Mobile Office Initiative

2011 Winner: Outstanding Achievement In Applied Technology And Innovation Sponsored By SAIT

Connecting The Field With Business Information

Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) — responsible for the management of Alberta’s public land, forestry and fish and wildlife resources — has been faced with unprecedented demand for the use of Crown land and its natural resources. Staff were spending increasing amounts of time reconciling hard copy files with digital data files, leaving less time for completing critical approvals, field audits, inspections, surveys and enforcement.  They were working at capacity and yet faced with increasing workload pressures.

George Robertson and his team of key SRD field staff recognized the need for a better way of doing business. They designed the Mobile Office Initiative (MOI), which combines hardware, technology and data into an efficient and effective solution.  The MOI allows remote access to aggregated digital information via a ruggedized laptop with extraordinary capabilities.

“We honed the requirements of the MOI by getting feedback from the field staff themselves,” says George Robertson, Land and Range Manager, Woodlands Area — Whitecourt. “They told us they needed enhanced information and immediate communications, which creates greater efficiencies, better decisions and support for staff safety.”

The MOI is dependable in the remote and harsh conditions SRD staff find in their atypical work environment. It provides real-time access to over 30 gigabytes of essential geospatial and non-spatial resource management data to support decision-making in the field. The MOI has been placed on all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, boats, helicopters, horses, and in backpacks. It has been used to support firefighting operations, environmental performance monitoring, compliance assessment, field inspections, land use approvals and fish and wildlife operations.

“Access to mobile, accurate, timely information is a critical component in supporting the needs and expectations of SRD’s field operations,” explains Mr. Robertson. “The MOI meets these needs, enabling field staff to complete their field work with confidence and provide better service and real benefits to clients.”  SRD clients include energy companies managing a pipeline or well site, forestry companies planning harvest sequences in their forest management area, or helicopter companies mapping the boundaries of a wildfire in northern Alberta.

Given the global nature of resource management challenges — from responsible, sustainable industrial development to critical, appropriate management of forest fires — the MOI is applicable to industries and jurisdictions around the world.

The social and economic impacts of the MOI are significant. By moving decision-making to the field, resource managers are able to provide unparalleled service to clients resulting in enhanced productivity for both government and industry. Timely, responsive feedback on industry plans, approvals or compliance monitoring, results in improved, more environmentally sustainable access to resources.  This translates into positive impacts to industry’s economic and environmental performance.

“With Alberta’s industrial reputation under national and international scrutiny, the Mobile Office Initiative demonstrates the province’s commitment to our natural heritage through the use of innovative management tools,” Mr. Robertson says. “An added bonus is that staff have greater job satisfaction from knowing they are doing a better job.”