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Outdoor Advertising - State Study

State of Florida

Automated Data Gathering System

A Case Study

Brief Overview of State's Outdoor Advertising Program

Florida's Outdoor Advertising program (ODA) is administered by the Office of Right-of-Way, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). ODA is a decentralized program except for accounting practices that are handled by the Central office in Tallahassee. The state is split into seven Districts each with a District office location. Each District office has two or three ODA field inspectors and an ODA Administrator. The Districts are generally quite large and can encompass as many as 18 counties. The ODA program permits by sign facings (versus sign locations) and there are approximately 23,000 faces and 15,000 structures in their system currently. By state mandate, Florida's ODA program must pay for itself through program fees and fees cannot exceed program costs. Florida estimates that, over 10 years, program fees will pay for the new automated data gathering system. Florida uses a graduated fee system based on the square footage of the sign face. The automated system is called the Outdoor Advertising Inventory Management System (ODA-IMS).

Motivation Behind Selection of System (Technical and Administrative Drivers)

What prompted need for system?

There was a statewide mainframe data base in use by ODA since the 1980's. In 1996, the Florida legislature mandated the Outdoor Advertising program to complete a sign inventory within 2 years. ODA did not believe that the existing mainframe data base was sufficient to be able to generate an accurate and thorough inventory. This led to the decision to procure a new database system. ODA was given a great deal of autonomy by the state DOT to create what ever kind of system ODA believed they needed in order to meet the legislative mandate.

What were your system requirements?

Florida's ODA program had three primary system priorities. One was the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) for locating signs. They were not satisfied with their previous system of locating signs by route number and milepost. GPS was also important to them for being able to know the exact distance between signs and nearby intersections. Their second system priority was that it be web-based. They wanted customers (permit holders/sign companies) and other third party interests to have direct access to certain data, thereby decreasing the time spent by ODA employees responding to questions and data requests. Lastly, Florida was looking for a way to establish uniform reporting mechanisms from their Districts.

Process of system selection

Florida ODA was not certain that the data in the existing mainframe system was entirely accurate or complete. They believed that the only way to get good data out of their new system was to put good data into it. Consequently, they felt the first step had to be a basic physical inventory of all signs on controlled routes in the state. They chose to use contractors for both the inventorying process and the development of the data gathering system. They entered into two separate contracts to complete the inventory - one to inventory the approximately 4,000 signs on their interstate system, and one to inventory signs on all other controlled routes. They entered into a third contract for the development, implementation and training of the data gathering system.

System Design and Development Process

Contractor versus in-house development?

Florida ODA chose to use a contractor. Greenman, Pedersen, Inc. (GPI) was selected through competitive bid. GPI was also the contractor for the interstate sign inventory mentioned above.

Who and what process was involved in technical planning and system design?

A planning team was assembled that included managers from five of the seven Districts, the State Right-of-Way Manager for Production and Operations, the Assistant State Right-of-Way Manager for Program Operations (ODA Program Manager), the State Outdoor Advertising Administrator, the State Systems Administrator for Right-of-Way Production and Program Operations, and the Chief Outdoor Advertising Accountant. This team developed a set of "business rules" that were supplied to the Applications Specialist from GPI as a starting point for system design. This document gave the consultant an idea of how the ODA program operates, established certain criteria that the system had to be able to address, and defined certain parameters within which the system had to be able to operate. For example, the business rules established that there could be no duplicate tag numbers, account names or invoice numbers; no permit number should be assigned if sign status is illegal; fee value had to correspond to the size of the sign facing, etc. (See Appendix A for Business Rules document.)

Starting from these business rules, GPI implemented what they call a Structured Rapid Application Development (SRAD) approach. This approach features continuous developer and user interaction throughout the project and flexible specifications. The planning team met with the GPI Application Specialist several times to map out system needs and organization. Planning and design of the system was an iterative process that continued over the course of a year. Planning proceeded concurrently with the sign inventories done by consultants. A great deal of time was spent after the planning process was complete (approximately three months) reconciling the data collected through the two inventory efforts with the existing data in the mainframe data base. Discrepancies were investigated and corrected, and reconciled data was imported into the new system.

