Award-winning AusSeabed Survey Coordination Tool

Designed through consultation with the AusSeabed community, the Survey Coordination Tool (SCT) includes three functions: upcoming survey registration and planning, demarcation of priority mapping areas, and the capacity to generate survey requests for submission to the Australian Hydrographic Office. SCT is open-source, and the underlying code has been published alongside the other AusSeabed infrastructure in the AusSeabed GitHub code repository.

The tool represents the first suite of technological solutions intended to support the marine community in developing a consistent approach to the capture of seabed mapping data.

Development of SCT commenced mid-2019, with a team size of approximately 1.0 EFT split across business analysis, seabed data domain experts, software developers, and infrastructure engineers. Development was funded by Geoscience Australia, FrontierSI and the Australian Hydrographic Office under the broader AusSeabed program – a multi-sector collaboration.

Delivering the solution

A requirements gathering process was undertaken before commencing development, which involved a range of stakeholders from the AusSeabed community. Stakeholder roles varied from capturing data, processing data, through to application of seabed data. By supporting communication between these stakeholders SCT aims to support optimisation of national resources for seabed mapping. Through SCT the aim is for more collaborative surveys where they are extended, or planned jointly, to maximise survey time relative to transit.

High level SCT requirements were grouped into key functional components supporting each of the endorsed activity types; survey plans, survey requests, and priority area submissions. Development tasks necessary to implement these features were split across several sprints according to the Agile software development approach. Sprint outputs, in the form of working software, was presented to project stakeholders at the end of each sprint to ensure requirements were implemented according to expectations.

Several iterations of the survey plan, and survey request components, were required to meet expectations. The iterative development and release process supported more detailed requirements gathering than what was documented prior to development. Technologies were chosen to reduce the effort required to refactor the application to support new use-cases, and changes to the database schema.

Level of complexity

From the requirements gathering exercise it was discovered that seabed data encompassed a variety of products including bathymetry, backscatter, sound velocity profiles, imagery, and seabed samples. These contrasting products are collected by a variety of equipment including sonar (multi-beam and single beam), LiDAR, aircraft, satellites, and sub-bottom profilers. A database schema was developed as part of the SCT to store this information in a standardised fashion. A database migration tool to was used to preserve existing SCT data through changes to the database schema based on stakeholder feedback.

SCT is a web-based application developed using a mix of contemporary frameworks and infrastructure. An Elastic Kubernetes Service was provisioned on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to ensure scalability and availability. An open-source spatial database (PostGIS) is used to store all SCT data. This is then made available via the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) web-services (WFS, WMS) for consumption by additional applications. Other web-services have been developed to provide access to non-spatial SCT data for use in applications such as quality assurance, processing, and publication.

The SCT has supported AusSeabed by providing a standardised system for submission of seabed mapping-related activities, ensuring data is provided in a consistent manner that is readily accessible.

Since its public launch in August 2020, the SCT has accumulated 49 users submitting a total of 81 survey plans, 6 survey requests, and 23 priority areas. This was an exceptional outcome in the short term. Only registered users can submit data to the SCT, however the general public is able to access data via web-services published by the SCT in the AusSeabed Marine Data Portal.

SCT has acted as an example of how seabed mapping activities can be coordinated. Based on this, planning is underway for SCT to support activities beyond the existing survey plans, requests, and priority area submissions.

Ongoing impact

It is providing a one stop shop for information inputs and so increasing efficiency in collating and handling that information. There is no need to deal with handling inputs of information coming through various sources, particularly emails like it was done previously. It is also coming in standard formats so saving time there too. It also provides better visibility of activities overall which help for coordination and eliminate duplication of efforts.

The SCT will see a second round of improvement as it is now part of a newly funded proposal where we will see its functionality expanded to include an even broader range of stakeholders and information.