Today is GIS Day, a day started in 1999 to showcase the many uses of geographical information systems (GIS). Earlier blog posts by Locus Technologies for GIS day have shown how GIS supports cutting-edge visualization of objects in space and over time. This year’s post explains how GIS supports augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that enhances how we experience the real world by overlaying your surroundings with computer-generated objects. It differs from virtual reality (VR) because in VR, everything you see is computer generated, but in AR, the majority of what you see is real – your experience of reality is enhanced (augmented) but not totally replaced.

You are probably familiar with one AR application already if you watch American football. The ‘virtual’ first down line that appears on field before each play is projected there by computer and is not really painted on the field. If you follow soccer (or football to the rest of the world), AR is used by a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to objectively determine tight offsides decisions. Digital lines are drawn across the field to show whether or not attackers are illegally past the last defender or not. Another AR example is the popular game Pokémon Go that shows cute virtual creatures in your living room or your front yard.

To experience AR, you need something to project the non-real objects onto your view of the world. Many AR applications use mobile phones or other devices. An AR application uses the camera view to show you the world around you and then overlays virtual objects onto the view. Other devices such as head mounted displays, ‘smart glasses’, or even ‘bionic contact lenses’ can use AR, but have not been as popular as phones or other mobile devices. In contrast to AR, VR cannot be fully supported with just a mobile device and usually requires headsets to immerse you in a virtual world. Because of this need, AR is much less intrusive than VR is.

Countless other examples of AR already exist in many fields. A few selected applications include:

  • Online shoppers at some e-commerce sites can use smart devices to project furniture into their home to see how the pieces look before making a purchase.
  • Some clothing stores can project clothing onto shoppers’ bodies to check appearance without having to change clothes. These applications require the user to be in a special dressing booth with full body scanning capabilities.
  • Urban planners use AR to display how planned buildings, cell towers, wind turbines, and other structures would look in the existing space. Planners can walk the streets and view how proposed projects would alter the existing cityscape.
  • AR is used in manufacturing to display operation and safety instructions in a worker’s field of vision using head mounted displays, which circumvents the need to refer to bulky paper manuals.
  • Utility managers can see underground pipelines, water lines, sewer pipes, electrical lines, and other infrastructure projected below their feet.

So how does GIS relate to AR? There are three main uses of GIS in AR:

  • Location: Any AR application must know where the user is and where to place virtual objects. In most cases, full GIS capabilities are not needed; instead, the application accesses a GPS (global positioning system) to find locations. Consider the Pokémon Go application mentioned before. The game knows where the various Pokémon need to appear. When a user plays the game, it uses GPS to find the user, and then shows any Pokémon that are near the user based on their locations.
  • Layers: An AR application may need to show features that are not visible to the user, such as underground electrical lines, earthquake fault lines, property lines, or planned buildings. All these features can be stored as GIS map layers in the cloud and then displayed in the AR application as virtual overlays projected on the real world. Furthermore, a user could select a displayed item and view related attribute information in the GIS layer. For example, a user could view the condition, age, and repair status of a selected water pipeline.
  • Navigation: An AR application may also need to help a user get from point A to point B, for example in a crowded airport or in a large warehouse. Such navigation could be facilitated by showing virtual route markers and arrows on the real world.

Locus has been exploring environmental uses of AR and GIS by adding AR to Locus Mobile, which is the Locus app for collecting field data, completing EHS audits, tracking waste containers, and completing other tasks requiring users to gather data out of the office. Locus Mobile now features an AR mode to assist users when taking field samples. When the user activates AR mode, the app uses the camera to show the user’s immediate area. The app then puts multiple virtual markers on the display corresponding to sampling points located in that direction. As the user moves or rotates the phone to change the viewing area, the markers change to reflect the locations in the user’s line of sight. Clicking a marker provides more information including the location name and the distance from the user.

Locus Mobile uses all three ways to combine GIS with AR:

  • By using GPS to find the user’s location and the locations of nearby sampling points.
  • By using GIS to display the layer of sampling points.
  • By using GIS to assist with navigation to sampling points by showing distance and direction.

Here is a sample image from Locus Mobile showing three nearby sampling locations along with information about past events or measurements at the locations. The three blue banners are the augmented reality displayed on top of the view of the nearby surroundings.

Locus Augmented Reality

By using GIS and AR to assist users in finding sampling points, Locus Mobile makes field personnel more productive. Samplers can find field locations quickly and can easily pull up related information. Locus continues to explore using AR to expand the functionality of its environmental applications.


Interested in Locus’ GIS solutions?

Locus GIS+ features all of the functionality you love in EIM’s classic Google Maps GIS for environmental management—integrated with the powerful cartography, interoperability, & smart-mapping features of Esri’s ArcGIS platform!

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[sc_image width=”150″ height=”150″ src=”16303″ style=”11″ position=”centered” disable_lightbox=”1″ alt=”Dr. Todd Pierce”]

About the Author—Dr. Todd Pierce, Locus Technologies

Dr. Pierce manages a team of programmers tasked with development and implementation of Locus’ EIM application, which lets users manage their environmental data in the cloud using Software-as-a-Service technology. Dr. Pierce is also directly responsible for research and development of Locus’ GIS (geographic information systems) and visualization tools for mapping analytical and subsurface data. Dr. Pierce earned his GIS Professional (GISP) certification in 2010.

The ability to visualize your field and analytical data across maps, logs, and charts is a crucial part of managing environmental information. Locus makes it easy to visually display and export data for sharing in reports and presentations. We’ve compiled 7 of the most useful visualization tools in our environmental information management software.

Data Callouts

View your data in easy-to-read text boxes right on your maps. These are location-specific crosstab reports listing analytical, groundwater, or field readings. A user first creates a data callout template using a drag-and-drop interface in the EIM enhanced formatted reports module. The template can include rules to control data formatting (for example, action limit exceedances can be shown in red text). When the user runs the template for a specific set of locations, EIM displays the callouts in the GIS+ as a set of draggable boxes. The user can finalize the callouts in the GIS+ print view and then send the resulting map to a printer or export the map to a PDF file.

Locus GIS Data Callouts


Graduated Symbols

Locus GIS features high-quality and industry specific graduated symbols so that you can compare relative quantitative data on customizable maps. Choose graduated symbol intervals, sizes, and colors from a large selection of color ramps and create multiple layers for data analysis. It also features a location clustering option, ideal for large sites, a historical challenge for mapping.

