Tag Archive for: EIM

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The EIM platform lets the user perform successful searches through various methods. In all searches, the user does not need to specify if the search term is a menu item, help page, or data entity such as parameter or location. Rather, the search bar determines the most relevant results based on the data currently in EIM.

Locus Technologies President, Wes Hawthorne tells us in this video how useful he finds this feature on the EIM platform.

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    Many in our material-driven culture, particularly in Silicon Valley, assign more excellent value to companies based on how much venture capital or private equity money they have raised or how quickly their companies have grown after initial seeding, and less to founders who bootstrapped their companies from nothing and after that, positioned them for long and steady growth. Although the term means different things in different areas of knowledge, in entrepreneurship, bootstrapping is the process of starting a business with little or no external funding.

    Locus has proven that how much funding a startup company has raised or how quickly it has grown are the wrong metrics to measure a company’s success, particularly in the arena of environmental compliance and data management. We bootstrapped Locus in 1997 and, without outside capital, created a new industry at the intersection of two significant trends before either was a trend: the growth in Internet usage and the growth in the acquisition, storage, and analysis of environmental information. Locus not only defined and pioneered this new space of environmental information management in the cloud but also became an industry leader leaving behind many well-funded startups with “borrowed ideas” and established ERP software companies. At every startup stage, some actions are “right” for the startup to maximize return on time, money, and effort. Fortunately, Locus took the necessary steps that allowed it to weather several recessions and market downfalls.

    While bootstrapping techniques are not just limited to funding, they also apply to how companies are run. By bootstrapping Locus, we created a built-to-last, slow-burn startup that was focused on the singular goal of building a cloud-based environmental data information management system and avoided expending effort on expanding applications that the market did not need or those that we were too dependent on external help. Bootstrapping provided Locus with a strategic roadmap for achieving sustainability through customer funding (i.e., partnering with customers)—if it is essential for Locus, it must be necessary for the customer first. If it is vital for customers, they must pay for a portion of it and have “skin in the game. “We don’t build applications to attract customers. We attract customers with our ideas to build applications together” became Locus’s modus operandi: Locus was born and built with this simple philosophy.

    Once Locus had built a solid customer base, Locus encouraged its paying customers to become consultants who defined the Locus product map. This strategy resulted in a rapid evolutionary expansion of Locus’ software in the marketplace. Crowdsourcing product development from customers with real-world problems has become the cornerstone of Locus’ success in the market.

    Let us digress here to comment on what it takes to build an environmental database management system. In the 1990s, when Dr. Duplan was leading the development of a client-server database for his then-employer (there were no internet-based databases back then), he and others now at Locus attended a trade show where a product called Oracle Environmental or something like that was being marketed. Yes, this is the same Oracle that is now one of the largest software companies in the world, with a market cap in the hundreds of billions, revenues in the tens of billions, profits in the billions, and over 130,000 employees.

    This small group of engineers and scientists wondered how they could compete against a growing behemoth like Oracle with all its programmers and financial resources. They listened to a marketing spiel and took the system for a test drive at Oracle’s booth. Their worries almost immediately vanished. What they saw was characterized by all as a system that was “a mile wide and an inch deep.” It was designed and developed by individuals with no field experience, little or no engineering or scientific expertise, and little understanding of environmental data and data flow. It claimed to touch on many different types of data (which it did) but owing to its lack of depth, it clearly could not work in the real world. Sure enough, the product was gone within a few years.

    In contrast, EIM has been designed and developed by individuals with advanced degrees in civil and environmental engineering, water resources, geology, chemistry, and biology. All who are not solely computer programmers have spent serious time in the field, have overseen the drilling of boreholes and wells, planned and collected samples, verified and validated analytical data, and have created data reports for internal, external entities. These individuals are very cognizant of the vagaries of environmental data.

    When giving demos of the system, we are often peppered with questions such as:

    • How do you calculate the groundwater elevation in a well that has some saline in the groundwater?
    • Can your system handle different units when reporting or calculating statistical measures?
    • Does your system have a means of accommodating dilutions when validating your data?
    • How does your system handle synonyms for parameters or alternate location names?
    • Does your system store TEFs?
    • Does your validation module assign qualifiers, and if so, how?
    • Can your system accommodate changes in well reference elevations?
    • Is your system’s data validation module based on SDGs, analysis lots, sample prep lots, or a combination?
    • To what extent and level are your systems capable of tracking a sample from planning to the grave?

    All these questions make sense to us, and we have an answer to them. Our deep domain expertise in such matters, coupled with our backgrounds in engineering and the sciences and our relevant work experience, has enabled us to work with our customers to build ground-breaking tools and modules for our products that work for all companies.

