Mysticetus Automated Report Generation Feature Gives You Your Life Back!

Dave and I were talking the other day about: what does the automated reports feature in Mysticetus really save MMO/PSO organizations and researchers? This lead to us performing a study on that question.

The short answer is A LOT! Depending on what your IT/GIS folks cost, we’re talking tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

We examined how long it takes to generate a simple daily report by comparing these methods: manual, automated via scripts and formulas, and Mysticetus. The study results revealed Mysticetus provides a time savings of between 2.5 hours and 3.6 hours (depending on your methods) for a very simple report on sightings, effort and vehicle time in particular regions. More importantly: we observed that the more complex the report, the more time saved with Mysticetus. We kept the study “simple” here and the time saving was still significant.

In the simple example below Mysticetus is shown to save over 75 hours of labor per month for a single vessel survey!

Problem Statement:

Traditional report generation is often one of matching sightings and effort time stamps with GPS time stamps and merging that data into a single spreadsheet. Vessel activity, sighting information, animal behavior, visibility and sea state are among parameters that might be pulled into a single spread sheet. Cut and paste, cut and paste… Even with spread sheet automation helping with data merges a time tax is incurred for both the merge verification and maintaining/fixing the logic used to control the merge.

A report generally needs to also include time and distance spent in particular defined zones along with effort states on the water. This would be done by looking at the GPS data and a map to see where and when a survey crossed the zone; and where/when effort states change. This process, often performed by visual inspection of a map comparing it to the GPS data takes yet more time. Alternatively, some GIS departments are sophisticated enough to use ArcGIS for this comparison; this still requires a billable expert to create and run the appropriate geo-polygon/real-time GPS track intersection scripts, and then merge that data back into the report.

We’re going to ignore a few things that only drive up costs:

  1. Fixing up differences in short hand notation between PSO’s – a pain point everyone is well aware of.
  2. Pencil and paper data methods… Generating reports that way clearly takes many times the effort of a computerized system, especially for effort analysis.

Study Results:

In this example the task is to manually generate a daily report for effort and time in region for a single vessel where 46 sightings were recorded over a 14 hour day. GPS position data has 50400 samples recorded using a 1 sample per second interval.

There are five essential steps:

  1. Merge track data with vessel activity and sighting data
  2. Compute vessel running time and distance between recorded points
  3. Determine where and when vessel crossed regions, updating the spreadsheet with this state change
  4. Determine where and when vessel changed effort or environmental states
  5. Compute time, distance and effort in each region

With these steps we completed a report using the miracle of data filtering in Excel. The four steps were timed and are tabulated below:

Activity Time to Complete Using Mysticetus**
1. Merging track data 49 minutes
2. Compute Vessel distance 60 minutes
3+4. Determine region and effort crossing points 47 minutes *
5. Compute time in region 60 minutes
Total / 60 3.6 hours*** 10 seconds

* It is impossible to be precisely accurate by hand with this task (geographic and state change boundaries can happen at various points between GPS track marks), but who’s going to know, right? Hopefully that report won’t get too much scrutiny…

** Using Mysticetus these tasks are done instantaneously (and precisely), so we timed how long it took to open the Reports window and press the “Generate Reports” button to initiate the report; the computer processing itself took less than a quarter second.

*** Remember we’re ignoring time costs of interpreting PSO short hand and data quality fixups.

Impact of Spreadsheet/GIS automation

So let’s assume your process has some automation and/or you have a large GIS group you pay a lot of money to perform these reports (i.e. they can add some level of automation). What does this do?

  • Step 1 – We found some automation (formulas) can drop this operation to ~10 minutes, including inspecting the merge to assure correctness.
  • Step 2 – We found a little more automation (formulas) can drop down to ~20 minutes with verification of results. Nice savings and less error-prone.
  • Steps 3 and 4 turn out to be more difficult to automate via scripts, since we need to bring together map data with the position samples (something Mysticetus does). Still, we can save a little time here, bringing it down to ~40 minutes.
  • Step 5 is almost impossible to automate this, short of writing real code (this type of thing tends to be beyond scripts and Excel formulas).

Note 1: We also didn’t measure the hours of time and associated expense to create and maintain any spreadsheet/GIS automation done by your in house spreadsheet/GIS gurus.

Note 2: We ignore time costs to hand off data to another team, managing billing with team, and all those other little human tangibles that result in time and money spent.

Reasonably, we can estimate automation to reduce the time to create a single daily report down to about 2.5 hours (that’s 3 hours billable) for those of you leveraging your expensive GIS department.

In contrast, Mysticetus generated the report in the time it took to click “Generate Report”.

Results and Final Comments

Mysticetus’ automatic report generation essentially eliminates the time tax of generating reports – not just daily reports, but any and all reports – weekly, monthly, final.

Need to go back and slice data differently? You want to know how much time and distance (and which sightings) was spent in any effort or environmental state? Glare? Visibility? Beaufort? No problem. Just tell Mysticetus how you’d like your effort and sighting data sliced and diced, and then click “Generate Report” and boom! 10 seconds.

This time tax we’re speaking of obviously scales linearly with the number of vessels you’re accounting for. If you have four vessels, the daily reports can take over 8 – 10 hours per day ignoring visits to the water cooler, chitchat, phone calls, and other human things. We won’t even start mention what this burden does to your attempts to hit a deadline and still make it home for a decent dinner.

If your operation lasts 30 days there is going to be a LOT OF TIME saved, on the order of 75 billable hours of labor saved at 2.5 hours/report.

This for a single vessel’s daily report. If you have 4 vessels you typically will require 10 hours daily or 300 hours per month.

For four vessels you save 300 HOURS of labor monthly.

Let’s go one step further – let’s assume you’re paying for all those hours at a couple of different rates:

    1. 300 X $20 USD/Hour = $6000/month USD

300 X $30 USD/Hour = $9000/month USD

300 X $40 USD/Hour = $12000/month USD

300 X $60 USD/Hour = $18000/month USD

With Mysticetus – the time required to generate the daily reports on four vessels takes the same amount of time as one vessel – about 10 seconds. Boom, done!

Below is the option to generate effort reports on 5 vessels plus Sightings Detail and Sightings Summary for 7 reports total (10 seconds still).

C:\Users\paul\Desktop\Mysticetus report dialog.bmp

Let’s take this one step more: Somebody suggests that you need to run another report asking the question: “how much time and distance did we spend ‘On Watch’ when the Beaufort Sea state was <= 2?” Well you just finished all those reports the old way and this request has you ready to start throwing things. With Mysticetus you tell it to slice the data by “Vessel Activity” and simply apply a complex set of filters such as: “Bft <= 2 && Glare <= 20%”. How long did this take? Yup, 10 seconds and you’re a hero.

C:\Users\paul\Desktop\mysticetus report 2.bmp

Need to run another report type, another 10 seconds.

Imagine, if you will, how would you spend all that time if you got it back?

  • Study the data more?
  • Bid on new projects?
  • Take a long lunch?

Automatic report generation in Mysticetus is a big deal.