Volunteer Life Saving organisations play a significant role in promoting community
awareness of water safety issues, and in the provision of patrolled areas featuring
rescue facilities and services at many beach locations.
As noted with Armed Forces and Emergency Services Organisations, the use of GIS and
Command & Control software provides a most useful service for Real-Time and
Post-Event analysis and decision support. Commercial vendors offer a wide range of
software products to fulfil these service requirements, however, due to the mission
criticality addressed by their use, these software products typically attract
significant purchase and maintenance costs.
The challenge of this project was to design and implement a software solution to
address Life Saving Victoria’s (LSV) core requirements in this application space
using Open Source Software (OSS).
The base objective was to provide a “proof of concept” software platform to record
and collate State-wide incident and hazard information from Life Saving Clubs (LSCs),
regardless of location, into a centralised repository. The subsequent objective is
to make the data available in a GIS style visual environment featuring supporting
context spatial information such as satellite imagery, vector GIS data, and Real-Time
weather information streamed by Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
The objective of distributing this supplementary feature rich information to each LSC
is to enhance corporate and local decision making, regardless of location or
computational resource. In addition to near real-time decision support, the
systematic collection of spatialised data is highly desirable at a corporate level
for Post-Event analysis with the ultimate business objective of optimising service
quality based on iterative learning.
Due to the lack of standardised IT infrastructure at LSCs outside of LSV’s corporate
office, a server based solution interfaced using a Web client was considered to be
the most effective method of providing a functional service accessible by participant
clubs. It is therefore significant to note that the service is required to be
functional using heterogeneous, potentially obsolete, residential quality compute
infrastructure and a dial-up Internet services.
The software platform constructed uses a three-tiered architecture consisting of a
spatialised database, a web service and a web application.
The communication between the components is through Web Map Service (WMS) and
Transactional Web Feature Service (WFS-T) protocols, open standards set by the Open
Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The data passed back and forth between the server and
the client is encoded as Geographic Markup Language (GML) which supports the
representation of complex geometries as well as point data.
The middle tier web service is highly scalable as it is partly implemented as a J2EE
web-service. This allows for the application to be deployed in multiple instances
for increased performance. The application can make use of a wide variety of data
including satellite imagery, aerial photography, live weather information streamed as
a WFS, and vector GIS data.
It is notable that the access to spatial databases is via WFS-T, since this
facilitates the insertion, deletion and updating of spatial data across the web in a
highly interoperable manner. Operationally this means that multiple users can
concurrently access the application from anywhere using a web client. By making use
of transactional operations in conjunction with a spatial database, new features can
be added via the web interface allowing the recording of incident and hazard
information from remote locations.
All of the components deployed in this solution are Open Source Software. The use of
open systems and open standards facilitates simple integration of external data
sources and additional software components.
The application is currently being trialled by several Victorian and one interstate
Life Saving Clubs.