Rolling out RRIMS: District Seven’s New Road Ranger App – 2020

By Dan Buidens, District Seven ITS Operations Manager, FDOT; Romona Burke, District Seven ITS Support Manager, FDOT; Michael Crawson, District Seven RTMC Manager, Lucent Group; Joe Parks, Senior Systems Specialist, Lucent Group; Carlton Urban, Project Manager, Lucent Group


In March 2019, District Seven was faced with the challenge of replacing its existing in-vehicle Road Ranger Automated Incident Software. Support for this product was expiring at the end of the year. The Department tasked the Operations consultant manager to quickly develop a new product for use. As a result, the Road Ranger Incident Management System (RRIMS) application was born.

Today, RRIMS is used as a visual-based interactive communication link between the Tampa Bay SunGuide Center (TBSG) RTMC Operators and the Road Ranger (RR) service patrol vehicle operators.
The RRIMS application has facilitated the exchange of roadway event information between the RTMC Operators and the Road Rangers since October 2019. This article discusses how RRIMS works and highlights several useful features that may be of value to Road Ranger Programs in other Districts within Florida.


How RRIMS Works
A deployment of the RRIMs application requires collaboration between the developers of SunGuide and the RTMC Information Technology (IT) support team. A longtime FDOT vendor will provide the necessary installation and setup of the SunGuide® Smart Phone Application for Road Rangers (SPARR) drivers. An IP address accessible from outside the local RTMC firewall is necessary for the RRIMS application to access and communicate with SunGuide via the installed SPARR driver. IT support will need to configure RRIMS for each specific District. For District Seven, RRIMs was loaded onto ruggedized laptops that were equipped with cellular network cards and on-board GPS. Each of District Seven’s Road Ranger trucks were also equipped with a signal booster on the dashboard in order to enhance the laptop’s GPS
signal.


Installing the RRIMs application
After the application is installed, the laptop is configured with the vehicle’s identification information assigning it to a specific SunGuide Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL)/ Road Ranger vehicle definition. Each vehicle is uniquely identified and can only be in use by one driver at a time. All District-specific AVL/RR and Event Management (EM) information is provided to RRIMS via the SPARR driver. The RRIMS application is updated every time a user logs in so that any changes to EM or AVL/RR information (new roadway locations and vehicle descriptions, for example) are immediately available to each Road Ranger.


Creating and Closing-out an Event Feature
While patrolling, the Road Ranger has the ability to create an event in SunGuide using the RRIMS app. The on-board GPS provides for a range of event reference points within a mile of the Road Ranger’s current location. By choosing the appropriate location reference point, the Road Ranger can then select the event type (see Figure 1).

Moreover, the Road Ranger also has the ability to add vehicle make/
model/color and tag information about the vehicles involved in
the event. There is no need for interaction with the RTMC until
the event is closed. The Road Ranger can depart the event, but
it is up to the operator to officially close the event after clearing all
DMS messages and documenting other activities.

Additional Mapping Features are Provided by External Web Services
As an added enhancement, all Road Ranger location information
is captured and presented on a web-based mapping application.
This is similar to the Road Ranger tracking provided by SunGuide
but gives the RTMC Operators a separate map to view all vehicles
on patrol within the District. This makes it easier to track Road
Rangers separate from all the other information displayed on
the SunGuide map. This mapping feature also allows designated
Road Rangers to view the location of all trucks on patrol (see Figure
2). By default, a Road Ranger’s map only shows their own current
location and the location of all events.

Test Rollout and Road Ranger Training
The initial test deployment of the application included two Road Ranger trucks. The test phase provided initial feedback between the RTMC Operators and Road Rangers and tested the GPS tracking units within each truck. During the initial rollout, installation of the app, testing of the wireless connection, and GPS location identification were performed
at a coned-off area or “transfer point” at the District Seven parking lot.


After the initial two vehicles were successfully deployed, the fleet was asked to come to the TBSG center parking lot with their laptops, where a TBSG Center IT technician installed the new application on each truck. Critical to the successful rollout of a new application is meaningful training! To facilitate the transition of the Road Rangers from the existing program to the new application, IT personnel met one-on-one with each Road Ranger as the application was installed and a brief tutorial was provided by staff on how to use the new application. Additionally, a User’s Manual and a
laminated one-page Quick Reference Guide were provided to each Road Ranger patrolman.


RTMC Operations Utilizing RRIMS
RRIMS provides Road Rangers with a real-time visual display of SunGuide event dispatching and updates while patrolling. A built-in mapping feature continuously displays the Road Ranger’s current location and the location of all dispatched events. In return, RRIMS automatically sends the Road
Ranger’s location and status data directly to SunGuide and these updates are in turn displayed on the SunGuide map and in the SunGuide AVL/RR status dialog. A Road Ranger will receive a pop-up notification alert when dispatched to an event. The alert will provide the location, event type, any lane blockage and descriptions of vehicles involved in the event. All RTMC dispatched events will be displayed on the Road Rangers screen, but their specific events will be highlighted in yellow. Since a Road Ranger sees all the dispatched events pending in their zone, they can prioritize events by location and proximity to their location and not have to rely solely on
the order the dispatched events were received. Upon receiving an event dispatch, the RR places themselves “Enroute” to that event, thereby notifying the Operators and SunGuide of their acknowledgment of the dispatch. This is recorded in the event chronology and also updates the
Road Ranger’s status in SunGuide to Enroute. Upon arrival at the event, the RR uses RRIMS to activate “Arrived” status and SunGuide captures this in the event chronology. Upon arrival, the RR can document all services provided and enter in comments about the event into SunGuide in real time. All interaction between the Road Ranger and SunGuide are
documented in the event chronology. All event information exchanged between the Road Ranger and SunGuide, except for comments and vehicle tag, is provided through prepopulated drop-down menu choices making the iteration simple, efficient, and consistent for the Road Ranger to input. The ability to self-document an event significantly reduces the Road Ranger’s reliance with RTMC Operators in documenting event activities. This seamless interaction between the Road Ranger and SunGuide allows the
Operators to focus on other event activities such as setting DMS messaging and notifying other responders.

Troubleshooting TMC Communications and Trouble Tickets
Trouble tickets either from the RTMC or from the Road Ranger side with the RRIMS application are routed from the Road Ranger Shift Supervisor to the consultant’s primary Source Code Manager. Trouble tickets can be called in
24/7/365. A remote desktop management application was loaded on each laptop to provide hands-on troubleshooting. Most of the early learning issues experienced with the application dealt with “how to” issues such as re-establishing communications between SunGuide and the Road Ranger
when cellular service was lost (i.e., dead cellular spots). Operators were also trained to be more aware of issues involved with closing events with an arrived Road Ranger since this would sometimes result in “orphaned” Road
Rangers (i.e., arrived, but no longer assigned to an active event). The rollout of RRIMS has resolved this issue.

Success
The success of the RRIMS application in District Seven has led to a second deployment in District One. The tow company provider for Road Ranger services successfully deployed the RRIMS application to the entire District One Road Ranger fleet in February 2020.
If you would like a virtual demonstration or more information regarding the RRIMS application to assist your Road Ranger program, please email Daniel Buidens at Daniel.Buidens@ dot.state.fl.us, or Romona Burke at Romona.Burke@dot.state.fl.us.