How long to develop system?

Florida contracted with GPI for the system development in November of 1997. The planning team was assembled at this time and system planning and design evolved as described above over the course of a year, concurrent with the inventorying efforts. The database was implemented in December of 1998 with the web component accessible by February of 1999. With the implementation of the data base in December 1998, Florida met its legislative requirement from 1996 to produce a complete inventory within two years.

Was the system designed to integrate with other systems?

The Outdoor Advertising program does its own accounting, so the system did not have to integrate with any other systems. Accounting and billing practices are a part of the ODA-IMS data base. Another computer system for use by the Office of Right-of-Way is scheduled to be developed within the next 2 to 3 years. The ODA system will eventually integrate with this system.

System Description

Hardware, including data collection tools

The system's hardware components include a Dell Cluster server and Dell Desktop 266 platform PCs (in Central and District offices). The field units are Panasonic CF-25 Notebook computers. Field data collection tools include Laser Atlanta Advantage GPS laser guns, magnetic car-top mounted Trimble GPS units, and Kodak DC-120 digital cameras. HP ScanJet color scanners and HP DeskJet 722C inkjet printers are also used with the system. Network access to the Central office server is obtained using Microsoft Windows NT over TCP/IP transport protocol. The ODA-IMS client machines also support an interface to a TWAIN compatible scanning devise for scanning permit application documents.


The data base is in Oracle Version 7.0 and the field unit laptops are equipped with a Microsoft Access data base designed to look very similar to the main Oracle data base. Microsoft Visual Basic version 5.0 Enterprise Edition is used to create the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Seagate Crystal Reports Professional version 6 is used to develop the custom reporting functions.

Network access to the Central office server is obtained using Microsoft Windows NT over TCP/IP transport protocol. The webserver's operating system software is also Microsoft Windows NT 3.51 Server. The web active server pages access the Oracle database. Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) version 9.0 is the webserver and Microsoft Frontpage 2000 is used to generate the web documents.

System type

The ODA-IMS system is a client-server application using an Oracle relational data base. It supports all the activities undertaken by the Central and District ODA offices, as well as supporting the use of the District field computers for purposes of data collection and maintenance. The data base server is located at the Central ODA office with client systems located at each of the seven District ODA offices. The data base is menu driven with object oriented, Windows-type screens.

The system also includes an Internet component that allows access to data via the Internet and web browsers such as Microsoft Explorer and Netscape. The webserver accesses data in a replicated data base which is refreshed periodically from the main data base so as not to compromise the security of the ODA-IMS system. The replica data base contains a sub-set of the data contained in the Oracle data base (e.g. no accounting information).

The system contains various error-checking mechanisms and security elements. Initial user access is controlled by Windows NT Domain security. In addition, the user must log-in to the ODA-IMS using a valid user-name and password combination. The screens are designed with as many fields as possible having pull-down menus limiting the range of possible responses for that field. A history log which includes the date of the change, the type of change, and identification of the system user is kept for all changes/updates made to the data base. Additionally, when field data is uploaded, any data elements that have been changed are displayed along with their previous value allowing the user to selectively accept or reject changes before they are permanently uploaded in to the data base. (See Appendices B and C)

The system includes a customized reporting function that generates reports based on common needs identified by ODA staff. The system also accommodates generating other non-standardized reports based on data queries made by the user.

Data Collection/Data Input - Procedure and Mechanics

ODA program procedures and practices

Each ODA District processes its own permit applications, conducts its own field inspections, and issues its own violation notices. Each District performs an annual inventory. The ODA District office computers operate as clients to the server located in the Central ODA office that houses the Oracle database. Consequently, District offices have access to the same data as the Central office at all times. There is a District Office Administrator in each District. This person is responsible for reviewing all data collected in the field and reconciling that data before it is committed to the data base. This procedure is protected by the administrator's unique username and password combination. Billing is the only centralized ODA function. All permits are renewed annually on the same date (1/15). Only certain Central Office ODA individuals have access to accounting information in the database.

How was existing data transferred to the new system?

