Boston’s public works department uses a dashboard-based GIS system to coordinate snow crews and machinery. SnowCOP is an interface application that allows city officials to monitor upwards of 700 snow and ice control vehicles in real time, says Mike Dennehy, commissioner of Boston Public Works.

SnowCOP, which stands for Snow Common Operating Picture, relies on commercial off-the-shelf technology and provides real-time vehicle monitoring and an operations data dashboard. It uses the Esri ArcGIS platform. The city began constructing SnowCOP in 2012.

The system provides a complete picture of operations, says Matt Mayrl, former deputy chief information officer. “We use the software and technology to keep an eye on our contracted snowplow drivers and tools to help us visualize where constituents are calling so we can get snow removal services to Boston homes.”

Mayrl explains how the system works. “To help our field staff manage snow operations in real time, we built SnowCOP. Over the course of a storm, we have 500 to 600 plows pinging once each minute for 18 hours or longer. The department gathers a huge amount of data that helps clerks in district yards manage constituent calls and plow locations all in one central location.” The system tracks almost 30,000 street segments in the city.

SnowCOP employs automatic vehicle locator technology to display the locations of Boston’s snow-fighting workers with real-time 311 information from residents. Using the dashboard, city staff are able to track snow operations on all city streets, determining and dispatching plows and equipment to those areas most in need. Alerts on developments such as idle plows or unplowed streets immediately draw city operations managers’ attention, ensuring that trouble spots are dealt with as quickly as possible.

SnowCOP provides the public works department with a jurisdiction-wide view to ensure performance standards are met and gives public works operations managers the full perspective of performance in their assigned maintenance districts.

SnowCOP takes advantage of the interoperability between in-memory processing platform SAP HANA and ArcGIS. ArcGIS feeds and retrieves city data from HANA, providing a single source of access to snow operations for analysis, visualization and decision-making. Overall, SnowCOP has helped Boston Public Works to gain control over winter.

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