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GCN : October 2012
36 GCN OCTOBER 2012 • GCN.COM ZAID HAMID GCN AWARDS ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY EXPLORER Arlington National Cemetery is a world famous shrine and is supposed to set an example for other military cemeteries throughout the nation. That status was badly damaged when an Army Inspec- tor General's investigation in 2009 found widespread instances of unmarked graves at Arlington, along with improper han- dling of remains and errors in the burial records. In an era of sophisticated computer and IT technologies, cemetery employees used 3x5 inch cards and paper maps to document the more than 400,000 burial records and 260,000 gravesites. The ANC Explorer is the public-facing part of the Army's answer to this disturb- ing problem. It's a Web and smartphone application that visitors to the cemetery will be able to use to pinpoint exactly where loved ones are buried, along with providing precise directions to their gravesite. Virtual visitors also will be able to see images of the headstones in the cemetery and gravesites of notables bur- ied there. "The vision behind this was, what is needed for a family member coming to the cemetery and being able to find out where their loved one is buried," said Maj. Nicholas Miller, the ANC's chief in- formation officer. "Many come but then don't come back for five, ten and even 20 years, and as the cemetery grows the memory of that day is rapidly outpaced by how the dynamics of the cemetery have changed." Miller and his team in the CIO's of- fice instituted a massive data collection effort using a custom iPhone applica- tion to record the front and back of each headstone in the cemetery. They tagged and linked the app with GPS coordinates and packaged it for delivery into a SQL database. So, not only does the public have a GIS-based smartphone app, but the Arlington IT group can use the same technology to power its day-to-day op- erations and business workflow. The technology is managed through an enterprise architecture that Miller said provides an accurate, multi-year roadmap for where the technology needs to go. Arlington National Cemetery also now has a fully resourced and funded IT orga- nization, which it didn't have prior to the June 2010 reorganization. For Miller, the current ANC Explorer program is just the start of what he be- lieves can be accomplished now that ev- erything from scheduling of burials to pictures of gravesites and headstones are integrated into the workflow. "Now that the business systems are au- tomated," he said, "we're looking at how we can use this rich data to enhance the experience for family members and allow them to explore this wonderful national military shrine." • --- Brian Robinson ANC Explorer project automates business systems as it enhances visitors' experience of the national shrine With technical finesse, hallowed ground restored From left: Tae Sun Shin, Christopher G. Thornton, CW2 Craig Campbell, Mary Lynn Malone, Maj. Nicholas Miller, Ashley Talley, Steven Dawson, Margot Flowers, Daniel Gardner ORGANIZATION: Arlington National Cemetery PROJECT: ANC Explorer CHALLENGE: To upgrade a failed, paper-based system for managing gravesites and burials that led to burial record-keeping errors and a national scandal. SOLUTION: A Geospatial Informa- tion System that uses Microsoft ASP.NET technology and a custom iPhone application to image, tag and organize gravesites and pro- vide Web and smartphone location apps for cemetery visitors. AT A GLANCE