Other Case Studies

SMART Conservation Software

The SMART partnership supports improved law enforcement and biological monitoring in protected areas around the world. They came to Refractions to build a software tool to help meet their needs.


Hectares BC – Biodiversity BC on behalf of a broad partnership

Biodiversity BC and its government and non-government partners were looking for regional-level environmental statistics. Refractions proposed a new approach to generating GIS summaries, using the power of a relational database and web tools to provide GIS analysis to users who previously had no access to it.


Automated Route Planning for Meter Reading – City of Vancouver

The City of Vancouver collects water readings from thousands of residences and businesses, but has never optimized the pedestrian routes the readers take. Refractions developed algorithms to create the most efficient routes of the correct length for readers.


Digital Road Atlas – BC Integrated Land Management Bureau

Refractions provides full-service support for the British Columbia Digital Roads Atlas – systems design, maintenance, data conflation, client service, and rapid response.


Caribou Habitat Assessment and Supply Estimator – Wildlife Infometrics Inc.

Refractions converted a legacy habitat modelling system based on ArcView 3.X to ArcGIS 9.2, and automated the workflow to provide faster turnaround time for model runs.


Line Cleaner – BC Ministry of Forests

The British Columbia Ministry of Forests needed a tool to conflate multiple roads databases into a single working layer. Refractions delivered the algorithms and a user interface based on the uDig platform.


Interest Reports – BC Ministry of Agriculture & Lands

Refractions developed an ArcMap extension to automate the calculation of standard reports joining a massive shape-file archive with a large Oracle database.


Mobile GIS – UN Food & Agriculture Organization

UN FAO needed a data collection tool that could run disconnected and didn't have a per-seat licensing cost. Refractions delivered a simple tool using the uDig desktop platform.


Open Web Services, Phase 3 – Open Geospatial Consortium

The Open Geospatial Consortium runs regular “testbed” projects to field-test new concepts in geospatial interoperability. Refractions was a part of the OWS-3 initiative, and built a uDig-based “GeoDSS” client to provide access to several other OGC standard services, including a prototype GeoVideo service.


Natural Language Spatial Search Engine for Rental Places-Rento

Rento is a free web service that makes it easy to find a place to rent in Greece. Powered by PostgreSQL and PostGIS, it provides ad listings with photographs displayed on a map. Searching is accomplished through map navigation and natural language processing, with the search engine being capable of answering complex (spatial) questions such as "flat near the University of Athens" or "loft up to 800 euros near a metro station" (in greek).


Landslide Reporting Web Application – Western Forest Products

Western Forest Products

Our Client

Western Forest Products Inc.
May 2005 to July 2005

Project Background

Western Forest Products (WFP) is an integrated forest products company operating in coastal British Columbia. WFP and its subsidiaries harvest and reforest timber, mill logs, and perform value-added lumber remanufacturing.

Over 95% of WFP's logging is conducted on government owned timberlands in British Columbia, and they are therefore bound to the government's harvesting regulations. One such regulation requires WFP to report landslides that occur on its tenure land. Landslide reports are detailed, and include numerous measurements and approximations about how the landslide affected the site and surrounding habitats.

When WFP discovers a new landslide, they send a site inspector to assess the slide's impact. The inspector completes a paper-based landslide report that WFP submits to the appropriate government agencies. Unfortunately, the forms are daunting and inspectors commonly omit important details, or provide details in a format unsuitable for submission to government. The company used considerable effort to clean up and standardize the information for submission, but was searching for ways to reduce that effort.

Western Forest Products was interested in a web application to standardize and simplify the procedure. Simultaneously they were keen to keep application development and maintenance costs low. They asked Refractions Research to assist.

Refractions' Solution

Western Forest Products already had a basic web mapping application to view their tenures. They built it with OpenIMF, a Java-based internet mapping framework. Refractions proposed to extend the application to allow users to submit landslide reports.

We added user interface controls to the application which enabled users to draw a landslide directly onto a tenure map (to approximate the area affected by a slide). Our extension also included a web form through which users could submit landslide reports. Validation rules ensure that all forms are completed fully and consistently.

For each landslide report, Refractions proposed to automatically compute as much form information as possible by leveraging WFP's existing spatial data. To perform the time-saving computations we loaded the company's data into the open source PostGIS spatial database. Spatial functions in PostGIS allowed us to intersect landslide areas with tenure data to auto-complete form fields.

The following fields are now auto-computed, but previously had to be supplied manually by the submitter:

  • Area of landslide;
  • Forest district of landslide;
  • Operating regions of landslide;

The landslide reports themselves are also saved to the database, and the web application provides a means to view and edit existing reports. The application can also export reports in a format suitable for submission to the government.

The Result

Western Forest Products is now using the landslide submission application to simplify and standardize their landslide reports. Because the online form validates all submissions, there are never incomplete reports. Because many form fields are auto-completed, report submitters are no longer faced with the daunting task of making challenging or inaccurate approximations about the effects of the slide. The simplicity encourages proper submissions, and in turn saves WFP money.

Client Benefits

Western Forest Products has benefited in the following ways from its landslide reporting web application:

  • Landslide report submissions are assured to be validated and standardized.
  • Report forms are easier for users to complete – hard-to-estimate numbers are automatically computed.
  • Open source components keep the system cost down.