Intellus GIS+ maps


Charting

Multiple charts can be created in EIM at one time. Charts can then be formatted using the Format tab. Formatting can include the ability to add milestone lines and shaded date ranges for specific dates on the x axis. The user can also change font, legend location, line colors, marker sizes and types, date formats, legend text, axis labels, grid line intervals or background colors. In addition, users can choose to display lab qualifiers next to non-detects, show non-detects as white filled points, show results next to data points, add footnotes, change the y-axis to log scale, and more. All of the format options can be saved as a chart style set and applied to sets of charts when they are created.

Screenshots of EIM chemistry plots menu with two sample plots


Time Sliders

Locus has adopted animation in its GIS+ solution, which lets a user use a “time slider” to animate chemical concentrations over time. When a user displays EIM data on the GIS+ map, the user can decide to create “time slices” based on a selected date field. The slices can be by century, decade, year, month, week or day, and show the maximum concentration over that time period. Once the slices are created, the user can step through them manually or run them in movie mode.

GIS+ time slider in action


Augmented Reality

Locate and identify inspection and/or monitoring locations on your mobile device. View real-time and historical environmental data to quickly find areas of interest for your chemical and subsurface data. Use your camera to get precise geotagged information for spills, safety incidents, historical chemical sources, subsurface utilities, or any other type of EHS data.

Locus Augmented Reality


Boring Logs

Create and display clickable boring logs of your sample data—using custom style formats and cross-sections. Show depth ranges, lithology patterns, aquifer information, and detailed descriptions for your samples.

Locus GIS+ boring logs on groundwater contour lines


Contours

Create and visualize custom contours using multiple algorithms. Because visualizations let you chunk items together, you can look at the ‘big picture” and not get lost in tables of data results. Your working memory stays within its capacity, your analysis of the information becomes more efficient, and you can gain new insights into your data.

Contour map for groundwater in Locus GIS+

 

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    Maybe you are a user of Locus’ Environmental Software (EIM) and are looking to get more out of our product. Or perhaps you are using another company’s software platform and looking to make a switch to Locus’ award-winning solution. Either way, there are some features that you may not know exist, as Locus software is always evolving by adding more functionality for a range of customer needs. Here are five features of our environmental software that you may not know about:

    1. APIs for Queries

    Locus expanded the EIM application programming interface (API) to support running any EIM Expert Query. Using a drag and drop interface, an EIM user can create an Expert Query to construct a custom SQL query that returns data from any EIM data table. The user can then call the Expert Query through the API from a web browser or any application that can consume a REST API. The API returns the results in JSON format for download or use in another program. EIM power users will find the expanded API extremely useful for generating custom data reports and for bringing EIM data into other applications.

    Locus EIM API

    2. Scheduled Queries for Expert Query Tool

    The Expert Query Builder lets users schedule their custom queries to run at given times with output provided in an FTP folder or email attachment. Users can view generated files through the scheduler in a log grid, and configure notifications when queries are complete. Users can scheduled queries to run on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, or to run after an electronic data deliverable (EDD) of a specified format is loaded to EIM. Best of all, these queries can be instantly ran and configured from the dashboard.

    Scheduled Queries in Locus EIM

    Scheduled Queries in Locus EIM

    3. Chart Formatting

    Multiple charts can be created in EIM at one time. Charts can then be formatted using the Format tab. Formatting can include the ability to add milestone lines and shaded date ranges for specific dates on the x axis. The user can also change font, legend location, line colors, marker sizes and types, date formats, legend text, axis labels, grid line intervals or background colors. In addition, users can choose to display lab qualifiers next to non-detects, show non-detects as white filled points, show results next to data points, add footnotes, change the y-axis to log scale, and more. All of the format options can be saved as a chart style set and applied to sets of charts when they are created.

    Chart Formatting in Locus EIM

    Chart Formatting in Locus EIM

    4. Quick Search

    To help customers find the correct EIM menu function, Locus added a search box at the top right of EIM. The search box returns any menu items that match the user’s entered search term.

    Locus EIM Quick Search

    Locus EIM Quick Search

    5. Data Callouts in Locus’ Premium GIS Software

    When the user runs the template for a specific set of locations, EIM displays the callouts in Locus’ premium GIS software, GIS+, as a set of draggable boxes. The user can finalize the callouts in the GIS+ print view and then send the resulting map to a printer or export the map to a PDF file.

    Locus GIS+ Data Callouts

    Locus GIS+ Data Callouts

     

    [sc_button link=”/applications/environmental-information-management/” text=”See more features” link_target=”_self” color=”ffffff” background_color=”52a6ea” centered=”1″]

    Let’s look back on the most exciting new features and changes made in EIM, Locus’ environmental data management software, during 2020!

    Locus EIM Devices

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”laptop” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#52a6ea” icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    1. Expanded EIM API

    Locus expanded the EIM application programming interface (API) to support running any EIM Expert Query. Using a drag and drop interface, an EIM user can create an Expert Query to construct a custom SQL query that returns data from any EIM data table. The user can then call the Expert Query through the API from a web browser or any application that can consume a REST API. The API returns the results in JSON format for download or use in another program. EIM power users will find the expanded API extremely useful for generating custom data reports and for bringing EIM data into other applications.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”search” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#9ac63f” icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    2. Enhanced EIM Search Bar Functionality

    Locus enhanced the usefulness of the EIM search box located at the top right of EIM. A user can now search for a location, field sample, or parameter, and choose from quick links showing any found data records plus related field measurements, groundwater levels, or analytical results. The search box also supports searches across EIM help files. These improvements, along with the existing ability to search for EIM menu items or functions, greatly increase the search bar’s usefulness and make it much easier for users to find what they need. In 2021, Locus plans on further expanding the search bar to allow for generating charts or maps for entered locations or parameters.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”gis-plus” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#3766b5″ icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    3. Multisite Support for EIM GIS+

    The EIM GIS+ package brings the power of geographical information systems (GIS) to EIM. In 2020, Locus added multisite support for the GIS+. A user can generate a map showing locations and related results for more than one EIM site at a time. This GIS+ improvement supports cross-site queries and maps, which help greatly with analysis across a portfolio of sites in EIM.[/sc_icon_with_text]

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    4. Support for Sample Planning Notifications

    Locus rolled a new EIM feature in 2020 to support automated email notifications for sample planning events. Users can subscribe to notifications for unreported analysis groups, parameters, or samples; late and upcoming samples; and compliance samples at risk of being late. Each notification can be tailored for specific plans, events, and tasks, and are set to run for specific time window. With these new notification types, users gain more control over their sample planning and are better notified about potential issues. The new sample planning notifications are available in Water EIM but can be deployed to other customer EIM instances on request.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”consumer-confidence-report” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#9ac63f” icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    5. Continued Water EIM Reporting Support

