The city of Richmond on Canada's west coast would be under water at times during the year if the drainage pumps operated by the city weren't constantly pumping water into the broad Fraser River which encloses it on three sides. On the fourth side, the salt waters of Georgia Strait lap the city's shores. The city has an average elevation only one meter (three feet) above sea level.

Obviously, careful planning is essential. A leaky main or burst pipes spell trouble in a city where water can't drain downhill. Entire neighborhoods could be flooded if drainage systems are unable to meet the demands of new development or a heavy downpour. When Richmond planners sought to answer questions such as where new pumps should be located, which pumps are vulnerable to breakdown and effects of new development on drainage, they discovered that they had millions of lines of data but very little useful intelligence.

The data comes from one of North America's largest supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Radio transmitters at 180 pumps, temperature sensors and river-level monitors send status reports to a receiver on the top of a high hotel, which feeds to a control room where alarm conditions such as failed pumps or power outages can be identified. Each week, the system collects more than 2 million records, which are stored in a proprietary database on a PC server running a real-time operating system.

To gain intelligence about this data, Richmond turned to WebFOCUS from Information Builders. WebFOCUS had two outstanding features that attracted Richmond. First, it was capable of tapping into the proprietary database where all data was stored and, unlike that database, WebFOCUS had powerful reporting and analysis capabilities. Second, WebFOCUS' ability to publish reports on the Web means the city can put that intelligence in everyone's hands, including users of wireless devices. Today public works crews in the field or engineers in planning meetings can use PDAs to access useful intelligence about the city's infrastructure.

The new system allows any city official with access to the Web site, which is powered by WebFOCUS, to view recent alerts such as pumps experiencing mechanical failures, sanitary sewage tanks getting too full or city streets approaching freezing temperatures. They also can view trend information, including how hard each pump is working, how often it has failed in the past and how its load or activity changes after a downpour drenches the city or a new parking lot is paved in its area.

The WebFOCUS system quickly demonstrated that it could make sense of the data that the city collected. Information Builders went well beyond the original scope of the project by advising city planners to make smart decisions about the future. Information Builders first raised the possibility of linking the data to handheld devices so managers could take the data with them or access it over wireless networks. That, in turn, led to the vision of any city official or public works service crew having comprehensive data about the city's public works system whether they were sitting in council chambers during a budget meeting or in a truck responding to a midnight alert in the dead of winter.

Considering the dramatic increase in the quality and availability of information it delivered, the WebFOCUS system was relatively inexpensive. The new database reporting system required only six weeks of development. The Web site has been in production since the fall of 2000, and wireless capabilities were offered in early 2001. Wireless PDAs get the data from the Web site by using AvantGo, a service that converts Web data into simple forms that can be easily displayed on the small screens of PDAs.

The WebFOCUS system lends itself to future development because of its adherence to open standards and use of widely available hardware. Because the data is available on the Web and the only client software required is a Web browser, city departments can access data in a number of ways.

WebFOCUS from Information Builders is a complete business intelligence solution designed to support today's most critical e-business and e-government initiatives – B2B, B2C and B2E (business to enterprise).

AvantGo is a hosted network that enables hundreds of businesses to deliver their content and applications to more than 3 million mobile consumers.

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