What is SimSuite
SimSuite is a web-based, interactive, and customizable application built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Readiness Support Center (RSC) in order to provide relevant mission area information and data. It is currently available for USACE users at https://simsuite.usace.army.mil/SimSuite was originally created to support Emergency Management. However, it is now used across mission areas by planners, environmental specialists, engineers, and others. SimSuite provides an easy-to-use Geographical Information System (GIS) tool for team communication, planning, and basic analyses. The tool was designed in such a way that it does not require a formal background in GIS to use.
Some of the features of SimSuite include:
•User-friendly access to tools and data in one portal
•On-the-fly analyses and data summaries (including elevation profiles, tornado impacts, identifying invasive species, demographic summaries and more)
•A GIS-based view and platform that merges external data and resources with internally available data in order to provide a cohesive overview of mission relevant data
•Customizable viewer so that users and teams can access the data they need most often more easily
•Data is easily added via uploads and web services
•Hundreds of existing layers to choose from with export and download capability
•Graphics, tables, and diagrams to visually represent data
•Snapshot, printing, and easy sharing options to communicate geographical features
•Templates and start-up tools to create a custom viewer
•Access to all viewers to learn from others and use their viewers for one's own analysis without impacting their work
•Portals for USACE communities to organize, gather, and mark their favorite viewers
How does it work?
There are three main parts to SimSuite: data layers, applications ("apps") and the GIS platform.
First, SimSuite uses a variety of data sources (also known as web services, data layers, or APIs) within the application. These data sources serve as "layers" that can be applied to a map view of a specific location. Data layers draw from state and federal agencies including, but not limited to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Weather Service (NWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). SimSuite also draws data from HSIP (Homeland Security â€“ Infrastructure Program) Gold. Data from these sources is updated in real-time and reflected in the SimSuite viewer when layers are applied. The platform has expanded since its original design and purpose in order to include a multitude of mission-specific viewing panes, including viewers relating to emergency, environmental, flood risk management, military support, recreation, regulatory, and planning missions. Each viewing pane works similarly, but, by design, will have suggested layers. Users are able to search for additional available layers, add data sets in order to use that information as a layer, save specific views with layers and tools applied, and model events such as floods and hurricanes, as well as other functions. SimSuite features allow users to customize the application to best serve organizational missions. These capabilities will be described in detail in later sections.
Next, SimSuite has several existing apps to help do various types of analysis using these data layers. Some of the existing apps include a downstream routing tool, identification of invasive or endangered species in an identified area, and summarizing demographic information. When a new app is added, all users will have access to this app. The platform in SimSuite enables apps to be built more easily and quickly by advanced users and programmers. This capability permits communities to design their own apps easily to meet their needs in coordination with the SimSuite administrators and advanced users. One should click Contact Us if they are interested in adding apps or have ideas for new apps.
Finally, SimSuite is built on ArcGIS (ESRI) Flex Viewer Platform. This platform offers basic GIS tools and base map layers that almost any GIS system typically would have such as zoom, select, layer list, a key, and a general hosting platform. This platform enables many users to construct multiple viewers using the same base tools and to be able to share all tools, apps and data across viewers. An app that is built for one community or viewer can benefit other users. Likewise, data layers that are added into the system by an administrative user will also be available to all other users. The platform provides protection to the system by ensuring that a non-administrative user is able to use the tool without permanently impacting the system as a whole, other viewers or other users. As appropriate, higher privileges are available for more advanced users.
What can I use it for?
The SimSuite application can be used to view data relevant to missions including, but not limited to emergency management, environmental, flood risk management, military support, recreation, regulatory, and navigation. More recently, Corps Planners are also using this tool for reconnaissance and feasibility studies. Users can access data relevant to their mission or task through one integrated portal.
Not only can users view the data on the web application, but they can also export the data to share it with others, add additional data sets, and save specific viewers in order to access data without having to reapply each layer every time they use the tool. These application capabilities make it easier for users to access, share, analyze, and make use of available data relating to project missions and requirements.