ODA data sets from the previously existing hierarchical database on the FDOT IBM mainframe were transferred to the replacement ODA-IMS database. Data fields that were not included in the old mainframe system were filled by data collected during the two sign inventories that were conducted concurrent with ODA-IMS development. The inventory data was collected electronically, and was also able to be converted to the ODA-IMS system directly. Great care and effort was taken to have complete and accurate data transferred to the ODA-IMS database before the system was implemented.

Hardware/software data collection tools used?

Data to be inspected or updated in the field is downloaded by a ODA-IMS client machine from the ODA-IMS Oracle data base to a zip disk. The field unit laptops have a zip drive which extracts the information making it available for use in the field. An ODA District Administrator reviews the data changes made in the field on the District office client machine, and then uploads the reconciled data to the ODA-IMS Oracle data base.

Trimble GPS units are used in coordination with GPS laser guns in the field to obtain a longitudinal and latitudinal coordinate for each sign, and to measure the size of the sign and distance of the sign from various other points (e.g. from right of way line, edge of pavement, etc.). This data in entered automatically into the field unit laptop. Digital cameras are also used for data collection in the field. Images are stored outside the database with pointers to the image files maintained in the database. All images are stored at the District level on image servers.

System Strengths and Weaknesses


ODA considers the system's GPS locationing system, the accounting software, and its web access to be its main strengths.


The decentralized nature of ODA led to some problems with the implementation of this system. The District offices were accustomed to working fairly autonomously, but the level of sophistication of ODA-IMS required that the District offices operate, in many ways, in a more standardized fashion than they previously had. For example, District offices had to start using and maintaining the appropriate and updated versions of various software including their networking software. The Central office makes software updates available to the District offices on Florida DOT's Intranet. The Central office must constantly encourage the District offices to keep their software versions up-to-date. The decentralized system also dictated that there be a significant amount of training to ensure that the District staff understood how to use the database (including the data extraction and uploading process), the field unit laptops, the digital cameras, and the GPS hardware.

Florida ODA feels that the field system hardware in general should be simplified. The ODA Central office experienced a bit of reluctance from the Districts to accept the use of the new hardware.

Another weakness identified by ODA is that they would have wanted the system to be even more web-based. Web-based technology has improved significantly since the system was designed in 1997. Other web-based options would be utilized if the system were designed today.

The lack of Central office access to digital images was identified as a minor weakness. The Department is currently working on the ability to store all photos in the Central server, as well as on the District servers.

What would you do differently/advice?

ODA feels that the identified weaknesses are all avoidable. Centralized storage of digital images is possible and could have been part of the system if it had been prioritized in the planning phase. If designed today, the system could be even more web-based. Similarly, a more simplified set of field data collection tools could have been used if they had realized that the ones selected would prove too complicated.

ODA feels that the keys to the successes of their system are:

System Costs

Design, implementation and training

$200,000 for system design, implementation and training.

Hardware and equipment

$300,000 for hardware including: seven (7) digital cameras, seven (7) GPS units (laser guns and cartop-mounted beacon), seven (7) field unit laptops, fourteen (14) office systems (client machines), one (1) server, seven (7) color scanners, and seven (7) color printers.


Two District offices did not have existing Oracle licenses so there is a $700 per year Oracle license fee for the two Districts combined.

Florida also has a contract with GPI for up to $25,000 of technical support as needed over two years. They are hoping to get $50,000 for a support contract for the following year.

For More Information

Contact Juanice Hagan at or 850-414-4605.

APPENDIX A: Business Rules planning document

APPENDIX B: Sample screens and reports

APPENDIX C: User Requirement and System Analysis [not included here - contains proprietary information]

* Case study based on site visit conducted on January 19, 2000 and telephone update conducted in October, 2000. Those present at the site visit included:

Juanice Hagan, Assistant State Right of Way Manager, Operations, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)

Phillip Massam, Application Specialist, GPI (consultant)

Tim Stephens, Systems Manager, Office of Right of Way, FDOT

Lynn Holschuh, State Outdoor Advertising Administrator, Office of Right of Way, FDOT

Bill Wade, Real Estate Officer, Florida Regional Office, Federal Highway Administration


Business Rules Planning Document

Business Rules

Ability to list permits by tag number order for a specific RCI section


Sample Screens and Reports

Textual descriptions of database screen images in this appendix are provided immediately following each image. These descriptions are enclosed in brackets. Within each image description, any fields and buttons in the screen are identified in bold, italicized text. Other words appearing in the screen images are in quotation marks.

