Firefly – The FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Map it, track it, share it, and make better decisions with Firefly.

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Using the Earth Observation Systems (EOD) Arrow100 GNSS

Question: What is Firefly?

Answer: Firefly is a set of well-thought-out and integrated Geographic Information System (GIS) solutions designed just for medium to small Missouri cities.

  • Firefly was designed to be your first GIS. So, if your city doesn’t already have computer maps of your streets, sanitary sewer lines, water lines, stormwater system, and the rest of your infrastructure, Firefly was built for you.
  • Firefly was designed to help you work more closely with the consulting engineer and surveying firms you already work with.
  • Firefly was designed to allow your city staff to collect your infrastructure information and automatically upload it to your GIS, which will save you lots of money. Firefly does all of this with a minimum of training and expense.
  • Firefly was designed to give you a big-city GIS at small-town prices.

A Community Utility GIS Asset Management Dashboard by our business partner:
A & M Professional Services

Firefly’s Division of Labor Methods Work: Here’s an Esri blog article featuring the same kind of municipal data collection effort Firefly uses: COVID-19: Idled Sarasota Employees Contribute with Fieldwork

Question: Why did you develop Firefly?

Answer: The GIS revolution bypassed most of Missouri’s small- to medium-sized municipalities. Most Missouri cities over 5,000 in population have a GIS or are in a GIS cooperative. Most small towns and villages, meaning third- and fourth-class cities, have geospatial needs but do not have the luxury of dedicated GIS staff and capabilities.

There are so many barriers to entry for small to medium cities looking to develop a GIS capacity. These barriers to entry include the following:

  • Overall, there is a high start-up cost.
  • You need to hire an experienced GIS technician.
  • GIS software and hardware are complex and put a drain on IT resources.
  • Your GIS staff members require ongoing training to keep up.
  • Getting public buy-in when budgets are tight can be difficult.
  • Many GIS vendors make entry into their ecosystem overly complex.
  • You don’t get results until you develop good data, which may take years.
  • There’s no clear way to measure the return on your investment.
  • GIS is a foreign language to many.
  • There are too many unknowns.

Basically, building your own GIS in the past meant hiring a GIS technician and buying expensive software and hardware. Then you had to wait until the data sets were fully developed before the people paying for the system enjoyed the benefits of the GIS. It often took a couple of years before a GIS program yielded real results.

Since starting GeoVelo, I’ve had numerous conversations with surveyors and engineers working for small and medium cities in Missouri. Some of these professionals were employed by the cities, and some worked at consulting firms. We regularly discussed how small communities could and ought to move their infrastructure information from a set of dusty paper plans into an electronic system.

However, no one we know had worked out all the necessary steps in a way that these communities could afford and could support. But during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a few conversations with a surveyor I respect about how we could jump-start a small Missouri community’s asset management plan by deploying a simple plan using an easy-to-use GIS.

Firefly was developed as a solution to the barriers to entry associated with starting a GIS program in a small Missouri town.

Question: What is included in Firefly?

Answer: The Standard Firefly Subscription is a one-year subscription with set monthly payments. With the Standard Firefly Subscriptyion, your community will receive the following for the duration of the subscription:

