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Responsive website design for web mapping applications

Stefano November 3, 2015
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The cross-device mapping application dilemma: responsive website, hybrid or native?

The right choice of development approach for any particular project depends on several factors including such things as budget, the intended audience reach, mapping functionality, development staff and skillsets. For today, let’s assume a pragmatic approach with the goal being that of providing the best possible user experience across devices. Below I’ll share some observations and insights regarding how we have addressed these issues for various clients.

Mobile first responsive website

Developing a single application targeting mobile as the primary experience and responsive to tablet and desktop is a compelling option for those simple connected web mapping applications where features and functionality will be the same across devices. One such example is a website we developed for the Colorado Department of Transportation that delivers their scenic byways to all users and allows them to route directions targeted for bicycles. One benefit to this approach is that it targets the widest audience from a single shared codebase.

The following images show the application in a browser across desktop and mobile devices.

Figure 1: Desktop home view Figure 1: Desktop home view

Figure 2: Mobile home
Figure 2: Mobile home
Figure 3: Mobile map view
Figure 3: Mobile map view

Unifying the desktop and tablet website experiences

Developing an application so the desktop and tablet experiences share the same codebase works great given a limited budget and an all-purpose connected mapping application. Tweaks to disable or hide features can be made to enhance the tablet experience using CSS media queries. Furthermore, changes can be made through JavaScript to redirect the flow to one that makes sense for a tablet. For example, some analysis tools require too complex of a workflow to be performed on a tablet and can simply be hidden along with informing the user that the full suite of tools are available from a desktop browser.

On a recent job we completed for the Ohio Department of Transportation we followed this approach with much success. The application was intended for connected office and field personnel, as well as the general public. It provided analysis tools and read-only access to data.

The following images show a full-feature map viewer in a browser across desktop and tablet devices.

tims desktop Figure 5: Desktop Identify tool view
tims tablet tool viewFigure 6: Tablet Identify tool view

Mobile website experience

The smaller form factors of mobile devices typically dictate the need for simplified workflows and/or functionalities as compared to desktop and even tablets. This may come in the form of reduced features or separate tools targeting mobile devices. Both strategies were employed while developing the responsive mobile experience for the application discussed above. It’s important to note that the development effort to support mobile devices came after the desktop/tablet site had been developed. This allowed us to leverage the existing client framework reducing the amount of new code and time to deliver.

Our framework was designed to access the underlying mapping API through an abstraction layer. This made it possible for us to quickly swap out the ArcGIS API for JavaScript in favor of Esri Leaflet, a lightweight API that offers far better performance on mobile devices.

The following images show the mobile map viewer and illustrate some of the layout changes to support enhanced workflows for mobile.

tims mobile identify map
Figure 7: Mobile Identify tool
tims mobile identify data
Figure 8: Mobile Identify tool data table

Hybrid and native applications

Consider hybrid and native applications whether it’s a desire to have a presence in one or more app stores, direct access to mobile hardware or sensors or disconnected workflows.

The hybrid approach using PhoneGap/Cordova enables organizations to leverage existing HTML and JavaScript expertise and maintain a single codebase to run on any mobile device. Where the hybrid approach gets tricky is with disconnected workflows. Esri has shared a set of libraries, offline-editor-js, that offers limited support and workflows for offline web mapping applications. However, be aware that they don’t officially support the PhoneGap/Cordova platforms. After careful review of all the caveats that come with these libraries, this may still be a viable option for small focused application workflows.

Esri fully supports offline workflows with their native ArcGIS Runtime SDKs. These SDKs are available today if targeting a single device platform. By years end Esri is supposed to release their first public beta of the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Xamarin. This will be a compelling API for cross-platform development using .NET.

Further considerations

In the last year Esri has released AppStudio for ArcGIS (currently in beta) and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. Neither solution requires developer skills. Rather, users can leverage existing application templates and configurations. AppStudio for ArcGIS enables a cross-platform deployment strategy using ArcGIS Runtime SDK 10.2.5 for Qt. The Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS leverages HTML and JavaScript that can be run across devices via a web browser.

Esri resources

VUEWorks® Helps Solve Map-21 Challenges Right on Time

Stefano October 28, 2015
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city-buses
VUEWorks® is a commercial off the shelf web based software that can readily assist with transit asset management as required by law (Statutory Reference: 49 U.S.C. Section 5326 / MAP-21 Section 20019). The system is a proven solution designed to improving asset management and provides key capabilities required for a strategic approach in assessing needs and prioritizing investments for bringing the nation’s public transit systems into a state of good repair.

Power lies in VUEWorks® configurability where customized software is not necessary. New reporting requirements to promote accountability are a standard with the system and templates may be developed and shared throughout the community further saving time and precious resources.
vw-tablet-small
vw-home
VUEWorks® is the performance asset management system specifically made to serve as a system of record and deal with risk, condition, and value for Transit related infrastructure. Due to the configurable capabilities of the system, Transit requirements presented by Federal Transit Administration (FTA) can be tracked and achieved via this web based GIS solution.

