Tracking Santa: An ArcGIS Online case

By John Mackiewicz
February 6, 2015

ArcGIS Online connects maps, apps, data and people so you can make smarter, faster decisions. It gives everyone – both inside and outside organizations – the ability to discover, use, make and share maps from any device at any time. At its core, ArcGIS Online is a hosted cloud software as a service (SaaS) platform. Everything you need to create your own web maps and apps is available on ArcGIS Online. You can create maps from Microsoft Excel or upload your data from ArcMap to share your map and collect data in the field on your tablet or phone.

ArcGIS Online supports many users collecting data in the field at one time. This presents a problem for large workforces, as you may need to track where your collectors go when working in the field. Using Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS app, you can have it periodically report the location of data collectors back to a tracking layer on ArcGIS Online by publishing a tracking layer on ArcGIS Online and adding it to an Web Map with tracking enabled. When this Web Map is accessed within the collector app, the collector app sends its GPS location back to the tracking layer hosted on ArcGIS Online at a predefined interval.

At WSB, we view ArcGIS Online as a technology that:

  • Can quickly be deployed for multiple uses
  • Is flexible enough to handle diverse workflows without requiring any programming
  • Has untapped potential for public outreach

Below is one of our favorite examples of how we used ArcGIS Online to help a client deliver immediate value to both the organization and the public.

Tracking Santa

For more than 25 years, firefighters in the City of St. Anthony, Minnesota, have helped Santa by collecting gifts for those in need. Santa rides in fire trucks throughout the city collecting gift donations from residents. In 2014, the city wanted to allow residents to track Santa’s location along his route.

The City of St. Anthony decided to utilize ArcGIS Online to track Santa, thanks to all the app’s capabilities.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. A tracking layer was published on ArcGIS Online.
  2. The tracking layer was added to a Web Map configured with the city’s custom Esri base maps with tracking enabled.
  3. The city deployed an iPad with the Esri Collector for ArcGIS app to ride along with Santa with the Web Map open on the fire truck.
  4. A custom web app was built using our DataLink platform to show Santa’s most recent location.

As the fire truck drove along its route, the collector app was configured to report the truck’s location every 30 seconds back to ArcGIS Online. Residents used DataLink to view Santa’s current location in relation to their house so they knew when Santa was arriving.

Tracking Santa’s location is certainly a unique use of ArcGIS Online, but it shows how extensible the ArcGIS Online platform is. With just a few clicks, you can begin to track real-time locations of users who are using the collector app.

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