GeoDecisions’ Radon App Wins Code4PA Hackathon Esri® Award

As someone who has not yet had the luxury of purchasing a home, radon awareness and mitigation are two topics with which I have basic familiarity. For others like me who have not heard about it, radon is a chemical on the periodic table of elements and is typically found in nature in a gaseous state. Unfortunately, much like Iocane powder in the Princess Bride, it is odorless, tasteless, and one of the deadlier poisons known to man. Plot twist – it is actually radioactive.

According to the U.S. EPA, “Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke”.

Radon Dangers

So, where does this nefarious chemical come from? In a nutshell, radon is the byproduct of the decay of other naturally occurring radioactive elements, such as uranium. As uranium in the ground decays, the radon gas rises up from the earth, often becoming trapped in our homes. Basements are especially prone to capturing radon, as they do not always contain windows or other means of adequate ventilation. As a result, in the late 1900s, Americans began installing mitigation systems to properly ventilate homes and reduce radon exposure to minimal levels. However, many people remain unaware of the average radon levels of their municipality, which can put them in danger.

Raising Public Awareness

Like I said, I was completely unaware of this problem – that is, until I participated in the Code4PA Hackathon with some of my fellow GeoDecisions team members. The Hackathon was an event hosted by Harrisburg University and it encouraged both students and local professionals to form teams and work together to create innovative solutions to problems such as this. Our team, the GeoDeciders (affectionately known by some as The Mighty Mighty GeoTones) took on the task of building a web application that provides radon data to concerned Pennsylvanians. We built our application using Node JS, TypeScript, the Angular framework, and Esri® technologies such as the Esri JS API and ArcGIS Server.

A GIS App Solution

The team was comprised of two GIS analysts, Kelly Fisher and Joel Rogers (also the team lead), a database specialist and data analyst, Matt Allen, and two developers, Ben Gilles and myself. Over the course of one month, the five of us put together an app we dubbed ‘PA Radon,’ which met and exceeded the requirements of our use case. Our app consists of an interactive heat map created from interpolated radon data from a host of measurements obtained from locations across the state. Each municipality was assigned a heat index, and Joel ended up creating several interpolated layers showcasing radon data spanning multiple decades.

Our application also provides a layer which featured water quality test locations across the state, which seemed relevant to potential home buyers, especially if the home in question will use well water. Finally, the application exports CSV files containing individual test data of both radon and water. These files can then be imported into other applications such as Microsoft Excel for further statistical analysis.

Esri Kudos

After one month, our team presented a demo of our final project to a panel of judges at Harrisburg University. Joel Rogers took point in highlighting the aforementioned features of the application, as well as the relevance to potential clients. As it turned out, our team walked away with an award from the Esri representatives for the “best use of Esri technology” in our application. We were also invited by Esri to the next summit meeting, which I will happily be attending.

The Code4PA Hackathon was a fantastic ride, and I’ll be back next year for more. Hopefully it will be even better the second time around.


Bristow Uses Track to Meet Safety Goals

GeoDecisions Vice President Brian Smith made his way on stage at the Esri® Business Summit in San Diego, California, to discuss how GeoDecisions Track impacts the world on a daily basis. Brian co-presented with Sophy Liu, Bristow Group technology enablement director, sharing how GeoDecisions partners with Bristow to meet their Target Zero safety goals. The GeoDecisions-Bristow business relationship started in 2013. 

Bristow Focus

Bristow is the leading provider of industrial aviation services offering helicopter transportation and search and rescue and aircraft support services, including helicopter maintenance and training, for government and civil organizations worldwide. A 70-year-old company based in Houston, Texas, Bristow has over 300 aircraft globally with major operations in the North Sea, Nigeria, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and in the majority of the major offshore oil and gas producing regions of the world.

Bristow’s focus is in the gas and oil industries offering transportation for crews going to off-site drilling platforms. Dealing with a variety of natural elements, remote locations, and unexpected obstacles creates a dangerous atmosphere for their clients. As a result, Bristow’s safety culture includes zero accidents, zero downtime, and zero complaints. It is critical that their command center is equipped with the tools they need to help keep their aircraft safe. GeoDecisions Track does just that.

Powerful Location Intelligence

GeoDecisions Track is a real-time asset intelligence application that uses the power of Esri technology to expose additional analytical capabilities and show trends and patterns of assets and the entire logistical system. The location analytics integrate with ArcGIS Online, enabling clients to extend their Esri identity throughout the application. Additionally, using ArcGIS Online allows organizations to quickly and easily manipulate and distribute maps through GeoDecisions Track. 