ODA-IMS sign in screen with fields for User Name and Password and buttons Logon and Cancel

[This page shows the system's two entry screens. The first screen has text on it that says, "ODA-IMS Access to this system is restricted, and attempts to access this system are recorded". There are two fields on the screen, one is Username and the other is Password. There are two buttons on the bottom of the screen, one is Logon and the other is Cancel. The second screen displays the name of the system "Florida Department of Transportation Outdoor Advertising Inventory Management System". There is a button in the lower left of the screen that says Database. It has an associated drop-down menu from which to select the database to be used. The "ODA-IMS Server Database" is selected. In the lower right of the screen is an Enter button and a button that says Cancel.]

screen shot of the Florida Department of Transportation Outdoor Advertising Inventory Management main window. 3 buttons: Database, Enter, and Cancel.

screen shot of the main Application window

[This page shows the "Application" screen. The fields located at the top of this screen include: District (with an associated drop-down list of district numbers), County (with a drop-down list of counties), Permit, Side of Section (with associated radio buttons for "L", "M" or "R"), RCI Section, Milepost, Structure and Sign Reads (with associated radio buttons for "L", "P", or"R"). The center of the screen has four different tabs that can be selected. The tabs include Application, Applicant, Dimensions, and Documents. The Application tab is selected. This tab contains fields for Date Rec'd, Veg Status (with an associated drop-menu with "Not required" currently selected, and a date field), Due, App Status (with an associated drop-down menu with "Awaiting Veg Permit" currently selected, and date field), Latitude, and Longitude. There is a boxed in area on the tab labeled "DOT Case: (if litigation raised)". This box has two fields, one with a case number it in ("19980160" currently displayed) and one called Status: with "Final Order Issued" currently displayed. At the bottom of the screen, outside of the tab (e.g. displayed regardless of which tab is selected), there is a field called Comments. Below the Comments field, there are eight buttons across the bottom of the screen. They include: Litigation, Structure, Permit, History, Export, Print, Update and Exit.]

screen shot of the Structure Filter input window

screen shot of the Structure Summaries report window

[This page shows the "Structure Filter" input screen and the subsequent "Structure Summaries" report. The "Structure Filter" screen has a field at the top called For Section where the user enters the section number. Below this field, the screen says "Show" and provides radio buttons including All, Left, Median, or Right. Other radio buttons allow the user to define the area for which structures will be displayed. These buttons include On Section, Within, or At. If Within or At are selected, there are fields to enter feet or miles of a certain Milepost. Below this set of radio buttons is the word "Which". There are two additional radio buttons that allow the user to select signs that Currently Exist or those that Have Ever Existed. There are two buttons at the bottom of the screen, one says Apply and the other Cancel.

The other picture on this page shows the resulting report, which says "Structures on [section number selected]" at the top. The six columns in the report include Number, Milepost, Section Side, Prior (ft), Next (ft) and Removed. Menu options on the report screen include File, View, Go, Central Office and Help.]

screenshot of the Structure window

[This page shows the "Structure" screen. There are fields for Number, RCI Section and Milepost across the top of the screen. The center of the screen has three tabs to select from - Location, RCI Features and Construction. The Location tab is selected. The fields on this tab include: Side of Section (with radio buttons for "L", "M", or "R"), Land Use (with an associated drop-down menu), a check box entitled In City Limits?, and fields for Dist off ROW, Off EOP, Latitude, and Longitude. There is a separate boxed in area on the tab entitled Non-Conforming. There are check boxes in this area for Spacing and Land Use, and button that says Date. The bottom of the screen (outside of the tab) says "Facings: (Double click to edit)". Beside that is a button that says Add Facing. Below that is a table listing the facings, by number, associated with the selected structure number. The listing has seven columns. The column headings are Facing, Tag, Inspected, # Faces, Area, and Conforming Status. Below the listing is a field for Comments, an Update button and a Cancel button.]

