Railroad

How Do You Navigate Esri Mobile Apps? K.I.S.S.!

I was recently asked by a colleague for some guidance on developing an emergency response app for their organization. Regardless of the industry, size of the organization or geographical location, everyone has to deal with emergency preparedness and recovery at some point. 

I have a little experience in this area since my team built one in a previous role I was in at CSX. I’ll give a little context here since it helps explain my mantra of K.I.S.S. One Monday our team meeting was centered around creating a plan to conduct damage assessments with my GIS Field team. The following week we had a hurricane approaching off the coast of North Carolina and it was forecasted to make landfall on a Friday. This pushed up our due date of a plan rapidly.

We knew our field team was outfitted with drones, but we didn’t have a way to easily submit photos of damage assessments. We spun up a web app and mobile app using ArcGIS Enterprise Portal for ArcGIS to intake all the images to properly assess the damage done without having to compromise our crew’s safety. So how did we accomplish this? K.I.S.S.!

Far too often I see folks deciding on building an app of any kind and it involves:

One of the most powerful benefits of Portal for ArcGIS is the ability to quickly spin up apps that you can effectively use as proof of concept. Once you’ve published your map service and consumed it in a web app or mobile app, you can keep your “map maker” on standby to quickly make changes, updates, add or remove layers, etc. to the map and redeploy in minutes. K.I.S.S.!  

When we deployed the emergency response app, it had one editable layer to start…an “observations” layer. What do you see, what’s its’ condition, Is the track out of service, and the ability to attach photos. That was about it. After the storm passed and we rolled out with the track crews to document the damage, the web app back at HQ in the Storm Room began to light up with red dots and green dots. Bad observations and good ones. This led to ideas being generated from the folks in the room to track whether power was out at crossings and control points, were generators deployed? We quickly copied the appropriate layers and added them to the map with editable fields that corresponded to their status’.

I know the GIS and data purists cringe at that but don’t overcomplicate the process here. We’re developing on demand, demonstrating the power of GIS, live, directly in front of our business partners! The question was asked about flood levels around our bridges ArcGIS Living Atlas, Live Stream Gauges…added almost as fast as it took me to type that out. K.I.S.S.!

When all was said and done, we had added in 5-10 more layers and made a handful editable. We had a post-mortem call with all the stakeholders, and they were extremely pleased with the functionality and even more amazed with the speed and agility the GIS team demonstrated.

As I mentioned earlier, so many times we want to make sure we think of everything before beginning. Using Portal for ArcGIS allows you to start simple and layer in what’s needed, and remove, if necessary, until you have an app that’s just what the business ordered! 

For any questions about Portal for ArcGIS or the process, please reach out to me via LinkedIn and I’d love to get engaged to help your organization show your GIS capabilities.

About the author

For Erik Henderson, being a part of the GIS community has remained a constant over the span of his 20-year professional career. For 14 of those years, Erik applied and grew his GIS knowledge in the Railroad Industry by starting as an Analyst to eventually leading the GIS Department at CSX. Erik serves on AREMA Committee 2 and has recently joined the ASLRRA Technology Committee to keep the railroads informed and ready with new emerging technology.  Notably, Erik has led establishing LiDAR and 3D Imaging standards with his peers at AREMA to help railroads standardized Lidar collection. Aside from his 9-5 life, Erik has served on the Board of Trustees of the MS Society of North Florida Chapter since 2011. 

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