Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become an integral component to the data management, analysis, and presentation needs during an emergency response. GIS allows for the rapid integration of multiple data sets and is a tool utilized throughout the Incident Command System to aid in timely, informed decision making. Advances in mobile and hand-held devices, such as smart-phones, tablets and GPSs have provided new capabilities in field GIS data collection and dissemination. In addition to GIS data, live streaming data feeds, such as vessel Automatic Identification System (AIS) and video from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), have become increasingly important to situational awareness. Prompt broadcasting of this data in a Common Operating Picture (COP) framework has become critical as the demand for real-time incident information increases.

The demand for instantaneous and real-time feedback is ever-present in today's society. Live updates and current situational awareness have always been sought after by emergency response management personnel. From resource tracking to source control to weather, the ability to view the current state of affairs is critical to decision makers.

In order to provide access, integration, organization, and quality control of this data, a Common Operating Picture (COP) is an essential component of the modern emergency response. Currently the Oil Spill Response Joint Industry Project (OSR-JIP), organized by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP), is producing a recommended practice for GIS/Mapping in support of Oil Spill response and for the use of GIS technology and geo- information in forming a “Common Operating Picture” for management of the response. The proposed definition of a COP is:

A common operating picture (COP) is established and maintained by the gathering, collating, synthesizing, and disseminating of incident information to all appropriate parties involved in an incident. Achieving a COP allows on-scene and off-scene personnel to have the same information about the incident, including the availability and location of resources, personnel, and the status of requests for assistance. Additionally, a COP offers an overview of an incident thereby providing incident information which enables the Incident Commander (IC), Unified Command (UC), and supporting agencies and organizations to make effective, consistent, and timely decisions. In order to maintain situational awareness, communications and incident information must be updated continually. Having a COP during an incident helps to ensure consistency for all emergency management/response personnel engaged in an incident.1

Integration of real-time data in a Common Operating Picture is critical for situational awareness and decision making. As shown in Figure 1, two common components of real-time data include mobile GIS data and automated data feeds. Response personnel utilizing mobile GIS technology can acquire data such as feature location and geometry, database attributes, as well as photo and video. This data can be transmitted instantaneously for display in the COP. In addition to personnel collected GIS data, automated data feeds, such as remotely operated vehicles, automatic identification system, GPS tracking, and other sensors and gauges, can be consumed in the COP as well. This paper discusses the integration of mobile GIS and automated data feeds within the Common Operating Picture.

Figure 1.

Mobile GIS and automated data feeds within the Common Operating Picture.

Figure 1.

Mobile GIS and automated data feeds within the Common Operating Picture.

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Geospatial data of all types can be integrated into the COP utilizing traditional GIS hardware and software. Historically this data has been collected in the field manually (pen and paper) or via mobile data collectors. The data would then be loaded into GIS databases for display and use by personnel in the incident. While this workflow functioned as designed, it was difficult or impossible to incorporate real-time data into the response mapping system. Decisions by response managers were based upon data that was at best hours old, if not typically days old. Technological advances in the telecommunications industry have allowed commercial off-the-shelf GIS software companies, such as Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (Esri), to develop applications that leverage cellular connections for mobile data collection and display. As shown in Figure 2, mobile data collection has become a key component of the COP GIS framework.

Figure 2.

GIS framework and organization within the Common Operating Picture.

Figure 2.

GIS framework and organization within the Common Operating Picture.

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To utilize the Esri platform for mobile GIS data collection, the following components are required:

  • Server platform

    1. On premise or in the cloud (ArcGIS Server / ArcGIS Online)

    2. Internet connection

  • Mobile device

    1. Operating system agnostic (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile)

    2. Cellular data connection

    3. GPS

    4. Client application

Typical consumer handhelds such as iOS-based or Android-based phones and tablets have the hardware capabilities to perform mobile GIS data collection and display, as do other common devices, such as Trimble handheld GPS computers. All of these devices have the ability to connect directly to GIS datasets hosted on the server. This connection allows the mobile devices to perform the following functions in the field:

  • View and interrogate read-only data such as geographic response plans, sensitive areas, socio-economic information, etc.