    EIM is the world’s leading water quality management software used since 1999 by many Fortune 500 companies, water utilities, and the US Government. Locus continues to support water utility customers in EIM through multiple updates done to EIM reporting and analysis. From enhanced support for chlorine field data, to incorporating the latest reporting requirements for the Consumer Confidence Report, Locus continues to expand Water EIM functionality while accounting for variable practices that exist among water utility operators.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”analytical-view” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#3766b5″ icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    6. Improved Analytical Views

    Locus continues to upgrade and improve the EIM interface and user experience. In 2020, Locus overhauled the Analytical Views pages in EIM, which support data exports for analytical results as well as laboratory QC samples and results. Multiple EIM menu items were combined into one page that supports all analytical data views. Users are directed through a series of filter selections that culminate in a grid of results. The new page improves usability and provides one centralized place for these data reports.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”load-edd” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#52a6ea” icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    7. Enhanced FTP EDD Loader Abilities

    One of the more powerful modules in EIM is the FTP EDD loader, which lets laboratory users upload multiple analytical EDD files for different sites to a Locus FTP server for batch processing. Lab users do not have to login to EIM to upload each EDD individually. In 2020, Locus augmented this function to support non-analytical EDDs and to accept EDDs from non-lab users. With these changes, any EIM user can upload to the FTP site any number of EDD files in any format for multiple sites. Users may still need to login to EIM to resolve any EDD errors. Interested EIM users should contact Locus to get the needed FTP site credentials.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”discharge-monitoring-report” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#9ac63f” icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    8. Expanded DMR Support

    Locus continues to enhance the Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) module in EIM. In 2020, Locus implemented calculations needed to handle reporting of divalent metals. Locus also added the Florida DEP ezDMR format. Locus continues to add more formats so customers can meet their reporting requirements.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”parameter-limits” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#3766b5″ icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    9. Improved Parameter Management

    Locus added two new features in EIM to improve support for managing analytical parameters. First, EIM now allows for storing parameter names in the local language and using these translated names in EIM Enhanced Formatted Reports. This function helps non-English customers create reports customized for local users. Second, EIM can handle alternate parameter codes. These ‘aliases’ for the primary parameter code, used in tracking reports and in EDD uploads, ensure that labs are not flagged or penalized for using a parameter code that is synonymous with the expected EIM parameter code.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    [sc_icon_with_text icon=”unit-conversions” icon_shape=”circle” icon_color=”#ffffff” icon_background_color=”#52a6ea” icon_size=”big” level=”h3″]

    10. Improved Unit Conversions

    Locus enhanced the unit conversion functions in EIM in 2020; these functions are used to convert laboratory analytical results to a consistent set of reporting units. EIM now allows for conversion factors that are parameter specific. Second, EIM now lets users define molecular weight multipliers for use in unit conversions that require molecular weight calculations. Both these changes give users more control and transparency over unit conversions in EIM.[/sc_icon_with_text]

    Contact us to see a demo of Locus EIM and get a quote

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      Today is GIS Day, a day started in 1999 to showcase the many uses of geographical information systems (GIS). Earlier Locus blog posts have shown how GIS supports cutting-edge visualization of objects in space and over time. This post is going to go “back to basics” and discuss what makes GIS unique and how environmental data analysis benefits from that uniqueness.

      Spatial vs Non-Spatial Relationships

      So, what makes GIS unique? It’s the ability of GIS to handle spatial relationships, which goes beyond just putting “dots on a map”. You are probably familiar with non-spatial relationships such as greater than, less than, or equal to, and you probably use them every day. For example, suppose you want to buy the latest gaming console (PS5, anyone?). You need to compare the price of the console to your bank account. If the console price is greater than your savings, then you cannot buy the console.

      Or can you? With credit cards, you can pay later, so you go charge the console. At the time of the transaction, some software evaluates a non-spatial relationship and checks if the console price plus your current debt is less than your credit limit. If so, you can buy the console; if not, your purchase is denied.

      The key point about this example is that spatial relations play no part. It doesn’t matter where you are located or where the game console is sold from. (OK, there may be things like state taxes and shipping, but that just contributes to the price.) Now, if you were trying to find all gaming consoles for sale within a certain distance of you, that is a spatial relationship. There are multiple types of spatial relationship, but the most common are inside, contains, crosses, overlaps, and within a distance of. Standard relational database software does not handle these sorts of relations, but GIS can.

      As an illustration, let’s consider two current events: the 2020 US presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic. With non-spatial relationships, you can answer various questions such as “did Biden get more votes than Clinton?” or “is the number of positive COVID tests increasing?”. But with spatial relations, you can answer more interesting questions such as “did areas with COVID hot spots vote more predominantly for Biden or Trump?”. For this question you must see if voters lie inside a COVID hot spot; a GIS can perform this analysis and then map the results. While many votes are still being counted, as of this blog post, it appears Trump performed better in COVID hot spots.

      Spatial Relationships in Environmental Data

      Let’s look at some example of spatial relations in environmental data. Assume you have a database of tritium sampling results in water, along with various map layers of natural and manmade features. What kind of spatial relationships can you explore with GIS?

      To answer that, we’ll make some maps with the Locus GIS+ package in EIM, Locus’s cloud-based, software-as-a-service application for environmental data management. All maps shown here display wells with tritium samples, with the wells represented as colored circles. The color scale goes from blue through yellow to red, to indicate increasing tritium results.

      Figure 1 shows an example of an inside spatial relationship. The map answers the question “what wells with tritium results are inside the Mortandad Canyon watershed?”. The watershed is highlighted in blue on the map, and you can easily see the wells inside the watershed.

      Locus GIS | Wells with tritium

      Figure 1: Wells with tritium within a watershed

      Figure 2 shows wells with tritium results that are within a distance of a river. The map answers the question “what wells with tritium results are within 500 ft of the river?”. The river, highlighted in light blue, has a 500 ft buffer shown as a dotted blue line. The wells with tritium that lie within the buffer are shown on the map, so you can check if any high tritium results are close to the waterway.

      Locus GIS | Wells with tritium

      Figure 2: Wells with tritium within a specified distance of a river

      Figure 3 shows another example of within a distance of. Here, the map answers the question “what wells with tritium results are within two miles of a middle school?”. The two-mile radius is shown as a shaded blue circle centered on the school. You can see the wells are confined to the area southeast of the school.

