Surrey County Council and MGISS - Doing more for less with high-accuracy location intelligence

With government cuts showing no sign of abating, local authorities are having to use resources extremely wisely. The last decade has had a major impact on the way in which local authorities have been operating, with pressure to do more with less and work more innovatively a constant theme.

One of the best ways to improve operational efficiency is to share resources, standardise on processes, and where possible, adopt the latest technology to improve productivity whilst reducing the strain on operational staff.  There is also a need to embrace new processes and adopt proactive behaviours with a view to reducing our impact on the environment.  In local government this is now mandatory as part of a national shared responsibility to reduce the productivity gap and aim for a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

Geospatial technology, which harnesses the power of accurate location intelligence, has an important part to play in supporting the drive towards smarter infrastructure, which, in turn, will provide the bedrock of our future prosperity as a society, with major positive impacts on quality of life.

As a UK-based, independent geospatial solutions provider, MGISS are therefore playing an increasingly important role in supporting operational efficiency within government, utilities and environment, all with interconnected infrastructure, systems and duties of care to deliver and maintain.

A recent successful deployment of geospatial technology by MGISS in partnership with Surrey County Council, has delivered massive productivity gains and resource efficiencies, saving operational costs and meets the needs of the government agenda for doing more with less.

Surrey Highways drive to modernise working practices

In 2018, Surrey County Council were referred to MGISS in order to determine a suitable solution to capture highway boundaries and modernise working practices with a cost effective, robust and straight-forward-to-use technology.

The Highways Information Team, part of Surrey County Council, collect, store and provide information relating to the public highway network in Surrey.  They are currently undertaking a project to capture the legal extent of the highway network as a GIS polygon layer. Over 5400km of highway need to be captured and maintained with 4600km previously captured using legal records, previous research and traditional surveying methods such as tape and measuring wheel.

The outstanding 850km of highways to be captured predominantly consists of rural roads that require surveying accurately in order to define the legal limit of highway. Using their corporate ESRI GIS platform as the primary business system, a solution was sought that would assist with accelerating project completion, whilst maintain accuracy and quality.  At the same time, optimising field operational staff on the project was important.  GPS technology was identified as a potentially suitable surveying tool, however the Highways Information Team were keen to explore the use of their existing ESRI platform as a shareable resource, and determine whether technology integration was possible.

As a specialist ESRI UK partner, the MGISS team have been deploying integrated GPS and GIS technology for over 20 years, developing a deep understanding of the value of high-accuracy location intelligence, and the increasing challenges faced by all public and private sector organisations. Whilst the technology itself is not new, improvements in GPS – now more typically entitled GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) reflecting the proliferation of new satellite constellations including Galileo which is designed to improve location accuracy to benefit the UK and the rest of Europe particularly – enable high accuracy positioning to be integrated seamlessly into modern smartphones and mobile apps.

Traditional methods not measuring up

Surrey County Council previously surveyed highway boundaries with a team of two, using a tape measure and paper map to plot and check the boundary.  Additional validation and checking would occur back in office to ensure a level of accuracy was applied.  

In total, a 10-step process was required to capture important site highway information as follows;

Within this, data is handled and manipulates several times introducing errors into the process, thereby reducing the quality and veracity of the spatial record.
MGISS integrated solution gets productivity on track

MGISS and Surrey County Council agreed to work together to understand the existing process in detail, and determine the most cost-effective solution, providing an independent assessment of options within the geospatial marketplace.

It was quickly determined that the existing ESRI GIS platform could be utilised, and a trial was arranged to compare traditional and proposed workflows.  An Eos Arrow Gold GNSS receiver from MGISS was integrated with an MGISS-customised ESRI Collector app workflow suitable for any smartphone or tablet.  Also integrated was a high-accuracy correction service available to the Highways team across the whole county.

Following a hugely successful trial, Surrey Highways required MGISS to deliver:

  • Design, configuration and testing of ESRI Collector forms
  • Onsite Training to team members on how to capture data and use Arrow Gold in the field
  • Arrow Gold GNSS system plus lightweight and wearable accessories to survey unhindered
  • Ongoing Service and lifecycle Support

George Emmett, Highway Boundary Team Leader explains, “On delivery of the Arrow Gold we had an on-boarding day (system setup and customised training) with MGISS. The solution was easy to use following a few start-up steps. The supplied form in Collector allows us to capture a variety of features and attributes on the highway network. We are also able to add site photos with each mapped feature using our handheld device (in our case a rugged CAT S41 Android phone).”

“The data is easily exported from ESRI ArcGIS Online. We have also built comprehensive database structures, and with a live link to the online synced survey data effectively enabling real-time viewing of the surveys as they happen.”    This provides additional unanticipated benefits such as tracking of productivity and ensuring no site -revisits are required, thereby reducing carbon emissions significantly.

Results that truly measure up

The highways team had previously estimated that the total project could be broken down as follows:

Based on 1km of highway surveying both sides with a 10m measurement interval, the total surveying time would be approximately 1100 days or 3 years.

The solution provided by MGISS has drastically reduced survey time, back office processing is zero, and accelerated project completion from 3 years to a predicted 6 months.  What used to take 2 men a week to do is now completed in a single day!
Unanticipated value delivered

In addition to this significant return on investment, The Highways Team have identified a number of added benefits both now and in the future such as;

  • Ability to undertake surveys individually where appropriate (lone working)
  • Assist with complicated boundary issues
  • Survey assets/insurance claim locations with excellent accuracy for Council colleagues
  • Identify mapping inconsistencies as part of explaining mapped physical features

George Emmett continued to extol the virtues of this new solution, “We are very happy with the solution provided by MGISS. To date we have been using the equipment on a case by case basis and the data recorded has been invaluable in proving the limit of highway. The accuracy achieved in the field has been consistently high. Teams across Surrey Highways have expressed a great deal of interest in the solution and there are many possibilities for further use of the equipment in a number of applications.”

The road ahead
Following the early assessment of the solution and potential wider usage, MGISS have been engaging with other innovation initiatives led by Surrey County Council, including looking at efficient capture and maintenance of pothole locations across the county.  It is clear that in order to meet the demands of the future, geospatial technology has to be harnessed effectively and adopted quickly to aid future planning and combat the effects of ageing infrastructure and the impacts of climate change.
For further information on how MGISS can support your innovation by using Geospatial technology, and help you do more with less, please get in touch with us.

0151 3290820