  • Create, edit, delete incident data such as operational resources (boom, skimmers, etc.), wildlife observations, oiling observations, etc.

  • Utilize the device's onboard camera to collect photos and video that can be attached to collected features

  • Perform linear and areal measurements

For GIS data to be accessible and editable by mobile and web devices, it must be organized within an enterprise GIS platform, such as Esri ArcGIS Server and/or ArcGIS Online. As shown in Figure 3, the workflow to create the necessary GIS services is as follows:

  1. Convert stand-alone GIS data to enterprise database. GIS data is typically stored in formats such as shapefiles, KML, CSV, and file / personal geodatabases all of which work well for single-user, desktop-level access. Data that is accessible by web and mobile clients needs to be in a multi-user, enterprise relational database management system (RDMS). An enterprise RDMS allows for the database to be accessed by multiple users simultaneously. Examples of these systems include Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle. The Esri platform has the capability to read and write spatial data to a RDMS, which allows for multi-user access and editing. Utilizing the enterprise geodatabase structure allows the user to perform Versioning, Editor Tracking, and Archiving of the datasets, all of which are important features when deploying mobile application involving field data collection. Versioning allows connected users to simultaneously create multiple, persistent representations of the geodatabase without data duplication. This framework allows users to create versions of a geodatabase for the various states of a project, reconcile differences between versions, and update the master version of a geodatabase with the design as-built. Editor tracking creates a log of who edited the data as well as when the edit occurred. After tracking is enabled information about each editor is automatically recorded every time an edit is made. This information is recorded in attribute fields directly in the dataset. Editor tracking can help maintain accountability and enforce quality control standards. Archiving provides the functionality to record and access changes made to all, or a subset of data, within a geodatabase. Geodatabase archiving is the mechanism for capturing, managing, and analyzing data changes.

  2. Create map from enterprise database. Once the data is stored in the RDMS, ArcMap desktop software is utilized to create the map to be published. Within ArcMap, the data layer is symbolized and the proper field aliases are provided for the attribute table. Settings for time-aware data are also configured at this point. Multiple data layers can be added to the map document and published as a single group service.

  3. Publish map service to ArcGIS Server / ArcGIS Online. After the data layer(s) have been configured within ArcMap, the data is then published to the GIS server as a map service. An ArcGIS service transforms the single-user map resource into a multi-user, web accessible GIS resource. The map service can be published on a stand-alone ArcGIS Server that is located on-premise or in the cloud. The map service can also be published to Esri's cloud-based web mapping platform ArcGIS Online. The choice of ArcGIS Server or ArcGIS Online will depend on functionality requirements of the final application. A map service provides read-only access to the contents of the map, including the layer symbology and associated attributes. For the data to be editable by mobile or web clients, “Feature Access” must be enabled on the published map service. This will provide editing templates for the client for an enhanced editing experience.

  4. Access GIS dataset on mobile device. Mobile applications such as the Esri Collector App for iOS and Android devices or ArcGIS for Windows Mobile devices can be configured to access the published web service. These are free applications that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Windows Marketplace, or Android Play Store. These mobile applications allow users to find and share maps from ArcGIS Online, access tools to search, identify, measure, query, and provide data collection and editing capabilities. The Collector App accesses maps created on the ArcGIS Online platform. Offline (disconnected) access to the data can also be setup for these devices. Data edits can be cached on the device locally and transmitted to the server when a WiFi or cellular data connection is re-established.

Figure 3.

Steps to create GIS mapping services for use in mobile data collection.

Figure 3.

Steps to create GIS mapping services for use in mobile data collection.

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Figures 4 through 7 are screen shots of mobile devices accessing GIS map services to perform various data visualization, editing, and analysis tasks.

Figure 4.

Accessing geographic response plan data on an Android tablet.

Figure 4.

Accessing geographic response plan data on an Android tablet.

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Figure 5.