    While other environmental software companies have come and gone—often after getting much press, only to fizzle out on broken promises and dried-up funding, Locus has never wavered from its path to provide environmental data management services to corporations and government agencies. Despite the absence of a flashy PR machine and VC or PE funding, Locus has continued to be a profitable, independent, and visionary organization, which is now considered one of the top environmental software companies in the world.

    This is the fourth post highlighting the evolution of Locus Technologies over the past 25 years. The first three can be found here and here, and here. This series continues with Locus at 25 Years: Blockchain for Emissions Management.

    Locus Platform

    Locus Platform is the preeminent on-demand application development platform for EHS, ESG, and beyond, supporting many organizations and government institutions. Individual enterprises and governmental organizations trust Locus’s SaaS Platform to deliver robust, reliable, Internet-scale applications. The foundation of Locus Platform (LP) is a metadata-driven software architecture that enables multitenant applications. This unique technology, a significant differentiator between Locus and its competitors, makes the Locus Platform fast, scalable, and secure for any application. What do we mean by metadata-driven? If you look up metadata-driven development on the web, you find the following:  

    “The metadata-driven model for building applications allows an Enterprise to deploy multiple applications on the same hosting infrastructure easily. Since multiple applications share the same Designer and Rendering Engine, the only difference is the metadata created uniquely for each application.” 

    Why Multitenancy is Better than Single

    The Triumph of the Multitenant SaaS model, which Locus brings to the EHS/ESG industry.

    In the case of LP, it is the Designer and Rendering Engine cited in this definition. All LP customers share this engine and use it to create their custom applications. These applications may consist of dashboards, forms to enter data, plots, reports, and so forth, all designed to meet a set of requirements. Instructions (metadata) stored in a database tell the engine how to build these entities, the total of which form a client-designed application.  

    Locus Platform Evolution

    Locus Platform’s evolution to the leading EHS and ESG Platform.

    History has shown that every so often, incremental advances in technology and changes in business models create significant paradigm shifts in the way software applications are designed, built, and delivered to end-users. The invention of personal computers (PCs), computer networking, and graphical user interfaces (UIs) gave rise to the adoption of client/server applications over expensive, inflexible, character-mode mainframe applications. And today, reliable broadband Internet access, service-oriented architectures (SOAs), and the cost inefficiencies of managing dedicated on-premises applications are driving a transition toward the delivery of decomposable, collected, shared, Web-based services called software as a service (SaaS). 

    With every paradigm shift comes a new set of technical challenges, and SaaS is no different. Existing application frameworks are not designed to address the unique needs of SaaS. This void has given rise to another new paradigm shift, namely platform as a service (PaaS). Hosted application platforms are managed environments specifically designed to meet the unique challenges of building SaaS applications and deliver them more cost-efficiently. 

    The focus of Locus Platform is multitenancy, a fundamental design approach that dramatically improves the manageability of EHS and ESG SaaS applications.  Locus Platform is the world’s first PaaS built from scratch to take advantage of the latest software developments for building EHS, ESG, sustainability, and other applications. Locus Platform delivers turnkey multitenancy for Internet-scale applications.  

    Locus Multitenancy

    The Benefits of Multitenancy

    A single shared software and hardware stack across all customers.

    The same applies to many different sets of users; all Locus’ LP applications are multitenant rather than single-tenant. Whereas a traditional single-tenant application requires a dedicated group of resources to fulfill the needs of just one organization, a multitenant application can satisfy the needs of multiple tenants (companies or departments within a company, etc.) using the hardware resources and staff needed to manage just a single software instance. A multitenant application cost-efficiently shares a single stack of resources to satisfy the needs of multiple organizations. 

    Single Tenancy

    Single-tenant apps are expensive for the vendor and the customer.

    Tenants using a multitenant service operate in virtual isolation: Organizations can use and customize an application as though they each have a separate instance. Yet, their data and customizations remain secure and insulated from the activity of all other tenants. The single application instance effectively morphs at runtime for any particular tenant at any given time. 

    The Waste of Single Tenancy

    Single-tenant apps create waste

    Multitenancy is an architectural approach that pays dividends to application providers (Locus) and users (Locus customers). Operating just one application instance for multiple organizations yields tremendous economy of scale for the provider. Only one set of hardware resources is necessary to meet the needs of all users, a relatively small, experienced administrative staff can efficiently manage only one stack of software and hardware, and developers can build and support a single code base on just one platform (operating system, database, etc.) rather than many. The economics afforded by multitenancy allows the application provider to, in turn, offer the service at a lower cost to customers—everyone involved wins. 

    Some attractive side benefits of multitenancy are improved quality, user satisfaction, and customer retention. Unlike single-tenant applications, which are isolated silos deployed outside the reach of the application provider, a multitenant application is one large community that the provider itself hosts. This design shift lets the provider gather operational information from the collective user population (which queries respond slowly, what errors happen, etc.) and make frequent, incremental improvements to the service that benefits the entire user community at once. 