      Locus GIS | Wells with tritium

      Figure 3: Wells with tritium within a specified distance of a school

      These three examples are just a small subset of what can be done with GIS and environmental data. Here are some other questions illustrating the kind of spatial analysis that GIS supports.

      • Have any spill incidents at my site been within a specified distance of a waterway?
      • Do any pipelines at my site cross protected waterways?
      • Do any remediation areas at my site contain wells that have recorded high chemical levels in water?
      • Does the underground plume from a chemical release overlap any aquifers?

      All these examples illustrate the power of GIS for analyzing spatial relationships, and these examples are just the beginning. GIS can also perform more sophisticated analyses that look at spatial relationships in different ways to answer questions such as:

      • How confident can we be in the results of the spatial relationship analysis?
      • Do all data records follow the spatial relationship, or are any outliers that fall outside the norms?
      • Has this spatial relationship changed over time? Has the relation grown stronger or weaker?
      • Can we predict the future of the spatial relationships?

      Locus continues to bring new analysis tools to our Locus GIS+ system for environmental applications. These applications let you take advantage of the unique ability of GIS to analyze spatial relationships in your environmental data.

      Acknowledgments: All the data in EIM used in the examples was obtained from the publicly available chemical datasets online at Intellus New Mexico.


      Interested in Locus’ GIS solutions?

      Locus GIS+ features all of the functionality you love in EIM’s classic Google Maps GIS for environmental management—integrated with the powerful cartography, interoperability, & smart-mapping features of Esri’s ArcGIS platform!

      [sc_button link=”https://www.locustec.com/applications/gis-mapping/” text=”Learn more about Locus’ GIS solutions” link_target=”_self” color=”#ffffff” background_color=”#52a6ea” centered=”1″]


      [sc_image width=”150″ height=”150″ src=”16303″ style=”11″ position=”centered” disable_lightbox=”1″ alt=”Dr. Todd Pierce”]

      About the Author—Dr. Todd Pierce, Locus Technologies

      Dr. Pierce manages a team of programmers tasked with development and implementation of Locus’ EIM application, which lets users manage their environmental data in the cloud using Software-as-a-Service technology. Dr. Pierce is also directly responsible for research and development of Locus’ GIS (geographic information systems) and visualization tools for mapping analytical and subsurface data. Dr. Pierce earned his GIS Professional (GISP) certification in 2010.

      Locus will provide environmental field and analytical data management software for Evergreen Natural Resources.

      MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 17 March 2020 — Locus Technologies, industry leader in environmental software, today announced that Evergreen Natural Resources, a privately-held energy company based in Denver, Colorado, has chosen Locus environmental software for their data collection and management.

      Evergreen Natural Resources has selected Locus’ environmental software, EIM, after proof of concept and usability testing. They will seek to utilize Locus EIM as a laboratory database management system, and for regulatory report generation, while also taking advantage of Locus’ premium GIS tool, GIS+, as well as Locus Mobile.

      “With over 2,600 unique locations that require routine sampling, Locus’ environmental and GIS software allows us to collect, manage, visualize, and analyze data. Locus EIM aligns with our strategy to increase availability and reduce our internal application infrastructure footprint,” said Cesar Zayas, IT Director of Evergreen.

      “Evergreen Natural Resources is a rapidly emerging company in the energy sector, and their decision to utilize Locus’ powerful environmental software shows their objective to manage their data quality at the highest level. Our scalable software will match their continued growth,” said Wes Hawthorne, President of Locus.

      Visualize environmental data with Locus EIM.

      You’ve probably heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”. While the advice seems timeless, it actually is fairly modern and started with newspaper advertisements from the 1910s. Furthermore, it’s only since the 1970s that cognitive science has caught up and determined the truth in the saying. Basically, humans have very limited working memory, which is the “storage space” for processing data while making decisions and reasoning through problems. A good picture, though, works as “offline storage” that lets you push information out of your limited working memory and into another format for use as needed. This advantage is especially true when the picture is a useful data visualization such as a chart or map. In this case, you could say “A visualization is worth a thousand data points”.

      How limited is working memory? There is a rough consensus, known as Miller’s law, that you can only have “seven, plus or minus two” items in memory at one time. Think of a typical 10-digit phone number that you may need to memorize for a short period. It can be hard to remember all ten individual digits as one large number, as that exceeds working memory. However, you can employ a technique called “chunking” to group items together, reducing the number of items to remember. If you group the phone numbers into the typical ###-###-#### pattern, you only have to remember 3 chunks of 3 to 4 items. A good visualization not only stores information offline, reducing pressure on your brain; it also groups many data items into a much smaller number of chunks so you can process the data more efficiently.

      Let’s look at some real examples of how visualizations help by working through a typical scenario using EIM, Locus Technologies’ cloud-based application for environmental data management. Assume you manage a site where you are tracking tritium (H-3) levels in groundwater using a set of monitoring wells. You want to know where tritium has been high over the past ten years. EIM provides different visualizations for exploring your data and finding the answers you need.

      First let’s just look at an export of all the data. Using the analysis functions in EIM, you search for all tritium concentrations from monitoring wells for the past ten years. EIM sends the results to a table as shown in Figure 1.

      Tabular view of Tritium query results in Locus EIM

      Figure 1 Tabular view of Tritium query results

      The table has 717 results for multiple wells. It is very difficult to see overall patterns here, either spatially or temporally. Each of the 717 results is one item, and if you try to scroll and sort the table to see if tritium is increasing or decreasing over time, your working memory is quickly overwhelmed. This is where a good data visualization can help.

      To start, you decide to send the data to the Locus GIS+ application, using the graduated color and size options. The GIS+ takes the concentrations from the results table and plots them on a site map using the stored coordinates for each well, as shown in Figure 2. The map represents each location with a symbol that is colored and sized to reflect the actual maximum value at that location. The map legend shows you how this was done. Large red circles, for example, represent results from 4,500 to 7,000 pCi/L. As the sizes get smaller, and the colors go from red to blue, the actual result gets smaller.

      Graduated symbol and color map in Locus EIM

      Figure 2 Graduated symbol and color map of tritium concentrations

      This map is great for showing spatial patterns in the data. You can easily pick out a couple of “areas of concern” near the center of the map – one with orange and yellow circles, and another with red circles. To revisit our discussion on working memory and chunks, the map takes the 717 results and summarizes them so your brain can quickly pick out the two areas of concern.

      Let’s look more closely at the area of concern with higher results. If we zoom in on the map, we see the two red locations are wells MCOI-5 and MCOI-6 as shown in Figure 2.

