Drilling down data
The system also used geocodes (which are an exact map location) from TeleAtlas in Lebanon, N.H., to allow the system to map each of the 165,000 retailers in the program. Further data for the system came from available census information. To achieve success, IBI took the lead on the necessary integration work, while ESRI offered a strong lead with mapping expertise.The system layers different types of information, including the location of stores, the location of recipients, dates and times of purchases, and more, on the map. It allows users to quickly drill down to specific pieces of information or view relationships between data points. From the map, users can "lasso" areas that present red flags and drill down into the data to identify the trends. "We went from looking for food stamp fraud on the back end to using the TINA-GIS application on the front end to provide better business intelligence and information to DSS management that could be used to not only track potential patterns of fraud, but improve our service delivery to the people we serve," said Lemoine. Typically, the state had been processing 80,000 food stamp transactions per day. During and after the hurricanes, the figure grew exponentially to half a million purchases daily. Using the system, the state was able to quickly create daily reports that mapped the status of both residents and retailers for the USDA based on purchases using food stamps. State officials could tell which stores were still operational, as well as where disenfranchised residents had moved. "In the past, we had information, but we never had the tools, resources and technology to pull it together fast," said Lemoine. Both ESRI and IBI had done work with the DSS prior to this project. The two companies worked together closely to enhance the existing system with mapping capabilities. ESRI trained IBI staff on the intricacies of GIS technology, while IBI handled the integration between its business intelligence software and ESRIs GIS technology. The state of Louisiana is still waiting to see the results of its ability to identify fraud and theft trends, but justice is slow and the actual return on investment on the system is still unclear. "Unfortunately, we can see some patterns that appear to be fraud, but it takes several years to process cases through the courts," said Lemoine. Today, the system allows investigators to spot potential fraud and to use their investigative time more wisely. In addition to identifying fraud that has already occurred, though, the system could be used to help prevent future cons, the DSS hopes. "TINA-GIS was developed to detect patterns of fraud in millions of rows of available food stamp transaction data, something not possible using individual reviews of transaction logs," said Lemoine. "[The system allows] us to scan multiple areas for potential fraud within minutes versus hours or days for one location using previous standards of review and to display the results on a map or report." For ESRI and IBI, this project is the start of what both companies anticipate to be a long-term and growing partnership, said ESRIs Trammell. Already, new customers are asking them to implement similar solutions in their own programs. "We really got together and started to understand each others technology and started to build tight integration between our products," said Corcoran. "Now, we can go out and pre-sent each others products and its entirely seamless. Its given us a unique and substantial competitive advantage." Hailey Lynne McKeefry is a freelance writer in Belmont, Calif. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Editors Note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Michael Corcorans name. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.
Together, the two companies developed an interface that enabled WebFocus and the mapping program to communicate with each other.