    Two additional benefits of a multitenant platform-based approach are collaboration and integration. Because all users run all applications in one space, it is easy to allow any user of any application varied access to specific data sets. This capability simplifies the effort necessary to integrate related applications and the data they manage.  

    Gartner Chart Showing Locus Technologies

    Gartner recognized the power of the Locus Platform in their early research.


    This is the third post highlighting the evolution of Locus Technologies over the past 25 years. The first two can be found here and here. This series continues with Locus at 25 Years: How did we fund Locus?

    Locus EIM

    How did Locus succeed in deploying Internet-based products and services in the environmental data sector? After several years of building and testing its first web-based systems (EIM) in the late 1990s, Locus began to market its product to organizations seeking to replace their home-grown and silo systems with a more centralized, user-friendly approach. Such companies were typically looking for strategies that eliminated their need to deploy hated and costly version updates while at the same time improving data access and delivering significant savings.

    Several companies immediately saw the benefit of EIM and became early adopters of Locus’s innovative technology. Most of these companies still use EIM and are close to their 20th anniversary as a Locus client. For many years after these early adoptions, Locus enjoyed steady but not explosive growth in EIM usage.

    Triumph of the SaaS Model

    E. M. Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory has much to offer in explaining the pattern of growth in EIM’s adoption. In the early years of innovative and disruptive technology, a few companies are what he labels innovators and early adopters. These are ones, small in number, that are willing to take a risk, that is aware of the need to make a change, and that are comfortable in adopting innovative ideas. The vast majority, according to Rogers, do not fall into one of these categories. Instead, they fall into one of the following groups: early majority, late majority, and laggards. As the adoption rate grows, there is a point at which innovation reaches critical mass. In his 1991 book “Crossing the Chasm,” Geoffrey Moore theorizes that this point lies at the boundary between the early adopters and the early majority. This tipping point between niche appeal and mass (self-sustained) adoption is simply known as “the chasm.”

    Rogers identifies the following factors that influence the adoption of an innovation:

    1. Relative Advantage – The degree to which an innovation is seen as better than the idea, program, or product it replaces.
    2. Compatibility – How consistent the innovation is with the potential adopters’ values, experiences, and needs.
    3. Complexity – How difficult innovation is to understand and use.
    4. Trialability –  The extent to which the innovation can be tested or experimented with before a commitment to adoption.
    5. Observability – The extent to which the innovation provides tangible results.

    In its early years of marketing EIM, some of these factors probably considered whether EIM was accepted or not by potential clients. Our early adopters were fed up with their data stored in various incompatible silo systems to which only a few had access. They appreciated EIM’s organization, the lack of need to manage updates, and the ability to test the design on the web using a demonstration database that Locus had set up. When no sale could be made, other factors not listed by Rogers or Moore were often involved. In several cases, organizations looking to replace their environmental software had budgets for the initial purchase or licensing of a system but had insufficient monies allocated for recurring costs, as with Locus’s subscription model. One such client was so enamored with EIM that it asked if it could have the system for free after the first year. Another hurdle that Locus came up against was the unwillingness of clients at the user level to adopt an approach that could eliminate their co-workers’ jobs in their IT departments. But the most significant barriers that Locus came up against revolved around organizations’ security concerns regarding the placement of their data in the cloud.


    One of the earliest versions of EIM

    Oh, how so much has changed in the intervening years! The RFPs that Locus receives these days explicitly call out for a web-based system or, much less often, express no preference for a web-based or client-server system. We believe this change in attitudes toward SaaS applications has many root causes. Individuals now routinely do their banking over the web. They store their files in Dropbox and their photos on sites like Google Photos or Apple and Amazon Clouds. They freely allow vendors to store their credit card information in the cloud to avoid entering this information anew every time they visit a site. No one who keeps track of developments in the IT world can be oblivious to the explosive growth of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Salesforce, and Microsoft’s Azure. We believe most people now have more faith in the storage and backup of their files on the web than if they were to assume these tasks independently.

    Locus EIM

    An early update to EIM software

    Changes have also occurred in the attitudes of IT departments. The adoption of SaaS applications removes the need to perform system updates or the installation of new versions on local computers. Instead, for systems like EIM, updates only need to be completed by the vendor, and these take place at off-hours or at announced times. This saves money and eliminates headaches. A particularly nasty aspect of local, client-server systems is the often experienced nightmare when installing an updated version of one application causes failures in others that are called by this application. None of these problems typically occur with SaaS applications. In the case of EIM, all third-party applications used by it run in the cloud and are well tested by Locus before these updates go live.

    Locus EIM

    Locus EIM continues to become more streamlined and user friendly over the years.

