to mitigate any potentially damaging environmental consequences during and following activities such as essential road maintenance.  “It is vitally important for us to ensure that due consideration is given to the environment in everything we do,” says Jennifer Banks, GIS Specialist and Environmental Assistant at Connect Plus Services.  “ArcGIS has become a critical tool in helping us ensure that the ongoing maintenance of the M25 has minimal adverse impacts on the environment.”

Improved schemes to protect native species
In a range of environmental improvement projects, Connect Plus Services is using ArcGIS to help it proactively conserve protected species and enhance environmental assets.   For instance, the company uses ArcGIS to analyse third-party land that lies adjacent to the soft estate it manages, to determine whether it is feasible to use the roadside verge to create ecological corridors.  As Graham Lee, Environmental Manager at Connect Plus Services, explains, “It is possible to use the motorway verge to enhance ecological connectivity, by joining areas of species-rich grassland so that pollinator species can move more freely within the landscape.”

25% more productivity in the field
Using the mobile GIS solution, the organisation’s environmental inspectors can complete surveys in the field in significantly less time, as they no longer have to record their environmental information on paper, then re-enter it when they get back to the office.  “We have cut the amount of time we spend on surveys and post-survey data entry by up to a quarter,” says Lee. “As a result, we can perform more inspections of the soft estate, more quickly and in greater detail, to meet the growing needs of the business.”

More cost-effective tenders
Connect Plus Services is making ongoing cost efficiencies by giving sub-contractors more accurate plot information relating to grass cutting, weed control and vegetation removal activities.  “When we go out to tender, we receive more competitive prices from contractors, as they have more accurate information about the areas of land we expect them to work on,” Lee says.

Better data, shared more easily with partners
Finally, Connect Plus Services can now continually enhance and more easily share its data.  For instance, new data on environmental assets, collected by mobile surveyors in the field, can be easily submitted quarterly to Highways England, for inclusion in its Environmental Information System (EnvIS). As Banks observes, “Working with GIS data in apps such as Collector streamlines the digital data hand-over process because our client, Highways England, also use an Esri GIS system to store, view and analyse information.”

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The RSPB

Helping new ideas to take flight

A longstanding customer of Esri UK, the RSPB engaged one of Esri UK’s Embedded Product Specialists to help  leverage more business value from its use of Esri’s ArcGIS Platform and put new ideas into action.  Now, the charity is equipped with a suite of innovative apps, as well as the skills and knowledge to develop new GIS solutions in-house, to support the charity’s critical conservation work.

Enhanced in-house GIS skills and knowledge

Accelerated project delivery

A strong basis for ongoing GIS innovation

The Challenge

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the country’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone ‘to give nature a home’. As a registered charity, it has a responsibility to its supporters to ensure that every donation it receives is wisely invested and fully optimised so that the organisation can help protect wildlife and the places where it lives.

For many years, the RSPB has used geographic information system (GIS) technology from Esri UK to help it map and understand complex factors, ranging from migration patterns to diminishing natural landscapes. The organisation has full access to the ArcGIS platform, through its license agreement, but realised that it wasn’t exploiting all of the advanced capabilities. It was keen to explore how it might make more optimal use of ArcGIS to create public-facing education resources, improve the efficiency of surveys in the field and raise the profile of key campaigns.

“ Having a specialist from Esri UK as a part of our team helped us realise what is possible with the latest ArcGIS technology.  We are now making far greater use of ArcGIS to support our conservation, education and fundraising activities

Adrian Hughes – Head of GIS Technical Services, the RSPB

The Solution

To meet these aspirations, the RSPB engaged a highly skilled Embedded Product Specialist (EPS) from Esri UK. As an expert in the ArcGIS Platform, the EPS was able to quickly set up ArcGIS Online for the RSPB and start not only designing, but also delivering a range of GIS apps and solutions. Embedded with, and managed by, RSPB staff, she became a highly valued member of the organisation’s GIS team for three days a week, over a twelve week period.

The EPS worked on a range of specific projects including:

  • The authoring of StoryMaps to showcase RSPB projects, particularly the adventures of Lazaros the Egyptian Vulture (map) and a Turtle Dove tracking exercise (map)
  • The deployment of Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123 for ArcGIS for bird monitoring and habitat mapping in the field using smartphones
  • The creation of an ‘ArcGIS Workspace’ on the RSPB’s internal portal, populated with best practice documentation and resources
  • The delivery of training courses, lunch-time knowledge-transfer sessions and other initiatives to improve the skills of the RSPB’s in-house team
  • Recommendations for how to further extend the use of the ArcGIS Platform and innovate with GIS

“ With the hands-on involvement of Esri UK’s specialist, we delivered this mobile survey solution in half the time that we might otherwise have needed to develop it in house

Adrian Hughes – Head of GIS Technical Services at the RSPB

The Benefits

The RSPB gained significant value from its appointment of an EPS. The long-term benefits include:

Greater return on GIS investment

With the support and guidance of the EPS, the RSPB is now gaining an enhanced return from its existing investment in ArcGIS. “GIS is a very fast-moving field,” says Adrian Hughes, Head of GIS Technical Services at the RSPB. “Having a specialist from Esri UK as a part of our team helped us realise what is possible with the latest ArcGIS technology. We are now making far greater use of ArcGIS to support our conservation, education and fundraising activities.”

Enhanced in-house skills and knowledge

Critically, the EPS brought up-to-date skills and knowledge to the RSPB and passed them on to members of staff, boosting their own competencies. She delivered a range of training courses, as well as focussed one-to-one, webinar and lunchtime sessions to help RSPB staff learn about, and put into practice, the latest capabilities of the ArcGIS Platform. She also led best practice and ‘tips and tricks’ discussions and created invaluable learning materials for the RSPB’s ‘ArcGIS Workspace’.

 Accelerated project delivery

In one project, the EPS used Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123 for ArcGIS – two tools that are included within the ArcGIS Platform – to create a mobile survey solution for the RSPB. The app is now being used by volunteers to collect data about an endangered seabird, the Little Tern, in the field on smartphones. “With the hands-on involvement of Esri UK’s specialist, we delivered this mobile survey solution in half the time that we might otherwise have needed to develop it in house,” Hughes says.

Improved citizen engagement

In another initiative, the EPS developed Story Maps to make RSPB data engaging for members of the public. For instance, the Story Map about Lazaros the Egyptian Vulture reached over 40,000 people via the RSPB’s social media channels and prompted positive responses from RSPB followers. Hughes notes, “The specialist showed us how quickly we can create captivating content to help engage the public and convey the urgency and importance of our conservation work.”

A platform for innovation in conservation

Particularly in the areas of web and mobile GIS, the EPS inspired the RSPB team to innovate. For instance, the EPS helped to test a drone-to-map solution that will, in the future, enable the RSPB to collect vital habitat data more cost effectively. Summing up, Hughes says, “Without doubt, our appointment of an EPS has helped us realise just how much we can do with GIS to support the vital work of the RSPB now and in the future.”

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