Geospatial Firm Helps Improve US Forest Services Visitor Map
Navigation, search capabilities and alerts among improvements made to map
Quantum Spatial Inc. has worked with the U.S. Forest Service to improve its Interactive Visitor Map over the past year, giving the visitors access to easy-to-use, searchable resources through which they can discover and explore recreational opportunities in national forests. Using feedback from a variety of stakeholders — including forest rangers and the public — Quantum Spatial and the Forest Service have improved navigation, expanded search capabilities and added alerts about severe weather, fires and floods. They have also integrated social media, including geolocated Tweets from forest service personnel.
“As summer approaches, vacationers are looking forward to hiking and camping in national forests,” says Kurt Allen, Quantum Spatial’s vice president, federal vertical lead, public sector. “The Interactive Visitor Map we developed in collaboration with the Forest Service and other partners gives the public a convenient, easy-to-use online resource from which they can learn more about their destinations and plan their trips.”
The Interactive Visitor Map provides information about 193 million acres of National Forest System land, including 371,000 miles of roads, 158,000 trail miles and more than 24,000 recreation sites.
It was developed by a cross-functional team of contractors, with Quantum Spatial leading the architecture redesign portion of the project. Quantum Spatial focused on presenting maps and data in a way that is logical and easier for users to navigate, as well as adding social media functionality. Typically in contracts for projects such as this, the parameters are set in advance, leaving very little flexibility to adapt as the project evolves and the needs change over time. The Forest Service took a different approach, calling for agile software development in its contract, to help speed development and enable them to quickly pivot to make unanticipated improvements to the map. The approach, which is unconventional among government agencies, enabled the team to deliver new features of the map on an incremental basis.
“The Forest Service has taken a very visionary approach in using agile development. During the past year, we have been able to systematically improve the map’s usability and deliver richer content, based on feedback from a range of real users,” says Cherie Jarvis, eGIS practice lead at Quantum Spatial, which has been providing geospatial services to the Forest Services for 15 years. “We are honored to partner with the Forest Service on this project to achieve its mission of quickly delivering in-demand resources to the public.”
Since the map was initially introduced, usage has grown from an average of 1,000 page views a day to more than 2,000 page views a day now, with an upward trajectory anticipated to continue as the summer season approaches.
The Forest Service expects to continue making refinements to the map. Improvements planned for the future include the ability to more precisely geolocate Tweets and expansion of the content into a mobile app that is functional in environments where there is limited or no Internet connectivity.
About Quantum Spatial Inc.
Quantum Spatial Inc. is an independent geospatial data firm that provides geographic insights to government and corporate organizations that need geospatial intelligence to mitigate risk, plan for growth, better manage resources and advance scientific understanding. Customers use the company’s acquisition, processing, analytics and visualization solutions in a range of technical and scientific disciplines – from geology and biology, to hydrology, forestry and civil engineering. Utilities, oil and gas producers, engineering and construction firms, as well as the military and major government agencies, are QSI customers. QSI has multiple offices around the country.