      Zoomed map for one area of concern in Locus GIS+

      Figure 3 Zoomed map for one area of concern

      The map shows you where these two high concentrations of tritium are located. But what if you want to see how the concentrations vary over time? You can make a time series chart in EIM for these wells and include a desired regulatory limit, as shown in Figure 4. The green and blue lines represent the tritium concentrations over time for the two wells. The red line at top shows a regulatory action limit.

      Line chart in Locus EIM

      Figure 4 Line chart showing time series for tritium for two wells, with action limit

      The chart shows you two important things. First, and most importantly, all the tritium concentrations for both wells lie well below the regulatory action limit! Second, the concentrations have very different trends for the two wells: MCOI-6 started higher but has trended lower, while MCOI-5 started below MCOI-6 but has now surpassed it. You can confirm these general impressions by running concentration regression charts in EIM for the two locations, as shown in Figure 5. The charts show the best fit regression line and the strength of the relation.

      Regression chart in Locus EIM Regression chart in Locus EIM

      Figure 5 Concentration regression charts in EIM

      You can grasp these facts quickly because the of how the chart works. Each series of concentrations for a well consists of multiple data items that are ‘chunked’ into one line on the chart. There are two many individual data points on this chart for your working memory, but only three lines, which can easily be manipulated in your brain. For comparison, Figure 6 shows the actual data values for the chart. The time trends shown above in the charts are not as obvious from the table.

      Data values in Locus EIM

      Figure 6 Actual data values for the chart in Figure 4

      Now, this might be counter-intuitive, but what if you wanted to put some of these values on the map? While visualizations do help understand data, sometimes it can be useful to have the data shown as well so viewers can see where the visualizations came from. The EIM Data Callouts function can do this. Figure 7 shows data callouts for the two wells. Each callout shows the maximum annual tritium result for 2010-2020. Now you have the actual tritium concentrations located spatially next to the matching wells!

      Data callouts in Locus GIS+

      Figure 7 Data Callouts in EIM GIS+

      Now that you know where your tritium might be a concern, suppose you want to see what’s going on with groundwater at your site. The EIM contouring module does that for you. There are multiple contouring options, but for this example let’s use the default options for kriging. We know from Figure 2 that the wells MCOI-5 and MCOI-6 are located in the Mortandad Canyon. Figure 8 shows the contouring map generated from EIM for the groundwater wells in that canyon, using the most recent groundwater levels. Higher groundwater values are lighter in color than lower values.

      The area of concern is marked with an arrow at upper left. The contour lines and values can help you determine how the tritium might migrate in your site. Imagine trying to picture this just using tables of groundwater readings! With the contour map, the readings turn into lines that can be chunked together for analysis: the higher levels at the upper left forming a “plateau”, the closely packed lines moving across the map to the east, and then the “saddle” area at lower right. These different line patterns carry particular meanings to engineers and scientists who interpret contour maps.

      Contour map for groundwater in Locus GIS+

      Figure 8 Contour map for groundwater levels

      The contour map completes our tour of some of the visualization tools in EIM. Because visualizations let you chunk items together, you can look at the ‘big picture” and not get lost in tables of data results. Your working memory stays within its capacity, your analysis of the information becomes more efficient, and you can gain new insights into your data.

      Acknowledgments: All the data in EIM used in the examples was obtained from the publicly available chemical datasets online at Intellus New Mexico.

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      [sc_image width=”150″ height=”150″ src=”16303″ style=”11″ position=”centered” disable_lightbox=”1″ alt=”Dr. Todd Pierce”]

      About the Author—Dr. Todd Pierce, Locus Technologies

      Dr. Pierce manages a team of programmers tasked with development and implementation of Locus’ EIM application, which lets users manage their environmental data in the cloud using Software-as-a-Service technology. Dr. Pierce is also directly responsible for research and development of Locus’ GIS (geographic information systems) and visualization tools for mapping analytical and subsurface data. Dr. Pierce earned his GIS Professional (GISP) certification in 2010.

      Integration with other systems, whether on-premises or in the cloud, has become a key wishlist item for many EHS software buyers.  It allows you to take advantage of other tools used by your organization (or available from third parties) to simplify processes, access information, and enhance communication, both internally and externally.

      “49% of EHS software buyers are unhappy with their current solution’s poor integration with internal IT systems.”

      NAEM 2017 EHS & Sustainability Software Buyer’s Guide

      This blog will take a look at some common types of integrations we most hear about when talking with EHS professionals.

      • Integrate on-premises systems with cloud EHS software to provide a seamless business process
      • Integrate with identity providers to enable single sign-on
      • Integrate with public API (like EPA or regulatory information providers) for data submittal or private commercial APIs for proprietary content
      • Integrate with multiple sources for consolidation and review of disparate data sources (portal integrations)

      Integration with on-premises systems and cloud EHS software

      Many potential software buyers want to integrate an existing on-premises system with a Software as a Service (SaaS) system. The SaaS integration advantage is accessing information in existing systems without the additional user burden of using multiple software systems, making it easier to perform parts of a unified business process.

      A good example is creating a cloud system that integrates with an onsite Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system such as SAP.  Many business processes must connect external vendors with internal resources to track work, scope, invoices, and payment.  Cloud systems are ideal when external vendors need internal interactions.

      Locus Technologies Vendor Integration

      In this example, previously, vendors sent invoices as email attachments, then had to be manually entered into the owner’s ERP system.  The vendors had zero visibility into the processing status of the invoice, thus slowing down the flow of information between the owner and vendors.  The owner wanted to create a single view of the contracts, vendors, the approved budgets, and the payment approval status to streamline the process and enhance transparency.

      To meet the customer’s enhancement request of a “Single View” data had to be integrated securely between the on-premises secure ERP system and the cloud system. First, the owner established a secure web service API.  The cloud system authenticates and consumes the API over an encrypted connection to integrate the process.  Maintaining security for all parties, and application users have full access to the specific data they needed to complete their business flow.

      One caveat to this type of solution is that the owner’s IT personnel are often involved in establishing a pathway to the internal data and gaining internal approvals for this to happen.  Therefore, if you are considering integration with internal systems, check with your internal resources to make sure they can accomplish your goals while adhering to your corporate IT security policies.

      Integration with identity providers

      Many companies request single sign-on (SSO) for their users when accessing a third-party cloud software.  This functionality can be a key purchase criterion for selecting a software vendor.  SSO integration termed “integration with identity providers,” is especially important for large enterprises and many geographically distributed users.

      Using SSO, company employees authenticate in their own employee portal.  When an employee clicks on a link to the software provider, they are taken to the provider’s website and presented with the correct information based on her authorization, without having to log in again.

