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Posted 2/15/2013

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By Sean McBride
Corporate Communications


The past five years have produced tremendous advancements in the world of mobile technology, and the next five are sure to do the same as smartphones and tablets continue to grow in what they can do. To remain proactive and meet consumer demand for information, the Charleston District’s Geographical Information Systems (GIS) branch has upgraded the District’s maps and data to be displayed on the go and made them into interactive, online viewings with the help of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), Inc. ESRI’s Portal for ArcGIS software has web tools that translate a variety of Charleston District data formats and then display it on live maps using changeable basemaps and background imagery.

“We’re using publicly accessible software instead of spending money to make our own custom, in-house software,” said Caleb Brewer, GIS analyst. “ESRI already has a host of capabilities for us to take advantage of,  which saves us valuable federal tax dollars.”

The success of this program has two parts: building publicly accessible GIS web services at the Charleston District HQ and using ESRI’s Portal for ArcGIS to create a website, http://w3.sac.usace.army.mil that will provide the capability to create and publish maps and applications on demand.  This ensures the District can control the data and empower our user community with online, easy-to-use web maps. This website will host hydrographic condition maps and depth charts of Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, maps of projects, inspections of completed works, and any Charleston District data that is publicly accessible.

The information will also be available on Apple and Android apps for smartphones and tablets. By downloading the free ESRI ArcGIS app, users can check channel conditions and depths while in their boats on the water. Users can search for their location and use the GPS locator to find exactly where they are and what the conditions are like around them. They can also see where dredges are operating. This will help ships entering the harbor that might need to radio ahead to have the dredges move their pipelines.

The other exciting part of the website and app is the ability for customers to be able to see conditions of projects after the District completes an Inspection of Completed Works, which is the final phase of a project. This capability of the software currently only exists for the District’s Folly Beach and Myrtle Beach projects but allows users to zoom in on the project and click small camera icons that will show actual photos with metadata taken by the District’s project managers when they have completed inspections of the area.

“This technology provides the public and our customers a way to access our data through more technologically advanced ways,” added Brewer. “We’re showing the data in the most efficient manner and making it easily accessible, which can cut back on Freedom of Information Act requests and save time and money.”

By evolving with the times, the Charleston District is efficiently managing resources while keeping customers and the public informed about everything being done around South Carolina. Check out the website and app and share your feedback with us at CESAC-GIS@usace.army.mil.