  • Meet Reporting Requirements
  • Quickly show a map of “state of good repair”
  • Assess and manage condition of capital assets (including equipment, rolling stock, infrastructure, and facilities)
  • Manage performance measures for state of good repair (all FTA grantees will be required to set targets)
  • Manage capital asset inventories and condition assessments
  • Wizard driven scenario planning for investment prioritization (“What if” scenario planning)

In short, with only a few clicks in VUEWorks®, the following requirements may be met:

  • Show all capital asset inventories and condition assessments
  • Produce an investment prioritization

Data Transfer Solutions, LLC (DTS) is the leader in rapid asset collection, GIS enablement, and sustainable maintenance with VUEWorks as a system of record and performance measures maintenance and planning.

Click here to request a demonstration, learn more or share how you currently perform your asset management compliance.

Managing the life-cycle of your assets

Stefano October 20, 2015
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road-sign-puzzle
Here at DTS, as a leading solution provider for all phases in asset management life-cycle, we spend a lot of time interacting with a wide spectrum of private and public organizations from governmental agencies to large private companies. We have found they have one interest that binds them together – wanting to manage their assets in a true performance-based approach. You hear the phrase “performance-based” or “risk-based” a lot today – but what is it actually? Performance-Based Asset Management is a holistic approach to operational and life-cycle asset management. This holistic approach to managing aging infrastructure is critical as populations and asset inventory counts continue to grow while budgets and staff continue to shrink or stagnate.

Unfortunately we keep bumping into a disturbing trend. Time and time again we find the entity is stuck in a situation where their current “asset management” software solution can’t provide the performance-based capabilities they are looking for. These systems were usually designed to meet the basic requirements of a work management system and are great at tracking the labor and materials involved with keeping assets running. Some might include an inspection application that helps with tracking the condition of the asset at a specific time.

This is not enough to manage the entire life-cycle of assets as is done in a performance-based approach. You need to be able to relate the work order data to the valuation of the individual asset. You need to have the capabilities to evaluate the risk associated with how the asset can fail, the probability it can fail and the consequences if it does fail. This information for each asset needs to be integrated and analyzed to determine the riskiest assets, to run multiple “what-if” scenarios of different treatment tactics to uncover which are the most beneficial and economically attractive. This information is essential to accurately forecast capital budgets needs and create and maintain the projects required. How else can you figure out the best path forward?

This true insight into the life-cycle of the assets is the only way you can assess, evaluate, plan and maintain alignment between organizational goals and the efficient, cost-effective utilization of limited resources. Correctly implementing this approach is critical in order to effectively maintain an organization’s infrastructure and assets in a sustainable state of good repair.

It sounds daunting – but not if you have the right solution. VUEWorks is the answer. VUEWorks is a COTS asset management solution that was initially developed in the late 1990s as a tool for helping its creators build asset management plans for customers. The customers liked the software so much they wanted to buy it. VUEWorks has come a long way since those early beginnings. It has evolved into an asset management platform with a strong grounding in performance-based asset management. A platform where all your internal and external asset data can be combined, assessed, managed, and analyzed in a true performance-based approach.

DTS Proudly Welcomes Ms. Krystal Clem, GISP to the Team

Stefano October 13, 2015
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Ms. Krystal Clem, GISP
DTS is pleased to announce the addition of Krystal Clem, GISP to the team at Data Transfer Solutions (DTS). She will work out of DTS’ Orlando Corporate Headquarters. She comes to DTS by way of an international engineering firm. A certified Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP), she holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Resource Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Florida Institute of Technology as well as a Graduate Certificate in GIS from the Pennsylvania State University. Her background includes experience with GIS, asset management, site analysis, disaster recovery planning, stormwater management, transportation planning and capital improvement planning. Krystal’s primary focus initially with DTS will be providing support and professional services to our new and existing VUEWorks® clients.

Krystal’s background in asset management, capital improvements planning and GIS has allowed her to contribute to the DTS/VUEWorks team immediately. “We are excited to have her unique talents as part of our team and look forward to her helping grow the VUEWorks team,” said DTS CEO, Allen Ibaugh. When Krystal is not helping customers and exploring the GIS Universe, she can be found kayaking and hiking at State Parks or enjoying Florida’s beautiful beaches.

Asset management strategies–which is right for me?

Stefano October 6, 2015
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We get a lot of questions about developing the right strategy as it relates to assets that are managed by different agencies.  These questions are typically focused on “How” to manage assets, which typically comes after the agency decides “Why” to manage assets.

Here are some typical questions:

  1. When is the best time to manage my asset in its life-cycle?
  2. When do I rehabilitate my asset?
  3. What do I do to the asset?
  4. When do I replace my asset?
  5. Can I just let it runs its course and when it fails, replace it?
  6. Should I invest time and money in an asset early in its life-cycle or wait until it is in poor condition to fix it?

