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Izak Maitin, Director of Information Services, Department of Streets, City of Philadelphia
What are the market trends that have evolved with the industry and are reshaping the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) space?
One of the most important trends that has evolved within our industry involves mobile technology. The Department of Streets manages transportation and infrastructure over 2500 miles of road, enforces the right-of-way, and provides sanitation and recycling for 500,000 households. Mobile technology has not only increased the access to data collection and data dissemination but has also provided our Department greater awareness and the ability to work more efficiently with both the public and our own workforce . The second important trend is big data and analytics. Our Department receives over 500 service requests per day which means we respond to as many as 125,000 per year. Using automation tools, service requests are categorized and geocoded so that our Department routes the work orders required by technicians who are either deployed to the field or are already in there. Adding to more traditional incoming and outgoing mobile data the Department of Streets has installed GPS on 450 vehicles that transmit locations every 15 seconds in an operational day. This, when combined with related datasets, increases our awareness. We have streamlined processes and workflow to furnish information to specific audiences. Readily available data improves our ability to quickly react to issues and communicate our intent. Moreover, management of big data increasingly allows us to monitor and anticipate problems before they occur or are reported. The crux of our success lies in acquiring and disseminating relevant data when and where it is needed through mobile devices. To achieve the best outcomes, our processes combine existing and new data sources through tools that bring together analytics with human judgment in support of real-time decision making.
The third relevant trend is the integration of Geographic Information System (GIS) into applications providing data meaningful context through intuitive interfaces. We strive to build the solution into the process. We allow people to update data quickly through systems specific to the task they are performing. Each data element collected supports related activities fitting into a bigger picture. Building data and analytics into our applications increases the insight and intelligence necessary for superior service delivery. Sharing data through task specific applications that incorporate mapping tools is far more powerful than directing people to generic web pages lacking geographic context and situational awareness.
In-depth analysis allows our Department to effectively meet challenges, improve responsiveness and reaction, and frame our responses pro-actively within a data-rich environment
What is your opinion on the fundamentals of service based GIS?
Being an entity that delivers services to people across a city with over 1.5M residents; the Department of Streets must effectively connect the public with core services. Understanding urgency and context is critical. In-depth analysis allows our Department to effectively meet those challenges, improve responsiveness and reaction, and frame our responses pro-actively within a data-rich environment. Requests for service are generated in various situations from simple needs through reported emergencies. For instance, an unpermitted activity disrupting traffic inconveniencing thousands of people can be reported by the public at the place where its observed. Our Department often generates work orders initiated through Philadelphia’s 311 application, which is both mobile and web-based. We evaluate each problem, deliver a response to the person in need, and deploy work crews through automation. Data analysis supports solution generation and prioritization. In the case of traffic safety our top priority goes to known dangers such as streets on the high-injury network and vulnerable populations. Proximity to a school or hospital can be considered. We scrutinize the present and the past. We then apply it to the future situations through activities such as more aggressive monitoring of problem spots and stronger enforcement actions. Awareness also improves routine activities where coordination is needed. We can avoid excavating a street in advance of a parade or other planned event. Our goal is to prevent problems before they becomes complicated or have undesired consequences.
What are the biggest challenges that organizations need to fix related to ESRI space today?
Funding and competing priorities will always be a challenge in the path for the success of a business venture. So the real key for an organization is to focus on simplifying and where appropriate outsourcing demands outside of the core business area. Organizations must allow GIS professionals and staff to concentrate on work that benefits their customers. Managing complex systems in an effort to simply keep the lights on detracts from this objective. In the case of the Department of Streets, we monitor systems constantly to ensure any breakdowns are recognized as soon as possible. It is an increasingly difficult task to keep operations going, ensure disaster recovery, all the while protecting data resources and securing our network from intrusion. Simplifying the computing framework by adopting a cloud-based approach and reusing core system components ensures the resiliency needed to deliver consistent solutions without unexpected down time.
With regards to disruptions and transformations in the ESRI space, how do you see the evolution in the technology a few years from now and what is the advice would like to offer to the budding technologists?
Something that will have a massive impact on the future of technology is going to be advanced analytics supported through increased computing power. Aligned with enhanced communications capabilities and mobile technology this supports a transformation that will further connect inputs and outputs to promote outcomes. Being able to quickly get insights and answers to our workforce as well as the public has the potential to optimize services offered by government.
Coming to the second part of the question, technologists of tomorrow should focus on life-long learning and excelling in the fundamentals of GIS and spatial science. Budding technologists should keep in mind that the tools used today will not be the same tomorrow. These individuals must learn to adapt. Beyond any single technology, technique, or programming language this is a most valuable skill. Bringing emerging technologies into the unique environment that every organization develops while applying sound theory and practice is critical to business continuity and future growth. This is the role of technologist in today’s ever changing world.