      Locus Technologies Integration with Identity Providers

      One approach to providing this functionality is to use Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) assertion through integration with the company’s identity provider (IdP). In a typical use case, the vendor software maintains the user identities and permissions for every employee at the company needing access to the EHS software.  When an employee of the company accesses the vendor’s SaaS applications, the SaaS sends an authentication request to the company’s IdP at this point he IdP authenticates the user and sends a SAML response.  Allowing the user access the relevant parts of the vendor’s SaaS software.

      The user experience is a seamless workflow and one less set of credentials to manage.  It also provides a method to simply and quickly remove users when they leave the company or no longer need access to the software.  Once removed from the company authorization, access to the external software is also removed.

      Integration with public/private APIs

      Government agencies and other public/private entities are increasingly delivering services or requiring data submissions via publicly available APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).  API’s help both parties by significantly streamlining data submission (such as submitting hazardous waste manifests to EPA).  More importantly, electronic data submissions all but eliminate the tedium and the likelihood of errors in manual and repetitive data entry.  However, the benefits of API data exchange impact users only if their software is capable of making the connection and sending the information safely and accurately to the intended recipient.

      Locus Technologies Integration with Government API

      EPA’s public REST API for submitting GHG emissions reports

      One example where APIs are extremely useful is in the submitting annual GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions to EPA.  Previously, GHG regulatory report submission was a manual process on the EPA website.  Data was typically calculated in spreadsheets for multiple sites and manually entered into the EPA website.  This manual process was both slow and error prone.

      To streamline the regulatory reporting process, EPA introduced an option to upload files that are formatted per EPA specifications.  The specification allows combined data from each reporting site (for multi-site facilities) to be submitted as a single consolidated XML file.

      The software can provide reporting tools that make it easy to run multiple reports and combine results in a single XML, which is designed to be suitable for submission to EPA.  In the future, when EPA provides an API, the process will become even more streamlined for data owners, and the upload portion of the process can be eliminated.

      EPAs e-Manifest system has recently gone live and is another great example of integration with a public API.  Automating submission of hazardous waste manifests will be a huge time saver for all entities that are required to ship waste.  The new system will also finally put to rest the clunky dot matrix printers that are kept around only to print out these manifests.  For this type of integration, look for built-in tools to configure automatic submission of manifests with EPA’s public REST API web service.  Because this is new (July 2018), expect some trial and error on the first submissions, but after the integration is worked out, it will be a game-changer for companies required to ship and transport waste.

      eManifest website

      GIS integrations for visualizing site and facility data

      Mapping and geographic information systems are another popular public API integration option for EHS software. Using Esri (a leading geographic information system) public APIs, EHS software can validate location data for address formatting and accuracy across a range of applications.  This type of integration is typically easy to configure and you just need to create the business rules that integrate with Esri APIs to check, format, and store the correct address and geo-coordinates for locations.

      Google Maps APIs can be used to show relevant maps of sites or facilities and overlay useful information like terrain, demographics, or traffic to make the EHS data more meaningful and understandable. Similarly, devices with GPS tracking can be visualized in dashboards to see current sampling locations or inspection locations in a map view.  These types of integrations are very familiar to most software users and are easy to configure as most sources of information are readily available publicly and come with well documented API information.

      Intellus GIS screenshot of tritium concentrations near LANL Los Alamos, NM

      Content services integrations provide up-to-date regulatory notifications

      From a private API perspective, consider content management services like RegScan and Specialty Technical Publications (STP).  Using services like this, companies can connect with third-party content providers to get information about the latest important environmental regulations delivered within their software application. This is a great concept as no software vendor can excel at all dynamic regulatory programs, so it makes sense to purchase the information from providers who specifically focus on certain types of content.  Another example is product regulatory compliance or online Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

      Any modern online specialty knowledge vendor will be able to supply an API for accessing and integrating their service information into an existing modern EHS software solution.  This means EHS software users can access articles that provide clear analysis on evolving environmental regulations or other topics of targeted interest with the content managed by the content provider.  Additional features may also be available from the content vendor such as alerts or notifications so content consumers can stay up to date with changes.  Through robust integration via public or private API, software vendors can provide enhanced content to users well beyond what the software vendor natively supplies.

      Two major advantages of public and private APIs is that no permissions are needed to access the information, and that users have immediate access to current and reliable content at all times.  Effective integrations can reduce the time needed to research related information from other sources and eliminate many manual errors by having applications connect directly to each other.

      Locus Technologies Integration Notifications

      Portal integrations

      Another common integration request is “portal integration”, or the melding of various streaming data sources (such as “big data” or IoT data) into a single system to enable better data analysis and insight.  For example, many companies have multiple continuous monitoring systems (CEMS) that generate huge amounts of data at frequent intervals.  With such huge volumes of data, it is hard to review and take action without condensing the information into an understandable format.

      A modern SaaS platform with built-in integration tools is essential to bring various data sources together and display the information in a meaningful way.  Look for dashboards designed to handle this type of data that provide a way to integrate data from different data sources into a single unified view that is easier to interpret. Look for tools that make it easy to combine and present data using different types of graphical charts and as GIS maps.

      Like integrations with on-premises systems, system owners will need to be involved in setting up the integration, and software collecting the streaming data will need to be sophisticated enough to be readable by modern systems.  If you’re using legacy data collection systems such as SCADA in your organization, you can integrate with those systems as well, avoiding the need for costly hardware upgrades.  However, its best to check with the system owners to ensure their systems are able to integrate before you start your EHS system planning.

      Locus Platform Automation Dashboard

      Careful planning to ensure integration success

      With all the advances in software platforms and commercial data sources providing enhanced linkage to data that was previously unavailable or behind firewalls, EHS software customers have a lot to consider when evaluating options.  In the last several years, software integration has become a hot topic and something most EHS departments are at least talking about.  If you’re evaluating EHS software solutions, you would be wise to add one or more of these integration capabilities to your “wish list” for any potential vendor solution.

      Consider the exact information you want to bring into your EHS software, the quality of the information you want to consume, and the reliability of the source.

      Also, remember that internal and external data providers may upgrade or change over time.  For that reason, the ease and reliability of integration is an important parameter to consider.

      Locus Technologies Integration Planning

      There are many clear benefits to taking advantage of modern integrated software tools wherever you can in your EHS processes.  Even if some integrations are only optional for your needs, consider the benefit to your organization in simplifying your EHS software implementation, maximizing other available resources, and improving the reliability and accuracy of data sources driving your EHS decisions.