Collecting tactical resource feature data (boom) using a Trimble Juno.

Figure 5.

Collecting tactical resource feature data (boom) using a Trimble Juno.

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Figure 6.

Attaching a photo to a feature collected on an iPad.

Figure 6.

Attaching a photo to a feature collected on an iPad.

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Figure 7.

Measuring an area on an iPad.

Figure 7.

Measuring an area on an iPad.

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In addition to real-time GIS data, automated data feeds are critical components in the COP. Examples of COP automated data feeds include vessel Automatic Identification System (AIS), video from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), vehicle GPS tracking, and other sensors and gauges. Vessel AIS is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships, AIS base stations, and satellites. Information provided by AIS equipment, such as unique identification, position, course, and speed, can be displayed in the COP. AIS is intended to assist a vessel's watch officers and allow maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements. AIS integrates a standardized VHF transceiver with a positioning system such as a LORAN-C (available outside of the United States only) or GPS receiver, with other electronic navigation sensors, such as a gyrocompass or rate of turn indicator.

Figure 8.

AIS vessel locations displayed in the COP.

Figure 8.

AIS vessel locations displayed in the COP.

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Vessels fitted with AIS transceivers and transponders can be tracked by AIS base stations located along coast lines or, when out of range of terrestrial networks, through a growing number of satellites that are fitted with special AIS receivers which are capable of ingesting a large number of vessel signatures. During an emergency response, portable AIS transmitters can be deployed on response vessels on an as-needed basis. These signals can then be incorporated into the AIS feed from other vessels and displayed in the COP. Live video feeds from ROVs and deck cameras are another important data source to be incorporated into the COP. Other live data that can also be incorporated include deck layout and pressure readings.

Figure 9.

Live vessel profile data displayed in the COP. 1615

Figure 9.

Live vessel profile data displayed in the COP. 1615

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Figure 10.

Live streaming high definition video from ROVs.

Figure 10.

Live streaming high definition video from ROVs.

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Video is an integral part of the COP in that it provides the operators a visual representation of what is occurring in the field. Video is typically provided live via encoder devices and recorded video is provided via media libraries. During operations in harsh environments where personnel are not able to be deployed, robots attached with cameras provide video transmission, regardless of the environmental conditions. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) allow for operations down to 10,000 feet subsea, and operate with highly tactile arms that replicate the capabilities of the human hand. During the BP Deepwater Horizon spill there were over 25 ROVs working simultaneously to assist in sealing the well. This required simultaneous operations via the “highly immersive visual environment (HIVE) room” that provided over fifteen (15) displays of information which was in effect a physical COP.

Data Display Methods

Integrating such large amounts of information require various methods to display the content and the two most common methods are via layers and a grid. The layered approach allows for various layers to be displayed on top of each other and transparency levels are then modified so that the viewer is provided with a high density of information for decision making. An example of this is a base-map of the ocean that includes weather radar data and aircraft position data. These two data sets can exist simultaneously and provides a more concise view of information in the context of a COP.

The grid concept allows for the various screens to be placed side by side so that the user can evaluate the various feeds of data being provided. Telemetry data such as pressures, temperatures, and depths are displayed well in a grid due to the various scales represented by the data. Overlaying this type of data can cause some values to be depreciated in the display, especially when evaluating trend data. Splitting up the display into a grid allows for this information to be displayed in its appropriate context which allows for better decision making.

Figure 11.

Pressure gauge readings displayed in the COP.

Figure 11.

Pressure gauge readings displayed in the COP.

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Communications Methods

Communications is the platform required to deliver voice, video and data from an incident area. Depending upon the various regions, the technologies listed below are the most commonly used and provide various bandwidth options.

