On Feb. 7, 2016, an estimated 115 million fans tuned in to watch the golden anniversary of America’s favorite sporting event—professional football’s annual national championship “Big Game.” In California’s Bay Area, a lucky 70,000 fans viewed the event in person in the new $1.2-billion football stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles southeast of San Francisco, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Fans saw the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos, but what they didn’t see was piles of trash. That’s a result of what can be termed the “Big Clean,” a cleanup campaign in preparation for the Big Game that was enabled by use of innovative geospatial technology.

An event this size can mean critical revenue for local businesses, especially in neighboring San José, with its array of fine restaurants and hotels. Economists estimate previous national championship games have generated as much as a half-billion dollars for local economies. “Last year’s game in Phoenix brought in over $700 million,” says Kim Walesh, director of economic development for the City of San José. “We anticipate a stronger economic impact since this is the [game’s] 50th anniversary and the whole Bay Area is hosting it.”

Like any good host throwing a party, San José wanted to look its best when the crowds arrived. San José hosted the “Super Bowl Opening Night Fueled by Gatorade” show at SAP Center downtown, where fans, players and thousands of media from around the world gathered. One of the teams stayed in downtown San José and practiced at nearby San José State University (SJSU). Downtown San José also offered events and activities for all ages, including the SoFA Winter Market, Ice Skating Under the Palms, Winter at Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park, and Super San Pedro Square.

Clearly, the last thing San José wanted visitors to see was trash, a major problem in most big cities. So city officials embarked on an intensive cleanup campaign that included identifying and eliminating illegal dumping sites.

“With more than 1 million Bay Area visitors expected, San José is preparing to be a major hub of activity,” said Raul Peralez, San José Council Member, prior to the game. “One of our objectives is to leverage Big Game opportunities such as the cleanup campaign to create lasting benefits for a cleaner, safer city. Our hope is that even after the game leaves, our residents and visitors will continue to see the benefits from the program for years to come.”

Cleaning Up the City

Planning for the cleanup started just three months before the game; funds weren’t approved until late December. Given the urgency, city officials tapped SJSU’s CommUniverCity, a decade-old organization that partners with under-served communities in central San José to help create healthier, more vibrant communities, and provide students with experience in solving neighborhood issues.

SJSU graduate or upper-division undergraduate students act as project coordinators to help develop and administer service programs under city and faculty supervision. Once funding for the cleanup was approved, CommUniverCity assembled a team of approximately 18 individuals, including CommUniverCity staff, SJSU faculty, City employees and SJSU students.

Mapping Target Areas

With the Big Game looming, project leaders knew they had to act fast. One of the first steps was to bring on field data capture software. The team selected Trimble TerraFlex, a cloud-based solution for managing and streamlining data collection from a mobile device. This made data collection quick, efficient and accurate because there are no handwritten notes to transcribe.

The city had already identified key hotspots as part of a pilot program to reduce illegal dumping, which helped CommUniverCity map out four square miles of potential sites. Project leaders used TerraFlex to create data collection forms with fields for features and conditions such as location of trash (sidewalk, median, fence line); type of trash (shopping cart, furniture, clothing); accessibility; and whether it was electronic waste or hazardous material.

“TerraFlex enabled us to quickly and effectively assess the study area,” said Galadriel Burr, project coordinator for CommUniverCity. “Once the data was exported into GIS, we were then able to perform data analysis and create maps for the haulers in charge of illegal dumping removal.”

TerraFlex supports iOS, Android and select tablet devices running Windows 7/Windows 8. This allowed workers to use their personal smartphones while collecting data. Everything is centralized in a single device so there is no need for GPS, a camera or printed maps. When the user opens a form, TerraFlex marks the location on an internal map. Workers then verify the location, fill in the fields on the form, and capture at least one geo-referenced photo. If workers are in spotty communication areas, the app is still fully functional and automatically synchronizes the data as soon as they are online again.

For the cleanup campaign, project leaders wanted minimal dropdowns on the form but with the ability to add fields as needed. The system’s templates can be edited and updates immediately rolled out to workers to ensure continued data integrity.

“TerraFlex enabled us to quickly and effectively assess the study area...Once the data was exported into GIS, we were then able to perform data analysis and create maps for the haulers in charge of illegal dumping removal.”

While the city budgeted up to two workers (one staff, one student) per car and student supervision for the project, the data collection tools permitted CommUniverCity to operate with just a driver and a navigator/spotter. To expedite data collection, however, each car had two spotters. Four cars were in the field each day.

The Players

Now in its 50th year, the “Big Game” is the national championship; played between the top teams of the two league conferences. It has become such a powerhouse that even its name is a carefully managed trademark. Advertising in a 30-second time slot in 2016 cost a reported $5,000,000.

CommUniverCity is a partnership between the San José Community, San José State University, and the City of San José. Since its founding, CommUniverCity has logged more than 246,000 hours of community service, valued at $5.5 million and involving some 14,600 students.

Providing waste pick-up and hauling, San José’s Green Team dispatched trucks and crews to pick up waste from sites identified during the “Big Clean.” The company regularly services 48,000 single-family homes in the western and central sections of San José.

The stadium hosting the “Big Game” is located in Santa Clara, California and seats 68,500 (expandable to 75,000) and opened on July 17, 2014. Construction was estimated at $1.2 billion.

The third largest city in California and 10th in the nation by population, San José covers nearly 180 square miles. It played host to a number of events tied to the “Big Game” and, because of its proximity to Santa Clara, expected over 1 million visitors as a result of the event.

In addition to providing some of the tools and support for the “Big Clean” in San José, Trimble has supplied positioning products to industry and governments for 35 years and holds over 1,000 patents.

Scoring Field Goals

On Dec. 28, CommUniverCity launched the data collection effort. Dumping sites had been divided into three areas, with three days allotted to complete the documentation. Workers were in the field for an average of six hours each day.

By noon on the first day, they had identified nearly 200 dumping sites. By the end of the second day, some 400 additional sites had been documented, and by the end of the project nearly 800 sites were identified.

As the data was collected, it was automatically synced to a central server. This boosted productivity since workers didn’t have to return to the office for manual entry or data transfer. Data was transferred to the cloud for easy access and to keep all project members—both in the field and in the office—up to date on the cleanup progress.

Once the dumping sites were identified, CommUniverCity created maps so city contractor GreenTeam’s haulers could easily find the sites and clean up the illegally dumped materials. Project leaders could also filter, sort and export additional data by form attributes, which provided critical information to city officials on the type of trash being dumped or the amount of hazardous materials collected.

Because data was centralized and organized, the city could later conduct more detailed analysis by area and demographics. Since this project was the first phase of a more comprehensive cleanup campaign, such detailed analysis will be critical: San José plans to use the data captured as a baseline for future assessments and community outreach, with the goal to eventually help deter illegal dumping and efficiently clean up illegally dumped materials.

With Trimble TerraFlex, the city not only collected the data quickly and accurately, but more importantly, it will continue to leverage this data to ensure a cleaner, safer city today and in the future. For San José the project scored a real touchdown.