We always recommend starting this process by understanding a few things about the asset.

1.  Financial Considerations – How much does an asset cost to install and Maintain?  Is it capitalized or not?   In most cases, the cost of an asset has a large impact on how it is managed.  This is not the only consideration, but we can use it as a starting point.

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2.  Risk Considerations – What are the consequences to the agency if this asset fails?  Will someone get hurt?  Will it cause an accident?  These are closely tied to other financial considerations such as tort liability.

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3.  Life-Cycle Considerations – How does the asset typically deteriorate?  Is it straight-line deterioration or more of a polynomial-type of a curve?  This information helps determine what to do to an asset and when to do it (less cost when starting earlier in the process).  Programmatic treatments or inspection-driven treatments are common approaches to managing assets with this approach.

DCurves

Once an agency has a solid understanding of the Financial, Risk and Life-Cycle considerations related to an asset, they can begin to develop a management strategy specifically for the asset type to be managed.  Since every asset can be managed differently, we will focus on a couple of assets and their management strategy.

Pavement

  1. Financial – Capitalized asset – high cost to install and maintain.
  2. Risk – Critical to the movement of people and commerce – high consequence of failure.
  3. Life-Cycle – Long-term asset with long-term life expectancy – Can be managed using a life-cycle or Inspection-based approach.

Pavements have a long history of research and empirical data models that have been developed for Airports, Parking lots and Roads and a variety of software exists to support the maintenance of this asset.  Therefore, it is pretty easy to choose an approach to manage pavement based on an agency’s goals and priorities.  Typically this program is inspection-driven (every 3-5 years) and focuses on finding the best mix of Preservation and Rehabilitation activities designed to achieve their target Level-of-Service.

Signs

  1. Financial – Capitalized asset – low to high cost to install and maintain.
  2. Risk – Critical to the safety of people and commerce – low to high consequences of failure.
  3. Life-Cycle – Medium to long-term life-expectancy – Can be managed using a life-cycle or Inspection-based approach.

Signs have less empirical data collected for them and can have varied Financial, Risk and Life-cycle information compiled and available throughout the industry.  Strategies for management are typically focused on Life-Cycle and Risk and there are many methodologies that are accepted by FHWA.  These are outlined in their Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and are widely utilized throughout the US.

Light Poles

  1. Financial – Capitalized asset – medium cost to install and maintain.
  2. Risk – Semi-Critical to the safety of people and commerce – low to high consequences of failure.
  3. Life-Cycle – Medium to long-term life-expectancy – Can be managed using a life-cycle or Inspection-based approach.

Light poles are typically managed by inspection of their base attachments (every 10 years or so) but many agencies typically run these assets to failure (luminaire failure or pole failure).  This is another mixed bag of management because some light poles provide a critical safety function (DOT) and others just light the way for safety (walkways) and are not as critical to the daily operations of an agency.

These are just a few examples of strategy development – we would love to see comments related to the infrastructure that you manage and we will reply with some of the Industry’s Best-Management-Practices (BMPs) that are successfully used throughout the US.

Infrastructure assets end of life-cycle

Stefano September 28, 2015
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OverpassAs we are all well aware, after many years of capital investment in our infrastructure in the mid-1900s, our assets in transportation, water treatment, and electric transmission are reaching their end of life-cycle. In recent years, the Skagit bridge collapse in Washington, the water pipe burst at UCLA and the Metrodome roof collapse in Minneapolis serve as just a few examples of American infrastructure in continuing disrepair. Federal appropriations have been shrinking, state and local funds continue to be inadequate and infrastructure managers are being asked to do more with less.

What can be brought to bear from the International Infrastructure Asset Management market to potentially help deal with this issue? One area of interest lies in the Institute of Asset Management’s ISO 55000 suite of international standards that was released in January 2014 and aims to provide “a management framework for the coordinated activity of an organization to realize value from its assets in order to support the delivery of its strategic plan and objectives.” In addition, the focus is placed on “strategic” asset management within the standard, placing a focus on optimization and prioritizing assets for repair and replacement based on a combination of condition, risk and performance metrics.

Some of the key elements of the standard encourage us to improve in the following ways:

  • Development of a clear and concise asset management policy, strategy and approach to strategic planning
  • Defining levels of service and linking these to interventions and desired outcomes
  • Evidence of proactive external stakeholder engagement and management
  • Integrating outsourced activities with the asset management system;
  • Implementing strategic and asset risk management and demonstrating its use in influencing asset management decision making
  • Business case development and integrated investment planning over multiple time horizons
  • Whole-life costing and governance

Sure, this doesn’t say how we are going to fund the needed maintenance activities, but it does specify a way for us to think about what comes first when going about those activities. It is anticipated that standards such as these have much to offer on how we maintain our infrastructure in the future and we should pay attention to see what can be applied from other international success stories moving forward.