Scalable App Makes Surveying a Breeze for EPA
The Office of Water (OW) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for implementing the National Water Program. The EPA works with states, territories and tribal governments to protect and improve the Nation’s water quality. The EPA had been using surveys in paper form for their fresh water and marine beach data collection. However, in 2016, the EPA went from using paper surveys to a mobile application that was only available through Apple or Android platforms. As years went by and technology continued to evolve, updates and systems changes made the survey applications harder to use and maintain.
Although modernizing geospatial environments can be a difficult endeavor due to rapidly evolving technologies, as well as the vast amount of data collection that it requires, Innovate! Inc, a NITAAC CIO-SP3 Small Business 8(a) designated Contract Holder, stepped up to this challenge. They were able to use their geospatial integration and modernization expertise to help evolve the EPA’s Fresh Water and Marine Beach Sanitary Survey Application.
Innovate was asked by the EPA to evaluate approaches and provide apps for both the annual and routine surveys that were scalable and able to evolve over time along with technology. The EPA requested that these formats be cost effective and not require extensive operations and maintenance.
Innovate selected Esri’s Survey123 to modernize the surveys because of its many benefits. For starters, the once paper survey is now an application that is accessible over multiple platforms – web browser, tablet, and mobile devices – so users are no longer restricted to a single device. It automatically scales to various screen aspect ratios, allowing it to be viewed seamlessly on different devices. Users can complete and store forms offline, which comes in handy in the field where connectivity can be an issue. The data can be stored on the user’s device and then transmitted at a convenient time when the internet is accessible.
Access to the surveys no longer requires an application installation via Apple or Android stores to function and can be accessed directly through the EPA’s website, making it easily accessible by employees in the field. This autonomy ensures the surveys will not be impacted by changes or updates via the Apple or Android platforms and enables the EPA to control all aspects of maintenance. The Survey123 infrastructure provides the ability to maintain and extend core services throughout the application lifecycle, so as the EPA’s needs evolve, the survey will too.
Additionally, Survey123 uses a consistent interface and data validation on each field, making the data collected less prone to error. Skip logic was implemented within the survey application allowing for all related information to populate in the appropriate data field when a certain choice is selected, saving time and effort for users. It also helps to create consistent, measurable data that is geo-enriched and easy to share within the EPA, and with external stakeholders who rely on the data.
Innovate’s application enables easy sharing from state partners into one central location, the ONE EPA GeoPlatform. The data collected can then be used by agencies and different jurisdictions to share trends, create predictive models or help with decision making in other ways.
According to Michael Blair, Innovate’s Project Manager and subject matter expert, “Prior to Survey123, individual state program partners had access to their own data, but sharing it required a state to voluntarily send data. The new ONE EPA GeoPlatform serves as a central repository instead.”
Blair continued, “The new approach supports states and other users collectively sharing data. It also provides a stable platform for use across multiple devices and multiple operating systems.” In addition to easier sharing, the platform is easier-to-maintain, ever evolving and user friendly, helping agencies achieve their goals faster and more efficiently.
If you would like to learn more about the many solutions offered by NITAAC Contract Holders like Innovate, simply call our Customer Support Center at 1-888-773-6542 or email NITAACsupport@nih.gov. You can also use our electronic-Government Ordering System (e-GOS) for research or a Request for Information (RFI) about Innovate or Survey123.