Chicago tracking fleet with GIS

Chicago's huge fleet of government vehicles will be watched over and controlled

by a Web-based geographic information system starting in September, when

the second phase of a project to upgrade the city's automated vehicle location

(AVL) system is completed.

The new system also will be a critical piece of Chicago's homeland security

strategy, something that was only a minor consideration in the project's

initial planning but has become "a very big deal" after Sept. 11, according

to Scott Stocking, a GIS analyst for the city.

As part of the upgraded system, fleet managers will get real-time security

alerts if vehicles stray from their normal routes and operating procedures.

It will also allow them to disable any vehicles.

"A card-swipe security feature has always been a part of the AVL to

ensure only authorized users will drive the vehicles," Stocking said. "But

we decided to beef up the alert notification in Phase 2, and now all of

our [fleet vehicles] will have this feature."

Chicago's vehicle management system was based on a traditional client/server

approach, with all of the difficulties and costs associated with maintaining

that system. The Web-based front end will allow the city to consolidate

its vehicle data into a single repository and use an ESRI's ArcIMS server

to provide access to the GIS via a Web browser.

The Web-based approach also will enable the city to open the GIS data

for other applications, said Peter Thum, president and co-founder of GeoAnalytics

Inc., the Madison, Wis., consulting firm that developed the Web-based GIS

front end for the AVL. One possibility is to link certain application service

providers to the system to provide layers of functionality.

An example that the city is already considering, according to Stocking,

is to use such a service to link weather-related predictions of snow storm

intensities to make sure snow plows and other vehicles were sent to where

they could do the most good.

Other services could include 3-D aerial photography, which will provide

a better perspective of activities in certain areas.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached

at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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