    Yet another factor has driven potential clients in the direction of SaaS applications, namely, search. Initially, Locus was primarily focused on developing software tools for environmental cleanups, monitoring, and mitigation efforts. Such efforts typically involved (1) tracking vast amounts of data to demonstrate progress in the cleanup of dangerous substances at a site and (2) the increased automation of data checking and reporting to regulatory agencies.

    Locus EIM

    Locus EIM handles all types of environmental data.

    Before systems like EIM were introduced, most data tracking relied on inefficient spreadsheets and other manual processes. Once a mitigation project was completed, the data collected by the investigative and remediation firms remained scattered and stored in their files, spreadsheets, or local databases. In essence, the data was buried away and was not used or available to assess the impacts of future mitigation efforts and activities or to reduce ongoing operational costs. Potential opportunities to avoid additional sampling and collection of similar data were likely hidden amongst these early data “storehouses,” yet few were aware of this. The result was that no data mining was taking place or possible.

    Locus EIM in 2022

    Locus EIM in 2022

    The early development of EIM took place while searches on Google were relatively infrequent (see years 1999-2003 below). Currently, Google processes 3.5 billion searches a day and 1.2 trillion searches per year. Before web-based searches became possible, companies that hired consulting firms to manage their environmental data had to submit a request such as “Tell me the historical concentrations of Benzene from 1990 to the most recent sampling date in Wells MW-1 through MW-10.” An employee at the firm would then have to locate and review a report or spreadsheet or perform a search for the requested data if the firm had its database. The results would then be transmitted to the company in some manner. Such a request need not necessarily come from the company but perhaps from another consulting firm with unique expertise. These search and retrieval activities translated into prohibitive costs and delays for the company that owned the site.

    Google Search Growth

    Google Searches by Year

    Over the last few decades, everyone has become dependent on and addicted to web searching. Site managers expect to be able to perform their searches, but honestly, these are less frequent than we would have expected. What has changed are managers’ expectations. They hope to get responses to requests like those we have imagined above in a matter of minutes or hours, not days. They may not even expect a bill for such work. The bottom line is that the power of search on the web predisposes many companies to prefer to store their data in the cloud rather than on a spreadsheet or in their consultant’s local, inaccessible system.

    The world has changed since EIM was first deployed, and as such, many more applications are now on the path, that Locus embarked on some 20 years ago. Today, Locus is the world leader in managing on-demand environmental information. Few potential customers question the merits of Locus’s approach and its built systems. In short, the software world has caught up with Locus. EIM and LP have revolutionized how environmental data is stored, accessed, managed, and reported. Locus’ SaaS applications have long been ahead of the curve in helping private, and public organizations manage their environmental data and turn their environmental data management into a competitive advantage in their operating models.

    We refer to the competitive advantages of improved data quality and flow and lower operating costs. EIM’s Electronic Data Deliverable (EDD) module allows for the upload of thousands of laboratory results in a few minutes. Over 60 automated checks are performed on each reported result. Comprehensive studies conducted by two of our larger clients show savings in the millions gained from the adoption of EIM’s electronic data verification and validation modules and the ability of labs to load their EDDs directly into a staging area in the system. The use of such tools reduces much of the tedium of manual data checking and, at the same time, results both in the elimination of manually introduced errors and the reduction of throughput times (from sampling to data reporting and analysis). In short, the adoption of our systems has become a win-win for companies and their data managers alike.

    This is the second post highlighting the evolution of Locus Technologies over the past 25 years. The first can be found here. This series continues with Locus at 25 Years: Locus Platform, Multitenant Architecture, the Secret of our Success.

    Locus Environmental Information Management (EIM) is the leading cloud-based application for managing and reporting environmental data. EIM allows users to gain control and insights into any analytical data, automate laboratory and field data collection, and ditch the patchwork of paper forms, spreadsheets, and disjointed databases for a centralized system. We have highlighted 5 key usability features that allow users to get the most out of their investment.

    Locus Usability - Easy Searches

    Easy Searching

    Throughout EIM, users have many opportunities to create search criteria, then pull up the records that match their data filters. A recent addition to EIM has been well received as it is a game-changer for simplicity. Located to the right of the main menu is a search box. Type in the name of a parameter, then click the resulting View Parameter link. You will see all the relevant information on the parameter, including parameter type, whether it is an aggregate parameter or not, site assignment, molecular weight, toxicity equivalence factor, and so forth. Click the View Matching Field Sample Results link, and you will see all the lab results that are stored in EIM for your selected site and analyte. If the parameter is a field measurement, you will see all applicable field measurements. If a parameter can be either a field measurement or lab analyte, you will see both field readings and laboratory results for the parameter.

