Mobile GIS is exciting. It offers a new ways for field based staff to get their work done more efficiently, and provide more accurate data. Energy sector regulation and management have many challenges. Field surveys are often done in remote areas outside of mobile communication coverage. Data collection still relies on a disjointed combination of equipment. New mobile GIS technology offers potentially dramatic improvements in how Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams get their work done. We will discuss a new integrated approach in this article.
Mobile GIS and Energy Sector Regulation
Its worth providing some background on a typical scenario for mineral and energy activity regulation.
Mineral Exploration Regulation Teams
Much of the work done by mineral exploration regulation teams is centred on monitoring ground exploration activities. Comparing reported activity and impacts, against what is observed. Field inspections are typically ground based and often done in remote areas. Off-road 4WD vehicles and possibly air support may be needed depending on the activity, urgency of an inspection, the availability of staff and accessibility of sites. There are other dependencies on ground conditions such as weather, agricultural and cultural practices.
Exploration Regulation teams execute regular remote field sorties to inspect, monitor and ensure the risk based approach of regulation and legislative compliance is achieved. Personnel are required to carry a significant amount of detached equipment in the field. This allows both observation, recording and monitoring of site conditions in context to the stage of exploration activity under the conditions of approval. The equipment carried can include hand held GPS (Garmin), digital cameras, pen and paper, and laptops.
A typical workflow involves first finding the exploration locations that may be active, in hibernation, partially rehabilitated or fully rehabilitated. Exploration sites include access tracks, drill pads, laydown areas, field camps, fuels depots, and water points. Currently the identification of these localities and navigation to, is done using maps, GPS (Garmin units), field laptop, maps and diagrams.
Data Collection and Assessment
Field attributes that are assessed by exploration regulation teams include:
· Visual impact during and remaining post exploration.
· Lasting impact on the land surface, eg. erosion, scars, deformation.
· Impact on vegetation, fauna, soil, ground water, eg. destruction, pollution, diversion.
· Removal of foreign material, eg polypipe, stakes, temporary constructions, litter remaining as a consequence of exploration activity.
Assessment often involves comparing company photos and the compliance to licence conditions. The focus is on significant aspects that are critical in the particular area. On site photos are taken by inspectors, and GPS location noted. This data is manually added to a central compliance database upon return to the office
Field Data Collection Challenges
Data used in the field often comes from multiple sources. Integration need be done manually, which is time consuming and disjointed, making assessment challenging. This has the potential to negatively impact the delivery of regulation services and erodes credibility and trust with stakeholders. Additional areas of concern to the exploration regulation teams include:
1) The need to carry too much equipment into the field to capture data. Field equipment is often carried on foot over rehabilitated land. Especially cumbersome are laptops with ArcGIS (Scalable detailed maps) in addition to cameras, GPS, water, safety gear with backup paper copy.
2) Cumbersome Data Capture in the Field. Problems here includes:
· Impractical to efficiently capture the different data formats required (e.g. text, video, still photo, panorama and voice to text).
· Multiple single purpose devices required to capture the range of information. This leads to tasks having to be carried out ‘by memory’ at a later time, causing items to be missed or not accurately recorded.
· Data obtained from companies may require hand entry to GPS device.
· Data obtained from office and field systems is converted into a comma delimited file and then used in creating reports and uploading/manually entered into other systems.
· Unable to capture sketches.
· Unable to use commonly available compact and integrated consumer devices.
· Its awkward to manually navigate, enter data and make notes.
· Isolated GPS functionality – manual entry is required to display and plot ‘nearby’ data rather than the system automatically determining the officer’s location and relevant data.
3) Limited Access/Querying of Data in the Field
· Unable to recall saved data once moved to another record or edit saved data. Hard copy maps are static, a PC is too cumbersome and requires an expensive standalone Arcview licence.
· Unable to update or reference regulation information while out in the field.
· Confidential information being accessed and recorded on multiple devices and formats is at risk if device / files are lost.
4) Manual Transfer/Tagging of Data into Other Systems
· No automatic integration between the devices and internal system.
· Manual cataloging of photos into the government compliance database(s) and reports is time consuming and prone to manual error
· Awkward mechanism to import company coordinates and infrastructure details into GPS / PC for accurate assessment
· No integrated means to capture notes, coordinates, location assessment ranking (GAS) into a single integrated practical light weight and effective device
· No unique record key created (to assist with system integration).
· Creation of figures and manipulation of data into format for reporting is a manual & time consuming process, assimilating data from multiple devices, formats then ensuring images and texts match the correct nomenclatures and coordinates.
Many regulation agencies face the challenges discussed above. A requirements summary often includes the following:
1. To enable regulation officers to efficiently carry out all required business tasks in the field utilising a single integrated device with larger effective outdoor display.
2. To improve our capability to prepare data for the field sorties.
3. To capture more parameters in the field as well as improving accuracy of field observations.
4. To improve data validation and integrity.
5. To reduce time lost manually entering data into different systems.
6. To reduce time spent preparing assessment reports.
7. To facilitate continuous process improvement to deliver efficient and effective service which enhance credibility, collaboration and trust with stakeholder
Mobile GIS Solutions for Mineral and Energy Sector Regulation
Single device integration is at the heart of what mobile GIS brings to mineral exploration regulation teams. Potentially using a combination of both smartphones and tablets across platforms (iOS, Android and Windows), mobile GIS technology will transform field surveying. Capabilities include:
· Online and offline data collection.
· Point, line and polygon GIS data collection.
· Map and layer data visualization both online and offline.
· Integrated data sources. Map mash ups which include base maps of choice, point, line and polygon layers and other geo-data sources.
· Online and offline navigation.
· Custom tools including sketch capture, and reporting.
· Integration of in-built GPS, photo and video mobile device functionality.
· GPS auto-attached to images and feature data.
· Auto upload of collected data to central cloud based system/database.
· Mobile app data validation.
· Online and offline search and query.
We are actively providing mobile GIS solutions to clients. Dramatically improving the efficiency of regulators and inspectors. Contact us to find out more about our work.