Satellite

Satellite communications is the primary method used for delivering Internet to remote locations worldwide. Stabilized and non-stabilized systems are available depending upon the application. The size of the units varies from a small, portable transmitting unit that can fit in a backpack up to a large skid unit that can be driven into an operational area on a trailer. Satellite communications have various bandwidth capacities ranging from 64k to over 20Mb. One must realize that when utilizing satellite data, the latency averages 800ms due to the distance required to reach the satellite and return to earth. This can have an effect when attempting to operate equipment in real-time and must be taken into consideration. An example of this is flying a remote drone from Nevada while the aircraft is in the Middle-East. The operator must compensate for the delay to ensure the commands are received in the appropriate timing, especially during take-off and landing phases of the mission.

Figure 12.

Examples of communications hardware.

Figure 12.

Examples of communications hardware.

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WiFi

Wifi is used for vessel-to-vessel and near-shore communications and is capable of transmitting data at over 50Mbit/s. This is also useful for extending the data coverage of an operation in combination with the other previously listed satellite methods. An example scenario would be an incident deployment to a remote location in Africa during an incident. A satellite system can provide direct connectivity to the Internet and when also integrating WiFi into the basecamp, will allow other users to quickly connect with the system to initiate data transmission.

WiMax

WiMax is a long range wireless solution that provides 30-40 Mbits/s speed capability over ranges of 10-30 miles. WiMax is useful in scenarios where a backhaul connection (connection between the core, or backbone network, and small sub-networks) is required over long distance similar to Microwave. This allows one remote base to connect to another at a higher bandwidth and distance capacity over WiFi. In situations where long distances preclude WiFi from being used, offshore WiMax can be useful for connecting various platforms together via a wireless mesh.

Microwave

Microwave networks are designed for long range data transmissions over 30 miles and are commonly used to backhaul the voice, video and data from the field to the nearest high speed drop-off point. These installations require a larger physical and power footprint but can be the best solution for more permanent site deployments where high availability is required. A typical scenario where Microwave relays are used is during mountainous operations. The Microwave towers can relay information across the region from the high elevation installation points to connect to the nearest data drop-off point.

Cellular

Cellular data is used quite commonly in international land-based operations as it allows for quick deployment and installation and transfers data between 1 and 5Mbits/s. Various technologies exist such as 3G, 4G, and LTE which allows for operations in all of the regions worldwide. This modem hardware can be as small as a postage stamp, which allows for rapid integration of equipment that requires connectivity. The cellular modems do not require line of sight so installations can be contained within vehicles allowing for a more effective mobile data platform.

Radio

Radio is used to quickly establish a voice link and can be used to relay video and data across great distances. With a range capability of 30kHz to 300GHz, cross- continental communications is made possible. Radio is one of the quickest deployment operations for voice communications when setting up a remote operation. Video is typically transmitted via an AM Frequency and then coupled with voice in either AM or FM. This allows for a lower latency reception of video for real-time operations. An example usage of the video is during drone operations where video can be transmitted back to a receiving station to visualize what is occurring over the horizon.

Fiber

Fiber connections can be deployed for operations where there is an extended operation that requires extensive bandwidth capacity. This allows for a secure method to transmit the data however, it requires long cable runs which must be protected from damage by elevating or burying them. For underwater operations, fiber is utilized due to the limitations of transmitting data through water, and is typically shielded with a steel mesh to ensure it is protected from the environment. Fiber has the advantage on capacity in that it has capacities over 70 Tbits per second which no other medium can currently exceed. Fiber is used as the primary backhaul for most internet service providers (ISPs) and is highly flexible for easy installation in tight areas.

Advances in the telecommunications industry have allowed for real-time spatial data and streaming feeds to be incorporated into the Common Operating Picture for an emergency response. Technological advances have allowed emergency responders to transition from hand written data collection, utilizing pen and paper, to real-time data collection and transmission through hand-held devices. Data can also be streamed real-time from inaccessible locations, such as underwater ROVs. This data provides response managers with unprecedented access to critical information required to make rapid, informed decisions during stressful, time-critical situations. It is now up to the industry to determine workflows and processes to take advantage of this technology.

1.
The Open Geospatial Consortium
.
August 26, 2013
.
Request for Information (RFI) on a Common Operating Picture (COP) for Oil Spill Response
.