    Suppose your entry in the search box is a sampling location rather than the name of a parameter. In that case, you will see matching field measurements, sample collection data, analytical results, and groundwater readings for the indicated location.

    Locus Usability - Rolling Upgrades

    Rolling Upgrades

    Think of the frustration your users or administrators may have experienced graduating from Windows XP to Windows 7 and 8 then 10. We guarantee this will not be repeated with our suite of products. Our Software has no version numbers. Rolling upgrades (included in License) are performed for brief periods during non-standard working hours. These updates will not hide or bury existing features. Over time, the interface may change to take advantage of new tools, but this will be done in a measured manner to improve the user experience. What we strive for is to never have a formerly working function break. If you have a recent vintage browser, you should have access to all functionality that comes with our Software both before and after a release.

    In line with this advantage of our products, Locus is not dependent on maintaining links to other software packages. This is not the case for some of our competitors who rely on links to third-party packages to perform data validation, plotting, and reporting.

    Locus Usability - User Empowerment

    User Empowerment

    Almost all of the tasks that are required to manage our products can be done by our customers. This includes adding new users, permissions, and roles; new valid values; new action limits and screening criteria; new custom reports; editing or deleting groups of records; adding new tables to audit; and creating new EDD formats. The few tasks that Locus must be involved include rollbacks of the database, adding new custom fields and data checks, and developing new functionalities.

    Customers who adopt EIM typically replace a series of spreadsheets that have grown more unwieldy by the year or a homegrown database built with a lower-end product like Access. The keepers or administrators of these spreadsheets and homegrown databases are sometimes concerned about losing access and control. There is no doubt that a cloud-based system that multiple clients access must have rigid controls in place to assure data integrity and completeness. Still, we go to great lengths to accommodate “power users,” allowing them to run their SQL statements in our Custom Query module. This tool is widely used and appreciated by users who formerly managed in-house databases at DOE facilities, large water utilities, environmental consultancies, and leading oil and chemical companies. Finally, and most importantly, Locus is a partner with our customers; if you are not successful with EIM, no one “wins.”

    Locus Usability - User Interface

    Interface Consistency and Simplicity: EIM Grids

    The basic grid that EIM uses to display data is pervasive throughout the system, appearing in multiple places under each of the Setup, Field, Input, Analysis, Reporting, and Visualization main menu options. This grid is mighty. With it, you can filter on individual columns by clicking on a list of values below the column header. You can also sort the values in any column by clicking on an up or down arrow in the column header. You can choose to display 10–1000 records at a time. Other features include an advanced search option, the ability to reorder/select/deselect columns, and the opportunity to export the data displayed in the grid using any of the following export types – CSV, Delimited, Excel, PDF, KMZ, Shapefile, or XML – or you can copy the dataset to your clipboard. The power and ease of use of this grid, coupled with its presence throughout EIM, make the system easy to learn and use for users of all ability levels.

    The usability of the grid is taken to a new level in several places in EIM, where you pull up a set of analytical records that meet the selection criteria that you have specified. When you then click on the map icon in the bottom left corner of the grid, EIM takes you directly to Locus’ GIS module, where the results pulled up on the grid are displayed on a map of your site next to their sampling locations.

    Locus Usability - Save and Reuse Work

    Saving and Reusing Your Work

    While you can often get to the data you need in EIM in a few steps, this is not always the case. Your selection criteria may be complicated, involving multiple fields and entries in the database. Most grids have a default set of fields that are displayed in a predetermined order. You may prefer to reorder these, include additional fields, or remove some of the default selections. If you need a highly formatted instead of a simple tabular report that does not yet exist in EIM, you will need to spend more time inputting the specifications for the report. How can you minimize your effort? You can do so by naming and then saving your selections for repeated use at later times. When you do so, you must tell EIM whether these saved inputs are for private or public use. This feature of EIM saves time, reduces keystrokes, and prevents mistakes (get it right once, then reuse as needed). And, enhances user adoption as power users can create and share the reports their users need most often.

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    The recent year of lockdowns pushed many daily activities into the virtual world. Work, school, commerce, the arts, and even medicine have moved online and into the cloud. As a result, considerably more resources and information are now available from an internet browser or from an application on a handheld device. To navigate through all this content and make sense of it, you need the ability to quickly search and get results that are most relevant to your needs.

    You can think of the web as a big database in the cloud. Traditionally, database searches were done using a precise syntax with a standard set of keywords and rules, and it can be hard for non-specialists to perform such searches without learning programming languages. Instead, you want to search in as natural a matter as possible. For example, if you want to find pizza shops with 15 miles of your house that offer delivery, you don’t want to write some fancy statement like “return pizza_shop_name where (distance to pizza shop from my house < 15 miles) and (offers_delivery is true). You just want to type “what pizza shops within 15 miles of my house offer delivery?” How can this be done?