      Integrations are sometimes initially perceived as an optional feature, but you should consider making it a requirement for your EHS software based on these benefits. Moreover, as new integration tools increasingly become available, you’ll find more value out of having a system that can use them to their full advantage.


      NAEM recently published this blog as a part of their Green Tie series. Read it here.

      Interested in learning more about integration? We recently published a detailed white paper on integrated systems for EHS software. It is available as a free download.

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      Let’s look back on the most exciting new features and changes made in EIM, Locus’ environmental data management software, during 2019!

      1. Migration to AWS Cloud

      In August, Locus migrated EIM into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. EIM already had superior security, reliability, and performance in the Locus Cloud. The move to AWS improves on those metrics and allows Locus to leverage AWS specific tools that handle big data, blockchain, machine learning, and data analytics. Furthermore, AWS is scalable, which means EIM can better handle demand during peak usage periods. The move to AWS helps ensure that EIM remains the world’s leading water quality management software.

      Infographic: 6 Benefits of EHS on AWS

      2. SSO Login

      EIM now supports Single Sign-On (SSO), allowing users to access EIM using their corporate authentication provider. SSO is a popular security mechanism for many corporations. With SSO, one single login allows access to multiple applications, which simplifies username and password management and reduces the number of potential targets for malicious hacking of user credentials. Using SSO with EIM requires a one-time configuration to allow EIM to communicate with a customer’s SSO provider.

      Locus Single Sign On (SSO)

      3. GIS+ Data Callouts

      The Locus GIS+ solution now supports creating data callouts, which are location-specific crosstab reports listing analytical, groundwater, or field readings. A user first creates a data callout template using a drag-and-drop interface in the EIM enhanced formatted reports module. The template can include rules to control data formatting (for example, action limit exceedances can be shown in red text). When the user runs the template for a specific set of locations, EIM displays the callouts in the GIS+ as a set of draggable boxes. The user can finalize the callouts in the GIS+ print view and then send the resulting map to a printer or export the map to a PDF file.

      Locus GIS+ Data Callouts

      4. EIM One

      For customers who don’t require the full EIM package, Locus now offers EIM One, which gives the ability to customize EIM functionality. Every EIM One purchase comes with EIM core features: locations and samples; analytical and field results; EDD loading; basic data views; and action limit exceedance reports. The customer can then purchase add-on packages to get just the functionality desired–for example a customer with DMR requirements may purchase the Subsurface and Regulatory Reporting packages. EIM One provides customers with a range of pricing options to get the perfect fit for their data management needs.

      EIM One Packages

      5. IoT data support

      EIM can now be configured to accept data from IoT (internet of things) streaming devices. Locus must do a one-time connection between EIM and the customer’s IoT streaming application; the customer can then use EIM to define the devices and data fields to capture. EIM can accept data from multiple devices every second. Once the data values are in EIM, they can be exported using the Expert Query tool. From there, values can be shown on the GIS+ map if desired. The GIS+ Time Slider automation feature has also been updated to handle IoT data by allowing the time slider to use hours, minutes, and seconds as the time intervals.

      Locus IoT Data

      6. CIWQS and NCDEQ exports

      EIM currently supports several dozen regulatory agency export formats. In 2019, Locus added two more exports for CIWQS (California Integrated Water Quality System Project) and the NCDEQ (North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality). Locus continues to add more formats so customers can meet their reporting requirements.

      CIWQS and NCDEQ Exports

      7. Improved Water Utility reporting

      EIM is the world’s leading water quality management software, and has been used since 1999 by many Fortune 500 companies, water utilities, and the US Government. Locus added two key reports to EIM for Water in 2019 to further support water quality reporting. The first new report returns chlorine averages, ranges, and counts. The second new report supports the US EPA’s Lead and Copper rule and includes a charting option. Locus will continue to enhance EIM for Water by releasing the 2019 updates for the Consumer Confidence Report in January 2020.

      Locus Water Utility Reporting

      8. Improved Non-Analytical Views

      Locus continues to upgrade and improve the EIM user interface and user experience. The most noticeable change in 2019 was the overhaul of the Non-analytical Views pages in EIM, which support data exports for locations, samples, field readings, groundwater levels, and subsurface information. Roughly 25 separate pages were combined into one page that supports all these data views. Users are directed through a series of filter selections that culminate in a grid of results. The new page improves usability and provides one centralized place for these data reports. Locus plans to upgrade the Analytical Views in the same way in 2020.

      Non-analytical views in Locus EIM

      9. EIM search box

      To help customers find the correct EIM menu function, Locus added a search box at the top right of EIM. The search box returns any menu items that match the user’s entered search term. In 2020, Locus will expand this search box to return matching help file documents and EDD error help, as well as searches for synonyms of menu items.

      Locus EIM Quick Search

      10. Historical data reporting in EDD loading

      The EIM EDD loader now has a new “View history” option for viewing previously loaded data for the locations and parameters in the EDD. This function lets users put data in the EDD holding table into proper historical context. Users can check for any unexpected increases in parameter concentrations as well as new maximum values for a given location and parameter.

      Historical Data in Locus EIM

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        Today is GIS Day, a day started in 1999 to showcase the many uses of geographical information systems (GIS). To celebrate the passage of another year, this blog post examines how maps and GIS show time, and how Locus GIS+ supports temporal analysis for use with EIM, Locus’s cloud-based, software-as-a-service application for environmental data management.

        Space and Time

        Since GIS was first imagined in 1962 by Roger Tomlinson at the Canada Land Inventory, GIS has been used to display and analyze spatial relationships. Every discrete object (such as a car), feature (such as an acre of land), or phenomenon (such as a temperature reading) has a three-dimensional location that can be mapped in a GIS as a point, line, or polygon. The location consists of a latitude, longitude, and elevation. Continuous phenomenon or processes can also be located on a map. For example, the flow of trade between two nations can be shown by an arrow connecting the two countries with the arrow width indicating the value of the traded goods.

        However, everything also has a fourth dimension, time, as locations and attributes can change over time. Consider the examples listed above. A car’s location changes as it is driven, and its condition and value change as the car gets older. An acre of land might start covered in forest, but the land use changes over time if the land is cleared for farming, and then later if the land is paved over for a shopping area. The observed temperature at a given position changes with time due to weather and climate changes spanning multiple time scales from daily to epochal. Finally, the flow of trade between two countries changes as exports, imports, and prices alter over time.

