Data Analysis System
Need for an Integrated System
Roslesinforg approached Axmor with a project to create a state-of-the-art data analysis system for entering and processing forest management data and generating reports on the state of Russia’s national forests. The customer was impressed by our experience in developing complex corporate systems, which helped us offer modern technical solutions.
Roslesinforg specializes in forest management, utilization, and design. Data on the number and quality of trees are generated during the forest inventory process. To do this, specialists visit an area and collect a vast amount of data on tree species, tree sizes, and local conditions. The data are entered to the analysis system and are used to create reports on forest resource assessment and utilization.
The customer was not satisfied with the length of the data collection and processing cycle. Therefore, they turned to us to develop and deploy a modern data analysis system to replace their outdated one. The main goals of the project were to reduce information-processing costs and to speed up the entire cycle by minimizing the number of human errors and increasing data processing speeds. The customer needed a system that could handle everything from gathering data in the field on a tablet to writing the final reports. They were also considering enabling data exchange between regional branches, which would improve the quality of the results. To work on this project, we had to understand the way in which forest management information is gathered and processed and the job descriptions of each employee.
There are 36 branches of Roslesinforg in Russia and in late 2012 they employed 3,474 people. Moreover, the branches use different methods and tools to inventory forest resources. The customer emphasized that the system should be flexible, integratable, and customizable. The development center was based at the Novosibirsk branch (Zapsiblesproject), which is responsible for more than half of the inventoried territory in Russia. The system was to demonstrate the same data storage and exchange standards that were used in the Russian national forest inventory system.
Forest Data Systematization and Analysis
Axmor programmers developed a template designer for reports on the state of the forest. Users can select the parameters, information snapshots, and other data filters that they need. We could not use standard reporting tools because forestry reports are unique. They have their own methods of calculation, and numbers of fields to calculate. For example, the inventory form contains over 200 different parameters that are used to calculate forest stock and evaluate the state of the forest. The calculation involves complex algorithms based on tables, comparisons, and formulas.
We integrated the data analysis system with the customer's geographic information system (GIS). This allows inventory specialists to use a tablet with a built-in GPS system to navigate through the woods. The maps are prepared before the inventory takes place. The maps can be edited in the field if the specialist notices any discrepancies. Specialists can select an object on the map, view information about the object or area, and make adjustments. Thus, adjustments can be made in the GIS module of the data analysis system as well as on the tablet in the field. After approval, all adjustments are sent to the customer's GIS.
Rule Description Language
All inventory parameters are related to each other by various rules. The Axmor programmers suggested using a domain specific language (DSL) that is used in the industry to describe connections and verification rules for inventory parameters. These rules can be widely varied—from simple threshold checks to complex calculations with many dependencies and table checks.
Reducing Human Errors
To reduce the number of input errors by low-skilled employees, we proposed creating an editor that could detect errors and warn the operator. This reduces the cost of processing information input by seasonal external staff.
The system does the calculation and verification according to forest management instructions and special rules, thus accelerating the process and reducing human errors. In addition, the system is flexible enough to be customized for the specific methods used by different Roslesinforg branches.
Flexible and Expandable System
The system was to take into account the differences across the customer’s regional branches. It also needed to be flexible enough to respond to changing standards and requirements.
The flexibility built into different levels of the system ensures that changes can be made to the system much quicker and at a lower cost.
- Thanks to the flexible architecture, the functionality of separate modules can be changed without changing the entire system.
- Changing the verification rules written in a domain-specific language does not require changing the code.
- The GIS module can be customized for the needs of a specific branch. The list of supported measurement tools can also be extended and it is inexpensive to update the technological platform.
- The report designer allows each branch to customize its reports.
Together with our customer, we sought to create a system that is convenient for all participants of the forest management process. The forest industry is interested in developing a comprehensive system that would be available to all the participants.
Industry Standard Propositions
As we were developing the data analysis system, the Russian national forest inventory database was being created. By that time, we had gained the necessary experience in gathering and storing forest management information. We helped Roslesinforg prepare proposals for the structure of the Russian national database that were later singled out for their completeness and clear structure.
Additionally, data exchange between the systems had to be provided. There are several competing programs on the forest management market. Among them are programs that use a command prompt for data input. To integrate such diverse systems in a flexible way, an open data exchange format was required. We helped our customer create and present this data format at the national level.
Thanks to these innovations, the system we developed for Roslesinforg has made a big impact on the industry standards for storing and processing information. It paves the way to creating a common information center. This will be accomplished by integrating with other industry solutions, such as the Corporate GIS of Roslesinforg (CGIS) or the forest operation planning system (LesGIS) developed by Zapsiblesproject.
- Encompassing the whole information processing cycle, from gathering data in the field using a tablet to processing and creating reports at the office.
- Input, correction, and update of inventory descriptions with rule-based automatic verification.
- Configurable verification rules.
- GIS support.
- Data import and export in various formats.
- Creation and generation of reports.
- Configuration of user access rights.
- Each branch and/or user can customize the system according to the methods they prefer.