    Search Engines

    Enter the search engine. While online search engines appeared as early as 1990, it wasn’t until Yahoo! Search appeared in 1995 that their usage became widespread. Other engines such as Magellan, Lycos, Infoseek, Ask Jeeves, and Excite soon followed, though not all of them survived. In 1998, Google hit the internet, and it is now the most dominant engine in use. Other popular engines today are Bing, Baidu, and DuckDuckGo.

    Current search engines compare your search terms to proprietary indexes of web page and their content. Algorithms are used to determine the most relevant parts of the search terms and how the results are ranked on the page. Your search success depends on what search terms you enter (and what terms you don’t enter). For example, it is better to search on ‘pizza nearby delivery’ than ‘what pizza shops that deliver are near my house’, as the first search uses less terms and thus more effectively narrows the results.

    Search engines also support the use of symbols (such as hyphens, colons, quote marks) and commands (such as ‘related’, ‘site’, or ‘link’) that support advanced searches for finding exact word matches, excluding certain results, or limiting your search to certain sites. To expand on the pizza example, support you wanted to search for nearby pizza shops, but you don’t want to include Nogud Pizza Joints because they always put pineapple on your pizza. You would need to enter ‘pizza nearby delivery -nogud’. In some ways, with the need to know special syntax, searching is back where it was in the old database days!

    Search engines are also a key part of ‘digital personal assistants’, or programs that not only perform searches but also perform simple tasks. An assistant on your phone might call the closest pizza shop so you can place an order, or perhaps even login to your loyalty app and place the order for you. There is a dizzying array of such assistants used within various devices and applications, and they all seem to have soothing names such as Siri, Alexa, Erica, and Bixby. Many of these assistants support voice activation, which just reinforces the need for natural searches. You don’t want to have to say “pizza nearby delivery minus nogud”! You just want to say “call the nearest pizza shop that does delivery, but don’t call Nogud Pizza”.

    Search engine and digital personal assistant developers are working towards supporting such “natural” requests by implementing “natural language processing”. Using natural language processing, you can use full sentences with common words instead of having to remember keywords or symbols. It’s like having a conversation as opposed to doing programming. Natural language is more intuitive and can help users with poor search strategies to have more successful searches.

    Furthermore, some engines and assistants have artificial intelligence (AI) built in to help guide the user if the search is not clear or if the results need further refinement. What if the closest pizza shop that does delivery is closed? Or what if a slightly farther pizza place is running a two-for-one special on your favorite pizza? The built-in AI could suggest choices to you based on your search parameters combined with your past pizza purchasing history, which would be available based on your phone call or credit charge history.

    Searching in Locus EIM

    The Locus team recently expanded the functionality of the EIM (Environmental Information Management) search bar to support different types of data searches. If a search term fits several search types, all are returned for the user to review.Locus EIM Quick Search

    • Functionality searches: entering a word that appears in a menu or function name will return any matching menu items and functions. For example, searching for ‘regulatory exports’ returns several menu items for creating, managing, and exporting regulatory datasets.
    • Help searches: entering a word or phrase that appears in the EIM help files will return any matching help pages. For example, ‘print a COC’ returns help pages with that exact phrase.
    • Data searches: entering a location, parameter, field parameter, or field sample will return any matching data records linked with that entity. For example, searching for the parameter ‘tritium’ returns linked pages showing parameter information and all field sample results for that parameter. Searching for the location ‘MW-1’ returns linked pages showing all field samples, groundwater levels, field measurements, and field sample results at the location.

    EIM lets the user perform successful searches through various methods. In all searches, the user does not need to specify if the search term is a menu item, help page, or data entity such as parameter or location. Rather, the search bar determines the most relevant results based on the data currently in EIM. Furthermore, the search bar remembers what users searched for before, and then ranks the results based on that history. If a user always goes to a page of groundwater levels when searching for location ‘MW-1’, then that page will be returned first in the list of results. Also, the EIM search bar supports common synonyms. For example, searches for ‘plot’, ‘chart’, and ‘graph’ all return results for EIM’s charting package.

    Locus EIM Chart Search

    By implementing the assistance methods described above, Locus is working to make searching as easy as possible. As part of that effort, Locus is working to add natural language processing into EIM searches. The goal is to let users conduct searches such as ‘what wells at my site have benzene exceedances’ or perform tasks such as ‘make a chart of benzene results’ without having to know special commands or query languages.’

    How would this be done? Let’s set aside for now the issues of speech recognition – sadly, you won’t be talking to EIM soon! Assume your search query is ‘what is the maximum lead result for well 1A?’

