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CASE STUDY - Business Intelligence on the Fly

Commentary by Mark Seward, Vice President, Software Development, E•SPONDER


The city of St. Louis hosted the 2009 MLB All-Star Game, which was expected to draw nearly 50,000 fans and thousands of support personnel for five days of game-related events. Occasions like the All-Star Game are not taken lightly by cities; they require a tremendous amount of planning and are expected to generate revenue. Furthermore, there are security requirements on a scale that most businesses don’t encounter.

The Challenge

To ensure a successful event, the city needed access to a tremendous amount of data from more than 35 city, state, federal, and private organizations. Much of this data was dynamic, updated in real time by public safety and maintenance personnel. In addition, data was continuously updated in various facilities throughout the area, such as hospitals.

A further challenge was the requirement for user interfaces that would ensure quick adoption by all stakeholders. The interfaces had to be tailored for various work environments and not disrupt established workflows. Field workers had to interact with the data via portable devices; analysts worked with data on desktop computers; and decision makers needed the data presented in a way that fostered rapid collaboration and interactivity. The system also had to create and distribute action and contingency plans as well as current status reports.

To be cost effective, the end solution should utilize existing applications and resources wherever possible. Many agencies involved in the project were using Microsoft applications and ESRI GIS in their day-to-day operations. These existing applications presented both an opportunity and a conceptual framework for a solution that could successfully manage a large event.

The Solution

The city contacted ESRI and Microsoft partner E•SPONDER, which helped manage the 2004 presidential debates in St. Louis. E•SPONDER studied the city’s requirements for the project and proposed a solution based on many of the existing Microsoft applications and ESRI’s MapIt.

Many readers are familiar with the various components of the Microsoft business intelligence stack, but MapIt is probably new to most. MapIt is a lightweight mapping solution designed to prepare, serve, and use geographic data stored in SQL Server 2008 and displayed through SharePoint and Silverlight Web-based applications. MapIt utilizes Microsoft Bing Maps to provide the aerial imagery and street data for mapping.

The Benefits

The E•SPONDER solution provided a map centric environment for interacting with data. This approach had a track record of quick acceptance by diverse groups of end users. Microsoft Surface was used to provide a highly interactive “big picture” view of the entire event. High-level decision makers could rapidly access all levels of personnel, asset, and incident data in a highly collaborative environment. Personnel in the field could access and update data by interacting with maps on rugged tablet PCs and handheld devices.

“Using MapIt and Microsoft technology, we reduced our development costs and delivered a new solution in record time.” —Mark Seward, Vice President, Software Development, E•SPONDER

Leveraging existing application and data assets helped the city of St. Louis optimize the return on their investment in the event. Because ESRI and Microsoft have a close development relationship, the integration of the two existing application environments was much simpler and quicker than anticipated. “Using MapIt and Microsoft technology, we reduced our development costs and delivered a new solution in record time,” said Mark Seward, vice president of software development for E•SPONDER.

The success of the project has been validated by the city’s adoption of the application as their ongoing incident and event management system.

For a free white paper on this topic, click here and choose the title “GIS and Business Intelligence: The Geographic Advantage.”

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