        Maps and Time

        Traditional flat maps already collapse three dimensions into two, so it’s not surprising that such maps do not handle the extra time dimension very well. Cartographers have always been interested in showing temporal data on maps, though, and different methods can be employed to do so. Charles Minard’s famous 1861 visualization of Napoleon’s Russian campaign in 1812-1813 is an early example of “spatial temporal” visualization. It combines two visuals – a map of troop movements with a time series graph of temperature – to show the brutal losses suffered by the French army. The map shows the army movement into Russia and back, with the line width indicating the troop count. Each point on the chart is tied to a specific point on the map. The viewer can see how troop losses increased as the temperature went from zero degrees Celsius to -30 degrees. The original thick tan line has decreased to a black sliver at the end of the campaign.

        Minard's map

        Charles Minard’s map of Napoleon’s Russian campaign in 1812-1813.

        The Minard visual handles time well because the temperature chart matches single points on the map; each temperature value was taken at a specific location. Showing time changes in line or area features, such as roads or counties, is harder and is usually handled through symbology. In 1944, the US Army Corps of Engineers created a map showing historical meanders in the Mississippi River. The meanders are not discrete points but cover wide areas. Thus, past river channels are shown in different colors and hatch patterns. While the overlapping meanders are visually complex, the user can easily see the different river channels. Furthermore, the meanders are ‘stacked’ chronologically, so the older meanders seem to recede into the map’s background, similar to how they occur further back in time.

        Alluvial Valley

        Inset from Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River.

        Another way to handle time is to simply make several maps of the same features, but showing data from different times. In other words, a temporal data set is “sliced” into data sets for a specific time period. The viewer can scan the multiple maps and make visual comparisons. For example, the Southern Research Station of the US Forest Service published a “report card” in 2011 for Forest Sustainability in western North Carolina. To show different land users over time, small maps were generated by county for three years. Undeveloped land is colored green and developed land is tan. Putting these small maps side by side shows the viewer a powerful story of increasing development as the tan expands dramatically. The only drawback is that the viewer must mentally manipulate the maps to track a specific location.

        Buncombe County land use map

        Land Use change over time for Buncombe County, NC

        GIS and Time

        The previous map examples prove that techniques exist to successfully show time on maps. However, such techniques are not widespread. Furthermore, in the era of “big data” and the “Internet of Things”, showing time is even more important. Consider two examples. First, imagine a shipment of 100 hazardous waste containers being delivered on a truck from a manufacturing facility to a disposal site. The truck has a GPS unit which transmits its location during the drive. Once at the disposal site, each container’s active RFID tag with a GPS receiver tracks the container’s location as it proceeds through any decontamination, disposal, and decommission activities. The locations of the truck and all containers have both a spatial and a temporal component. How can you map the location of all containers over time?

        As a second example, consider mobile data collection instruments deployed near a facility to check for possible contamination in the air. Each instrument has a GPS so it can record its location when the instrument is periodically relocated. Each instrument also has various sensors that check every minute for chemical levels in the air plus wind speed and temperature. All these data points are sent back to a central data repository. How would you map chemical levels over time when both the chemical levels and the instrument locations are changing?

        In both cases, traditional flat maps would not be very useful given the large amounts of data that are involved. With the advent of GIS, though, all the power of modern computers can be leveraged. GIS has a powerful tool for showing time: animation. Animation is similar to the small “time slice” maps mentioned above, but more powerful because the slices can be shown consecutively like a movie, and many more time slices can be created. Furthermore, the viewer no longer has to mentally stack maps, and it is easier to see changes over time at specific locations.

        Locus has adopted animation in its GIS+ solution, which lets a user use a “time slider” to animate chemical concentrations over time. When a user displays EIM data on the GIS+ map, the user can decide to create “time slices” based on a selected date field. The slices can be by century, decade, year, month, week or day, and show the maximum concentration over that time period. Once the slices are created, the user can step through them manually or run them in movie mode.

        To use the time slider, the user must first construct a query using the Locus EIM application. The user can then export the query results to the GIS+ using the time slider option. As an example, consider an EIM query for all benzene concentrations sampled in a facility’s monitoring wells since 2004. Once the results are sent to the GIS+, the time slider control might look like what is shown here. The time slices are by year with the displayed slice for 3/30/2004 to 3/30/2005. The user can hit play to display the time slices one year at a time, or can manually move the slider markers to display any desired time period.

        Locus GIS+ time slider

        Locus GIS+ time slider

        Here is an example of a time slice displayed in the GIS+. The benzene results are mapped at each location with a circle symbol. The benzene concentrations are grouped into six numerical ranges that map to different circle sizes and colors; for example, the highest range is from 6,400 to 8,620 µg/L. The size and color of each circle reflect the concentration value, with higher values corresponding to larger circles and yellow, orange or red colors. Lower values are shown with smaller circles and green, blue, or purple colors. Black squares indicate locations where benzene results were below the chemical detection limit for the laboratory. Each mapped concentration is assigned to the appropriate numerical range, which in turn determines the circle size and color. This first time slice for 2004-2005 shows one very large red “hot spot” indicating the highest concentration class, two yellow spots, and several blue spots, plus a few non-detects.

        Locus GIS+ time slice

        Time slice for a year for a Locus GIS+ query

        Starting the time slider runs through the yearly time slices. As time passes in this example, hot spots come and go, with a general downward trend towards no benzene detections. In the last year, 2018-2019, there is a slight increase in concentrations. Watching the changing concentrations over time presents a clear picture of how benzene is manifesting in the groundwater wells at the site.

        GIS+ time slider in action

        GIS+ time slider in action

        While displaying time in maps has always been a challenge, the use of automation in GIS lets users get a better understanding of temporal trends in their spatial data. Locus continues to bring new analysis tools to their GIS+ system to support time data in their environmental applications.

        Time slice for a Locus GIS+ query

        Time slice for a Locus GIS+ query

        Interested in Locus’ GIS solutions?

        Locus GIS+ features all of the functionality you love in EIM’s classic Google Maps GIS for environmental management—integrated with the powerful cartography, interoperability, & smart-mapping features of Esri’s ArcGIS platform!

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        [sc_image width=”150″ height=”150″ src=”16303″ style=”11″ position=”centered” disable_lightbox=”1″ alt=”Dr. Todd Pierce”]

        About the Author—Dr. Todd Pierce, Locus Technologies

        Dr. Pierce manages a team of programmers tasked with development and implementation of Locus’ EIM application, which lets users manage their environmental data in the cloud using Software-as-a-Service technology. Dr. Pierce is also directly responsible for research and development of Locus’ GIS (geographic information systems) and visualization tools for mapping analytical and subsurface data. Dr. Pierce earned his GIS Professional (GISP) certification in 2010.