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).


Digital Road Atlas – BC Integrated Land Management Bureau

Project Background

The Base Mapping and Geomatic Services Branch's (BMGS) Digital Road Atlas (DRA) provides a single authoritative source for all roads in the province of British Columbia (BC). DRA features are fully addressed and attributed, and form a topologically correct network that is compliant with the federal National Road Network (NRN) initiative.

End-users of the DRA include Emergency Communications (EComm), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS), Elections BC (EBC), the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC), BC Statistics, the BC Ministry of Transportation (MOT), and the Ministry of Forests and Range (MOFR).

DRA deliveries are prepared from a central database, and tailored to clients' exact specifications. Customizing the product this way avoids forcing any of a growing number of stakeholders to agree to a common structure/schema, and so avoids any compromise to their business goals and requirements.

Initial versions of the DRA (DRA1) received stable, monthly updates from a single provider and delivered data to a small number of clients with well-defined requirements. The current version of the system (DRA2) has evolved to capture and manage less-predictable input from different sources as timed updates or full-set integrations. DRA2 can also now deliver data to a much larger number of clients with complex, dynamic needs – on-demand or on-schedule.

Refractions' Solution

Since 1999, Refractions Research has provided technical services to BMGS for the maintenance, management and development of the DRA. DRA data underlie emergency dispatch and management operations, support electoral and census work, and facilitate asset management and maintenance operations in the transportation and natural resource sectors. DRA deliveries have recently been made to the Canadian National Road Network (NRN) and the provincial Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC).

Where the DRA supports these high-profile, critical services, it must be timely and dependable – there is no tolerance for error in the data or the supporting system. The DRA data, software and related files are protected from loss and error through on-site RAID storage and nightly back-ups to off-site media. In the event of natural disaster, hardware failure or gross human error, the DRA can be restored to full-functionality with minimal downtime. These measures ensure seamless business continuity to DRA clients.

New and updated features are incorporated into the DRA through conflation. Where data incoming from different sources might lack a unique key by which to reliably “difference” them into the system, conflation tools are used to determine where features are logically identical or entirely new. Conflation software considers candidates by network as much as by feature, and allows tightly controlled adjustments that enforce consistent topology between the current DRA holdings and incoming road segments.

The central storage and management environment for DRA data is a PostGIS spatial database. PostGIS is an open source extension that spatially enables a PostgreSQL database, allowing geographic objects to be stored alongside attributes of standard data types.

PostgreSQL/PostGIS provide a highly effective system for managing DRA's volume of several million road features. Deliveries of DRA data are performed using standard transformation scripts in the Feature Manipulation Engine (FME by Safe Software) that render the data compatible with a wide-range of end-user applications.

Refractions frequently runs database queries and validation scripts against input and export data to ensure a consistent set of attributes and geometries in both the DRA's active and historical data. These routines ensure a high level of confidence in the data model and in the products delivered to DRA clients.

The Result

The DRA provides an authoritative single source road network for the province of British Columbia – features are fully networked, attributed and in many ways intelligent! Tailoring DRA delivers to the specific requirements of each client simplifies and enables their business functions on an ongoing basis. The DRA supports attribution based on both linearly referenced and segmented models.

The DRA looks forward to increasing its client-base and its interactions with regional and municipal governments. Using Web Feature Server (WFS) and Web Process Server (WPS) technologies to foster inter-operability between stakeholders and the DRA system, BMGS is keen to implement a geo-coded site register, and functions to add, modify and manage features online.