    • First, EIM extracts key terms and modifiers (this is called entity recognition). EIM would extract ‘maximum’, ‘lead’, ‘result’, ‘well’, and ‘1A’, while ignoring connecting words such as ‘the’ or ‘for’.
    • Then, EIM categorizes these terms. EIM would be ‘trained’ via AI to know ‘lead’ is mostly used in environmental data as a noun for the chemical parameter, and not a verb. ‘Result’ refers to a lab result, and ‘well’ is a standard sampling location type.
    • EIM then runs a simple query and gets the maximum lead result for location 1A.
    • Finally, EIM puts the answer into a sentence (‘The maximum lead result at location 1A is 300 mg/L on 1/1/2020’) with any other information deemed useful, such as the units and the date.

    A similar process could be done for tasks such as ‘make a chart of xylene results’. In this case, however, there is too much ambiguity to proceed, so EIM would need to return queries for additional clarifications to help guide the user to the desired result. Should the chart show all dates, or just a certain date range? How are non-detects handled? Which locations should be shown on the chart? What if the database stores separate results for o-Xylene, m,p-Xylene, plus Xylene (total)? Once all questions were answered, EIM could generate a chart and return it to the user.

    Locus EIM Search Results

    Natural language is the key to helping users construct effective searches for data, whether in EIM, on a phone, or in the internet. Locus continues to improve EIM by bringing natural language processing to the EIM search engine.

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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.

    Attention all water providers: the EPA’s UCMR 5 list includes 30 contaminants (29 PFAS and lithium) that both small and large water systems have to test for and report. Can your current environmental solution handle it?

    Locus EIM environmental software can handle new chemicals and analyses seamlessly. Both the standard Locus EIM configuration and the Locus EIM Water configuration (specially tailored to water utilities) are built with ever-changing regulations in mind.

    We’ve put together some helpful background and tips for water providers preparing for UCMR 5 monitoring.

    What water providers need to know

    • The fifth and latest list (UCMR 5) was published on March 11, 2021, and includes 30 new chemical contaminants that must be monitored between 2023 and 2025 using specified analytical methods.
    • SDWA now requires that UCMR include all large PWSs (serving >10,000 people), all PWSs serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people, and a representative sample of PWSs serving fewer than 3,300 people.
    • Large systems must pay for their own testing, and US EPA will pay for analytical costs for small systems.
    • Labs must receive EPA UCMR approval to conduct analyses on UCMR 5 contaminants.

    EPA UCMR 5 Infographic

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    What’s the UCMR and why are some contaminants unregulated?

    In 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act with the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). Under this new rule, US EPA can require water providers to monitor and collect data for contaminants that may be in drinking water but don’t have any health-based standards set (yet) under the SDWA.

    More than 150,000 public water systems are subject to the SDWA regulations. US EPA, states, tribes, water systems, and the public all work together to protect the water supply from an ever-growing list of contaminants.

    However, under the UCMR, US EPA is restricted to issuing a new list every five years of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored by water providers.

    This helps reduce the burden on water providers, since monitoring and testing for the existing long list of regulated contaminants already requires a significant investment of time and resources.

    Throughout the course of this monitoring, US EPA can determine whether the contaminants need to be officially enforced— but this would require regulatory action, routed through the normal legislative process.

    Tips for managing UCMR in Locus EIM logo

    • DO use EIM’s Sample Planning module to set your sample collection schedule ahead of time, as requirements vary and are on specific schedules
    • DO take advantage of EIM’s sample program features to track and manage UCMR data, or consider using a dedicated location group to track results, keeping them separate and easy to find for CCR reporting.
    • DON’T worry about adding in new analytical parameters in advance. With EIM’s EDD loader, you can automatically add them when the data arrive from the laboratory.

    Contact your Locus Account Manager for help setting up your EIM database in advance of your sampling schedule, and we’ll make sure you’re equipped for UCMR 5!

    Not yet a customer? Send us a quick note to schedule a call or a demo to find out how Locus software can completely streamline your water sampling and reporting.

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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


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      Locus Environmental Information Management

      Locus was founded on the vision of online environmental data management for large volumes of complex data collected as part of environmental site investigations. Locus’ Environmental Information Management (EIM) has remained the market leader in cloud environmental data management systems for over 20 years. EIM continues to evolve to meet an ever-wider customer base from international chemical companies to local water districts. Locus has approached EIM’s evolution with the same focus since day 1, handle any type of environmental data with ease and sophistication, enabling our customers to spend less time handling data and more time assessing information.

