Snowmobiler portal to plow through travel planning data

An alliance between the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) and DMTI Spatial aims to ease the travel planning of snowmobilers who have had it hard enough trying to sort through dozens of paper maps with their mittens.


Ontario-based DMTI Spatial enlisted the help of Sun Microsystems to deliver a Web site which aims to make trip planning easier — and safer — through the availability of comprehensive, up-to-date maps and information on snowmobile trails, including conditions and weather forecasts on Ontario’s more than 46,000 km of snowmobiling trails.

The addition of these features to the OFSC Web site, which is powered by the Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) Web server software, will be a boon to snowmobilers. Eldon Somerville, part of the OFSC trail development team, says the goal was to replace an outdated and difficult system of route planning for snowmobilers. To find any trails beyond the standard TOP (Trans-Ontario Provincial) touring trails, such as local club trails, snowmobilers previously had to do a lot of legwork.

“”Basically they had to find individual club or district maps and obviously they had to do a lot of calling around to locate the right individual to actually get the map,”” said Somerville. “”By going to a web-based map it’s readily available to them at their convenience so that they can plan trips in advance.””

DMTI, who currently provides mapping technology to an international client base, knew immediately that infrastructure would be key to the project, which was started in May with the current site having launched in September.

“”A big part of this was somebody had to host the Internet site, the technology it requires — it’s not like MapQuest where it’s just an out of the box thing, where you get streets and driving directions —the OSFC were unique in that they had their own data. Instead of roads there were snowmobile trails, and they do change year to year; they add, they delete, they change routes,”” said Chris Thomas, manager of strategic initiatives for DMTI.

“”Sun have been a partner for quite awhile, DMTI did some level of hosting other map applications which were all built on Sun hardware, the main reason being DTMI says Sun is recognized as the most stable hardware for internet infrastructure. Any commercial successful mapping application has traditionally been a Sun-based unix system for stability and robustness, said Thomas.

While the everyday snowmobiler already has access to an abundance of map detail from the site, the OFSC will be able to easily manage and update the site data through its own secure interface.

“”If I’m in management at OFSC I’ll be able to go on and read the very same data the consumer sees but I’ll have a lot more flexibility coloring layers the way I want and then publishing maps from it,”” said Thomas. “”For instance, it’s important that I can identify what trails are on crown land versus private land (a farmer). The rules change in summertime when people are rolling through farmers’ fields thinking it’s a trail. There’ll be an interface that lets them determine, maybe colour the trails by ownership, colour the trails by a certain distance within private land.””

DMTI plans to add a fully integrated real-time weather and trail condition reporting system this year.

Today OFSC members go onto a Web site that they’ve built with another company and type in ‘Bracebridge’ and ask for the conditions and read them textually. The group is now going to be reading that information and applying it to the map data, so on its map the color of the trail will change in real-time, Thomas said. That gets updated as frequently as OFSC can update it.

“”The weather is going to be hourly, so every hour you could go back to our Web site, and assuming the weather changes you’ll see a change in the map,”” he said.


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