GeoDecisions-Bristow Accomplishments

To help Bristow meet their Target Zero safety goals, GeoDecisions Track allows Bristow operators to easily see where each aircraft is located at all times and view the details of each flight and communication with each pilot. Bristow’s control center is manned 24/7, and each aircraft is equipped with five different satellites which help them constantly monitor the flights and stay in continuous communication with the pilots.

Utilizing maps from ArcGIS Online, GeoDecisions Track draws flight plans using GIS fences and alerts the operator if the aircraft deviates from the plan. This is just one of 24 different alerts customized for Bristow’s use. The application also is able to store seven years of data for Bristow, allowing operators to see the history for each flight and plan ahead for possible obstacles.

GeoDecisionsTrack allows Bristow to integrate business data and real time data for analytics and monitoring, helping Bristow's flight operators better understand location and activity of their aircraft.  

Esri UC 2017 Highlight: ArcGIS Hub and New Initiatives

This year’s Esri® User Conference in San Diego, CA was as intellectually stimulating as ever. While major product releases were not on the agenda, there were still significant enhancements announced for upcoming ArcGIS Platform and its constituent software releases. For those unable to attend this year’s conference, I have focused this blog post on one emerging solution set in particular: the ArcGIS Hub and Initiatives.

At A Glance

Esri continues to plan consistent ArcGIS Platform and ArcGIS Pro releases nearly every half-year for the next two years. These releases, including many that were presented during the Plenary, will provide incremental capability enrichment. They can be seen in the posted videos:

There was one evolving solution that really caught my attention -- ArcGIS Hub and its associated Initiatives pages. Jack Dangermond, president and CEO of Esri, spent a few minutes describing it, and there was a hurried highlight segment on these solutions during the Plenary. However, after speaking to other conference attendees, I’m not convinced the messaging and description of the power of ArcGIS Hub and Initiatives was adequate.

Diving a Little Deeper

Those of you paying attention last year may remember the significant attention given to the GeoHubs of Los Angeles, CA and Loudoun County, VA. The new solution called ArcGIS Hub formalizes the release of that encapsulated capability, wrapping it in more mature configuration and management workflows, and providing more functionality. The ArcGIS Hub ( is an online, configurable, hosted platform that facilitates bidirectional engagement and collaboration between groups. It is primarily comprised of three components: Open Data + Communities + Initiatives.

An instance of ArcGIS Hub for a government agency may look and operate very differently than one for a non-profit, or an educational institution, but it still leverages Open Data as its foundation, fosters the formation of self-identifying communities of individuals, and is structured around policy initiatives. The newest and most critical aspect of ArcGIS Hubs are the Initiative pages that enable the Hub. The landing page of an organization’s ArcGIS Hub would include one or more Initiatives to explore.

Functionality and Capabilities

In terms of functionality, the user navigates through an Initiatives page much like a Cascade Story Map. It is important to remember, though, that an Initiative is not a substitute for, but a compliment to, a Story Map. The following is intended to provide a framework for understanding the types of Initiatives that organizations can develop. Initiatives are:

Themed – They represent one policy effort, such as increasing mass transit ridership, or decreasing urban food deserts.

Data Driven – They leverage spatial and non-spatial data presented in maps, charts, and graphs to tell their story, rather than being simply narrative.

Timeframe-based – They predicate on a measurable goal to be accomplished within a particular timeframe.

Logically Structured – They inform the community, then seek to listen to the community, and finally monitor progress.

Configurable – They allow non-developers to link to pre-existing ArcGIS solutions, map services, and apps (e.g., Survey 1,2,3 app), among others and configure the look and feel of the page and the widgets.

Some additional capabilities to note include:

•       Exploration and viewing of open data to add more value

•       Integration of interactive charts/graphs and maps from Open Data

•       Integration of Esri’s demographic data

•       Development of infographics to assist in story telling

•       Ability for Initiative managers to review spatial content and products that are generated by the community

•       Templates for jump-starting effort

If you are already using Open Data, you can build your own Initiatives. If you want to acquire licensing for the ArcGIS Hub solution and the ever-growing set of Initiative templates that accelerate your replication of Initiatives and assist your scaling effort, contact your Esri representative for more information. I hope this provided clarification on the ArcGIS Hub and Initiatives solution set.