Building a modern data platform.

Building a modern data platform for the Environmental Protection Authority Victoria.

EPA Victoria is the world’s second-oldest environmental regulatory agency. They are undertaking a transformation to
become a world-class regulator of pollution and waste. They collect and manage a broad range of environmental data including data related to air, land, groundwater, noise, odour, waste and water.

They engaged Data Agility to help scope the requirements of the project, to improve the collection of the data and the usability of it and to ensure future data collection will meet their organisational needs.

Overview

EPA’s role is to regulate pollution and aspires to create a healthy environment that supports a liveable and prosperous Victoria.

The intent is to deliver clean air, healthy waterways, safe land and minimal disturbances from noise and odour for Victorians.

The Victorian Government undertook a public inquiry into EPA with its final conclusions released in 2016. It identified 48 areas for potential improvement. In January 2017 the Government released its response to the Inquiry, providing support in full or in part for all 48 recommendations. As a result, EPA is currently undergoing the most significant program of reform in its history.

This transformation will ensure EPA are more equipped than ever to meet the environmental challenges facing Victoria, by providing science-first advice and leadership so Victoria remains one of the most liveable places on the planet. These changes mean that much of EPA’s supporting technologies no longer meet current and emerging needs. The types and volumes of data collected or procured by EPA is exploding as data capture technologies such as sensors and satellites begin to proliferate. At the same time, community expectations about the transparency of regulatory operations and access to data are also shifting.

All of these factors place EPA in a position where a new, improved capability to compile, digest and disseminate environment data is essential.

Challenge

​The EPA collects and manages a broad range of environmental data including data related to air, land, groundwater, noise, odour, waste and water.

This data is collected to assist EPA in fulfilling its numerous functions and obligations such as issuing and managing licences, monitoring and enforcing compliance with regulation, environmental auditing and monitoring, and setting environmental policies and regulations for Victoria.

To become a world-class regulator, EPA needed to assess its current and future needs for environmental data. In the future, EPA will manage more data, from a greater variety of sources, more frequently, to better serve their stakeholders and the community. This will support decision making and predict potential future environmental harm and trends.  These future obligations and needs could not be met by their existing systems.

For instance, EPA currently has a number of fixed site and mobile air quality sensors across Victoria. These are sophisticated and expensive pieces of equipment, as the data itself and data capture methods need to be robust and able to withstand cross examination in court. However, technology advances in recent years mean sensors that can provide indicative air quality information have become more affordable. As these sensors are now so much more accessible, a far greater number of these sensors could be spread across the State, capturing data.

This vast increase in data collection, and management of both the data and equipment, required new supporting technologies. This would allow greater flexibility, scalability, easier support and maintenance and improved cost efficiencies.

Solution

Data Agility initially worked with EPA to help determine what they needed and the scope of the project. We consulted with 80 internal and external stakeholders and surveyed the entire organisation to determine this. 

From there, we identified the project requirements, identified the technologies required and the recommended solutions. We were able to propose a way forward for implementation, including a costed roadmap with a series of detailed projects and prioritisation framework to deal with changing priorities.

Subsequent to this, we then worked in partnership with EPA to deliver the solution, with the key objectives of the project to implement the platform and replace the processing of data from EPA’s existing network of Air Quality Sensors across Victoria. Working within a blended team, we provided specific resourcing around Solution Architecture, Data Architecture, Business Analysis and Development expertise with the solution based on the Microsoft Azure platform.

EPA complemented the Data Agility team with their own resources required for the project, which was managed using an Agile Methodology. This solution went live in early 2019.

Results

Ultimately, EPA now have a platform and solution that can cater to its future needs.

The key results were:

  • More flexible, scalable, easier to support and maintain and is cost-efficient.
  • Fully redundant system, ensuring information is always available for the community.
  • Manage high volumes of sensor data introduced by the growing network of sensors for all types of environmental data.
  • Supports the controlled exchange of data with partners, stakeholders and citizen scientists, including their network of sensors.
  • Improved time for data to be available with real time data processing that is validated and aggregated for use within 3 minutes of it being received.
  • There has been a 60% improvement in the speed in which the data is now available on the AirWatch website.
  • Improved platform / solution management. The solution now provides real-time alerts and greater granularity of where the problem is, so it can be fixed faster and cheaper.
  • Enables direct access to air quality data through modern tools providing easier access to data across the Applied Sciences division.
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