screen shot of the Sign (Facing) Editor window

[This page shows the "Sign (Facing) Editor" screen. The screen displays the selected structure number and the number of faces associated with that structure across the top of the screen. (Currently reads "Structure [1687] - 2 Facing(s)"). Below that are the fields: Structure, Milepost, Tag Shown, RCI Section, Side of Section (with radio buttons for "L", "M", or "R") and Facing. In the center of the screen there are three tabs that can be selected - Description, Faces and Photographs. The Photographs tab is selected. This tab has space for two photographs side-by-side. The first photograph is labeled Last Inventory and there is a picture of a billboard. The space for the second photograph is empty and says "no picture stored". The space is labeled Non-Conforming. At the bottom of the screen (outside of the tab) there is a Comments field. There are eight buttons across the bottom of the screen below the Comments field. These buttons include: Permit, Violations, Structure, <<, >>, Print, Update, and Exit.]

screen shot of the Account Summary report window

[This page shows an "Account Summary" report. There are eight columns in the report. The column headings are: Number, Name, Active, Status Date, Licensed?, License, Issued and Expires. There is data displayed in the report. The menu options on the report include: File, View, Go, Central Office and Help.]

screen shot of Florida Departmente of Transportation ODA Database initial window

[This page shows the system's on-line database entry screen. It includes hyperlinks at the top of the screen to the "Office of Right of Way", and for "Questions or comments". The text of the page read, "The Online database enables users to search the Outdoor Advertising Inventory Management System (ODAIMS) database through the World-Wide Web. For security reasons the data is presented from a replica of the online database. This replica is updated frequently." There is a Find Section field with an associated drop-down menu of all sections and a button that says List Sections. There is a second field called Find Account with space to enter an account number and a button that says Find Account. There are links to other pages including "Find Applications" and "Find Signs". The bottom of the screen has icons for links to "DOT Home", "FAQs", "Links" and "Search".]

screen shot of Florida Department of Transportation ODA Database showing an example of Account Information

[This page shows the on-line database screen that is displayed when viewing account information. The screen says, "Florida Department of Transportation ODA Database" across the top with hyperlinks to the "Office of Right of Way" and for "Questions or comments". The account information is displayed in a table with seven columns. The columns include: Account Name, Address, City, State, Zip, Phone and Fax. Data is shown in the table. Each row is a different account. If an account has the same name, there is a separate listing for each account address. Across the bottom of the screen are icons for links to "DOT Home", "FAQs", "Links" and "Search".]

screen shot of Florida Department of Transportation ODA Database showing an example of signs on FDOT ODA Section 48270000

[This page shows the on-line database screen that is displayed when a user requests to see a sign on a certain FDOT section number. The top of the screen says, "Florida Department of transportation ODA Database" and provides hyperlinks to the "Office of Right of Way" and for "Questions or comments". A table entitled "Signs on FDOT ODA Section [X]" is in the center of the screen and data are displayed in the table. The table has nine columns including: Milepost, Side, Dist ROW, Dist EOP, Permit Tag, Area, HAGL, and Conforming?.]

screen shot of the on-line database screen that is displayed when the user requests to see FDOT sign facing details

[This page shows the on-line database screen that is displayed when the user requests to see FDOT sign facing details. The screen says, "Florida Department of Transportation ODA Database" across the top and provides hypertext links to the "Office of Right of Way" and to "Questions or comments". Two tables entitled "FDOT ODA Sign Facing Details" are situation in the middle of the screen. One table is called "Structure Information" and includes the following information: Section, Milepost, Latitude, Number Supports, Date Erected, State Road, Side of Section, Longitude, Support Material, District and County. Data is displayed in the table. The other table is called "Facing & Permit Information". This table contains the following information: Issued Tag, Date Built, Area, Tag Posted, Date Removed, HAGL, Start Date, Date Inspected and Sign Reads. Data is displayed in the table. Across the bottom of the screen are icons providing links to "DOT Home", "FAQs", "Links" and "Search".]

APPENDIX C User Requirement and System Analysis

[Proprietary Information - Do Not Release]

Updated: 9/5/2014
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