In-Depth

GeoDecisions

2006 ADT Innovator Awards

I. Project Information

Company and division name: GeoDecisions®
Web site URL: www.geodecisions.com
Project designation: IRRIS®
Brief explanation of the goals of the project.

To support national defense and security, transportation and risk management tools are essen­tial to enhance global deployability and situational awareness of people, equipment, and munitions worldwide. IRRIS was developed as a Web-based solution to support Department of Defense (DoD) deployment engineering and logistical decision makers. In addition to critical infrastructure information and real-time data, IRRIS provides readily accessible information for monitoring and tracking shipments from departure to delivery.


IRRIS uses advanced information technology (IT), geographic information systems (GIS), and location-based services (LBS) to enable military users to be more proactive in coordinating and managing assets through an interactive mapping interface. The application integrates transpor­tation logistics, real-time tracking, and infrastructure data into a single secure application that is accessible from any Internet-enabled device. The geographic (locational) nature of the logistics information facilitates the use of GIS mapping to visualize assets and to perform analysis and location-based queries that cannot be accomplished with only rows and columns of informa­tion in a database. In support of logistics activities, IRRIS includes detailed and timely data on road conditions, construction, incidents, and weather that might interfere with the movement of people and goods.

Brief description of the business risks involved.

The development of an enterprise solution with fairly untested technology proved to be one of the primary business risks, in addition to investing a large amount of personnel and direct costs to the company to produce a resalable product.

Brief description of how the system helps users.

The development of IRRIS began in late 1999 through a partnership between the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command Transportation Engineering Agency (SDDCTEA) and GeoDecisions. Over the past several years, IRRIS has grown from a U.S.-based transportation data display tool to a global, multi-component display, reporting, and analysis application with more than 1,500 users and more than 2.5 terabytes of data.


Since its adoption at SDDCTEA, the demand for IRRIS by other military, state, and federal agencies has grown. Other users include the U.S. Navy, Army National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For all users, IRRIS has demonstrated its wide range of use, adaptability, and ease of integration with new sources of static and real-time data. The application has proven itself as an effective solution to a significant undertaking – coordinating the movement of thousands of military vehicles, freight, equipment, and personnel worldwide.


As a result, IRRIS continues to be a work in progress. SDDCTEA and GeoDecisions continue to develop the application, and the database is refined as users develop improved versions of GIS, global positioning systems (GPS), intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and linear referenced data.


II. Organizational Objectives

What short-term and long-term benefits did the organization achieve from the project? Did the solution meet the projected goals for saving time and money? How were benefits measured? Was the system mission critical to the organization?

In 2004-2005 alone, IRRIS saved more than $15 million in taxpayer dollars through improved efficiencies. An economic analysis performed by an independent contractor measured the savings, considering a reduction in staff and the amount of time each person would have to spend obtaining information without using IRRIS. IRRIS is considered a mission-essential system that is needed by the U.S. Military to support combat and humanitarian operations.

Describe the business purpose of the new system.

IRRIS technology is an enterprise Web portal that supports transportation security and logistics for U.S. state and federal agencies.


The system integrates and displays worldwide infrastructure data, live-vehicle tracking, real-time weather, and active route conditions in a map format through a single, secure interface. IRRIS draws transportation infrastructure information from more than 150 data sets, providing current data on roads, bridges, tunnels, road conditions, construction, and traffic incidents.

Describe the features of the new system.

Through IRRIS technology, agencies can visualize assets and routes and track vehicles in real time. For instance, IRRIS maps provide highly detailed turn-by-turn driving directions, total drive time, and mileage, and also display an array of static and dynamic features, such as road and weather conditions, schools, hospitals, bridges, and waterways. This functionality could be used to plan or re-route vehicles to avoid changes in weather conditions, traffic accidents or jams, road construction, or public events that cause increased congestion. More than 1,300 route and port cameras showing live pictures of roadways or ports update every 60 seconds to aid in real-time routing.


The system also maintains an alert and notification system that can create buffers, or fences, around designated routes. If a shipment moves outside the defined route, an alarm or notification is triggered. GeoDecisions developed this product as an open system so it can easily integrate data from a variety of sources and formats. The ability to integrate existing live data and static data from various sources makes it a powerful tool for a variety of logistics and transportation applications.

Explain the functions of the new system.

The system enables different levels of government, military, homeland security agencies, and various civilian groups to share information and visualize assets critical to security, such as airports, dams, water plants, bus and commuter rail lines, facilities, nuclear power plants, and power grids. This common operating environment can help to improve response times and minimize fatalities during emergency situations and global deployments.

Who were the internal sponsors of the project? Which officials or groups were opposed to developing the application? Why?

The internal sponsors of the project include: the Government Program Manager; the Government Project Manager; SDDCTEA infrastructure staff; and SDDC G3 Operations Center. No officials or groups were opposed to developing the application.

Were users of the system involved in the project during the planning and development phases? If so, how?

Yes, story boards and constant customer feedback were incorporated into the project design. At this stage, IRRIS was purposely developed as an open system so various enhancements could be made on an ongoing basis.

What were the greatest challenges in completing this project? How were they overcome?