      Locus EIM Then:

      Locus EIM | Then and Now

      Locus EIM Now:

      Locus EIM Devices

      GIS Mapping

      Since Google Maps was first announced, Locus worked to add GIS elements to our software as soon as it was technically feasible. Our easy-to-use visualization tools have evolved over the years from Scalable Vector Graphics, to Google, to Esri ArcGIS Online. Born with our EIM software, GIS visualization of information was something our customers wanted and loved.  Always included in our pricing, having the ability to easily make maps from complex data was always a key feature of EIM. With technical advances, our maps are even more robust and integral to our vision of environmental information management.​

      Locus eGIS Then:

      Screenshot of GIS Site Search for EPA data

      Locus GIS+ Now:Environmental data management software screenshot of Locus GIS application with mobile app for sampling locations

      Locus Mobile

      In 2000, Locus launched the first environmental data management mobile solution connected to SaaS. 20 years later, Locus Mobile is your single solution for collecting field data, completing EHS audits, tracking waste containers, and much more. Easily configure business-specific data collection needs, enter data offline and synchronize data back to the cloud for final review.

      Locus Mobile (eWell) Then and Now:

      Locus Mobile | Then and Now

      Locus has evolved and innovated SaaS solutions to meet the needs of our EHS and Water Quality customers for over 20 years. As technology and regulatory requirements change, rest assured Locus is working hard so that your organization can be ahead of the curve.

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      EHS software can be a boon or a bane of your life at work. Here are the 5 time- saving tools Locus’s EIM provides that can be the difference between the former versus the latter.


      1. Mobile

      Do you enter field data onto a paper form, and then have to manually type it into a spreadsheet or database when you get back to the office?  Or have you ever been in the field and entered data into your remote mobile device and have lost the data due to the lack of internet signal? Locus’ Mobile application allows you to sync with your server to create data collection profiles on a mobile device, whether it’s your phone or a tablet. This application will allow you to click through and enter data on the device and store the data, even when you are offline. As a result, data only need to be entered once on your device, and then they are seamlessly loaded into your  cloud-hosted solution.

      Using Mobile you have data entry directly on the mobile device, with immediate data availability on the cloud when you reach an internet signal. Other advantages include location metadata and mapping integration, bar-code/or code scanning, voice recognition and form customization. If you would like to know more, check out the Top 10 cool features in Locus Mobile.

      Locus mobile environmental field data collection app for iOS

      2. EDD Loader

      With EIM’s electronic data deliverables (EDD) loader, you can upload and validate several thousand records within a minute. Laboratories are not required to use the same reporting format, yet the results will still end up at the same place in the database where sample data came from. Locus EIM also has a special lab interface so that your labs (with your permission) can upload their own EDDs. You no longer need to spend time receiving and processing EDD files from your lab. The labs simply log in directly, upload your reports, and they are immediately available to you.

      EIM provides you access to popular features such as a planning module, forms for entering field data, a utility to upload EDDs, built-in mapping tools, and an extensive reporting and plotting module. It also has a calendar module for viewing information on sampling events and uploaded EDDs, automated exceedance notifications, and sophisticated statistical evaluation tools designed specifically for environmental data.

      Locus EIM - EDD Loader


      3. Sample planning

      Setting up and implementing a complex sampling plan can be a time-consuming effort. Depending on the purpose and extent of the sampling plan, you may have dozens of analyses to complete at varying frequencies and locations.  You may also have multiple compliance programs with overlapping requirements.  EIM’s sample planning can save you valuable time and effort by assembling your requirements into a concise calendar, preprinting all of your chain of custody records and bottle labels, and tracking the collection of samples from the field to the lab.  As an added bonus, the automation of this process ensures you’ll never miss another required sample.

      EIM screenshot of sample planning edit form with email notification and calendars popouts


      4. Discharge Monitoring Reports

      Locus’ EIM DMR tool solves the problem of time-consuming, labor-intensive, and expensive manual report generation by automating the data assembly, calculations, and formatting of Discharge Monitoring Reports.  Depending on the type of discharge and the regulatory jurisdiction, you may be required to report information such as analytical chemistry of pollutants, flow velocity, total maximum daily load, and other parameters. For companies that report from 100 to 1,000 facilities, producing a DMR also becomes a major expense.

      Thanks to Locus’ DMR reporting tool, companies can generate DMRs within minutes with validated data in approved formats, with all of the calculations completed according to regulatory requirements. Companies can set up EIM for its permitted facilities and realize immediate cost and time savings during each reporting period.

      DMR builder and report in EIM


      5. Formatted Data Tables

      For most environmental database systems, getting the right data out is just the first step in assembling your reports.  Comprehensive systems rarely store data in a format that is ready to submit to a regulatory agency or other party.  Typically, you have a labor-intensive process of restructuring, labelling, footnoting, formatting, and paginating the data into tables that can be readily interpreted. EIM’s formatted reporting tools allow you to set up any number of table formats with specific grouping, sorting, footnotes, headers, and other data processing steps.  Then you just select your data range, pick your format, and the table is ready to download or print directly from your web browser.  And if you make a mistake, the report can be instantly regenerated without any effort.

      Locus EIM - Formatted Reports



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