The main challenge was organizing the coordination of 32 team members in four geographically separated offices. Using daily status meetings and utilizing MSN Messenger, as well as having several committee groups worked to overcome this issue.

Were the goals changed as the project progressed? If so, what were the changes and why were they made?

Goals were not changed. The application was created to support SDDCTEA’s core mission to manage and improve the global deployment of U.S. Armed Forces in support of the National Military Strategy and to oversee ports, roads, and rail for national defense programs. New features are continuously added to enhance the application.


III. Category

Please indicate the Innovator Award category.
Middleware/Application Integration

Emphasizes the use of middleware, integration and messaging technologies within an application architecture. Relevant tools can include transaction managers, object request brokers, RPC-based schemes, XML-based technologies, object transaction monitors, Web services, application integration tools, message-oriented middleware (MOM) alternatives, and publish and subscribe systems. Also emphasizes the use of middleware to link multiple packaged and/or packaged and internally developed applications, and multivendor DBMS systems to allow seamless integration between dissimilar systems.


THE PROJECT


IV. Methodology/Process

Describe how productivity tools or techniques were used in the project.

The development team used components of agile methodologies, including story boarding, status meetings, and short development cycles. These techniques always delivered a working product. Additionally, SharePoint® was used as a central repository for team and project files, Seapine™ Surround was used for version source control, NUnit was used for unit testing, and Seapine TestTrack Pro was used for bug tracking.

Were testing tools used during development? If so, when were they used? Was the testing cost-effective?

Test scripts were used to test the application. TestTrack Pro was used to record and track defects. Testing was conducted on development, staging, client staging, and production servers. Defects were tracked throughout the development and testing cyle. Seapine QA Wizard software was used for automated testing. These testing tools delivered time-saving issue management features that kept all team members informed and on schedule.

Was a formal or informal software development life-cycle methodology employed? If yes, please describe it.

A formal software development methodology was employed utilizing the GeoDecisions Enterprise Methodology (GEM), which is based on Capability Maturity Model® Level III. From this information, the appropriate user interface design is chosen to best meet client needs. Components of agile methodologies were introduced, such as status meetings, story boarding, and short development cycles.

What formal or informal project management methodologies and/or tools were used to manage the project? If used, please describe how.

A formal project management methodology was employed utilizing GEM, which details the tasks, deliverables, and necessary resources for each phase of the project.

Were software quality metrics used? If so, what were they, and did using them significantly help the project?

No defined software metrics were used on this project. However, as mentioned above, the development team relied on GEM quality standards.


V. Technology

What were the major technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project successfully? How did the team respond to those challenges?

Developing a framework to support different databases and mapping engines was a significant technical challenge, as well as building an enterprise Web application using ASP.NET. The team responded by working together across offices to build a framework based on interface inheritance. This permitted interaction between multiple databases and mapping engines. In addition, once .NET was decided as a platform, the team, consisting of VB.NET and ASP.NET developers and Java™ and Visual C++® developers, concluded that Visual C#® was the language to bridge the gap.

What software tools, including databases, operating systems and all development tools, were selected for the project? Why were they selected over competing tools? What process was used to select development tools and software platforms?

Software Tools – Visual Studio® 2002, NUnit,
Third party components – ESRI® ArcIMS® and ArcSDE™, Authentix® security, Infraguistics Web grids
Database – Oracle® 10g, SQL Server
OS – Windows Server™ 2003, Windows Server 2000

The client selected these tools to enable the application to interact with multiple databases and mapping engines.

Describe the overall system architecture. Were elements of the technical infrastructure put in place to support the new system? Please describe.

Chart unavailable.

What characteristics of the tools and technologies used were most important in achieving the business purposes of the system?

Ease of use and developer familiarity were the most important aspects of the tools. It allowed the development team to produce working software within a few weeks.


VI. Project Team

What was the size of the development team?

There were 32 members of the development team.

Describe the software development experience of the team members.

The team consisted of members with a range of one to 20-plus years of experience in information technology.

What was the composition and skill level of the team? Did development teams require training to work with the technology?

The team is composed of six management/supervisory members, 15 developers, two database administrators, five GIS analysts, one system administrator, one interactive media specialist, one help developer/tester, one configuration manager, one QA testing manager.


The team participated in a three-day, in-house course on Visual C# and object-oriented design. Otherwise, the team relied on their experience and skill.

How many person-months/days did the project take, and over what calendar time frame? Was a formal schedule created at the start of the project? Did the project stay on schedule?

This project took more than 288 person-days and was completed from January 2005 through October 2005.

div>Did management and the user community consider the project a success?

Yes, it was considered a success at all levels. "SDDC has significantly improved its ability to organize, manage, and track military personnel and military cargo throughout the world," said Paul Allred, SDDCTEA’s IRRIS program manager. "We can also monitor the status of sensitive shipments like never before."

If you had to do the project over again, would you do anything differently? If yes, please explain why.

Yes, develop a more flexible toolkit that would allow for various types of mapping software to be integrated. Data integration and flexibility are core components of IRRIS technology. This approach would enable a variety of agencies, organizations, and users to integrate with the application without having to convert their mapping software.

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