  • AN ESRI GIS ACCOUNT: You’ll have a one-year Esri ArcGIS Online Creator subscription. To use Esri’s term, one “named user” may use this Esri subscription. The package includes a license for one person in your organization to use the following. (Additional user licenses can be purchased from Esri.)
    • ArcGIS Online: Create, edit, and manage content and members
    • ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World
    • Essential Apps Bundle
      • ArcGIS Configurable Apps
      • ArcGIS StoryMaps
      • Map Viewer
      • ArcGIS Dashboards
      • Scene Viewer
      • Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS
    • Field Apps Bundle
      • ArcGIS QuickCapture
      • Collector for ArcGIS
      • Survey123 for ArcGIS
      • Workforce for ArcGIS
    • Office Apps Bundle
      • ArcGIS Maps for Office
      • ArcGIS Maps for SharePoint
    • 500 service credits*
  • ArcGIS ONLINE GROUP: We’ll create an Esri ArcGIS Online (AGOL) Group to help you share your GIS data with other organizations that you may authorize.
  • TRAINING: You’ll receive a minimum of eight hours of on-site field training. More training is available if you need it.
  • RESOURCES: You’ll have access to our password-protected online instructional manuals and how-to videos.**
  • DEPARTMENT MODULES: We’ll help you collect what is important to your community. You’ll have the use of a custom-configured Survey123 GIS FIELD collection app.***
    • The Standard Firefly Subscription app will have sections allowing you to collect location and attribute data for:
      • Public Water Utility
      • Sanitary Sewer
      • Stormwater
    • The app will be written in consultation with your staff and on-call or in-house engineers and surveyors.
    • The app will allow you to collect up to 60 custom data fields.
  • EXPANSION MODULES: Additional sections can be added at additional fees. Examples include:
    • Work Order & Dispatch
    • Capital Improvement Planning
    • Electrical Utility
    • Roads and Transportation
    • Buildings and Grounds
    • Planning and Zoning
    • Parks and Recreation
    • Forestry
    • Emergency Operations
    • Communications Facilities
    • Road Signage (MUTCD)
    • FEMA Post-Disaster Survey
    • Land Surveying (performed by a licensed Missouri Surveyor)
    • Law Enforcement and Investigations
    • Fire Department
    • Hazmat Inventory
    • Public Health
    • Cemetery Management in Partnership with A&M Professional Services.
  • DATA TRANSFERS: Unlimited transfers of data by GeoVelo between your GIS and your designated engineers, surveyors, and other contractors.
  • A FIELD PORTAL: Your staff will be able to enter and edit your GIS data from the field using the Android smartphone you provide.
  • A DESK PORTAL: Your staff will be able to enter and edit your GIS data from within an office environment using a PC or other device.
  • MODOT’s RTK: We’ll help you sign up with and then utilize MODOT’s Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) System to improve position measurement accuracy.
  • SUPPORT: One year of telephone, video conference, email, and text support.
    • Assistance fulfilling Sunshine Act requests for your GIS data.
    • Assistance fulfilling Economic Development requests for your GIS data.
  • GNSS: One year’s age of an Earth Observation Systems Arrow100 GNSS unit and accessories. The Arrow100 is a Mapping Grade GNSS device, and it hits the sweet spot when you consider its cost, accuracy, ease of use, and rugged reliability.
  • WEB MAP: A public online web map portal that you can share with the world and integrate into your city’s website.
  • GIS DATA FEEDS: This includes configuring your web maps with GIS data from the Missouri Spatial Data Information Service (MSDIS).
  • SECURE MAP PORTAL: A private online web map portal for use by city staff.
  • UTILITY LOCATES: Once infrastructure items are collected and within the GIS they can be located in the using the Esri Explorer app and either a smart phone or the Arrow100 unit for more accuracy.
  • BACKUPS: One year of monthly GIS data backups to our encrypted cloud service. We download your data once a month. Encrypt it. Then we store it in the cloud. We keep the last two months data.
  • GIS ADMINISTRATION: Remote quality control checks of GIS data sets
  • GIS ANALYSIS: You will eventually want to ask your GIS questions. GeoVelo will provide you spatial analysis support. For example, “Please make a map that shows our public water well locations and their proximity to identified hazmat storage or use locations?”
  • CONSULTATION: Access to a team of GIS professionals who care about your success.

Question: Can we use the GIS after a disaster?

Answer: Good GIS data is critical to a community’s disaster rescue and response efforts. If your community were to suffer a declared disaster during the life of our contract, GeoVelo will immediately work to support your rescue and recovery efforts by making your GIS data available to all authorized government agencies.*****

Additionally, if there is cellular data or a WiFi signal available your entire staff and volunteers will be able to access GPS enabled live status and facility maps from a variety of devices. If a disaster strikes you’ll be able to move faster and know more with GIS!

A Parcel Map with the Drainage Easement Highlighted.

Question: How much does Firefly cost?

Answer: Firefly is a monthly subscription service under a one-year contract. The options you select will determine your monthly fee. For example, you may wish to purchase your own GNSS device. Or you may decide to rent a GNSS from GeoVelo. You may select to have more than the three standard asset-management collection modules. More modules require additional programming. That requires additional fees.

Minimum Subscription Cost: Depending on the options you select and the level of support you require, Firefly can cost your community as little as $6000 a year. That still includes some training and on-call support.

The Hourly Rate Option: Many communities are reluctant to enter into an hourly rate contract. We understand that is due to the perception that hourly fees can be unpredictable. However, an hourly rate combined with GeoVelo’s high level of transparency and communications can often be your best value. If you have a budge for a task we’ll honor it and keep you informed. GeoVelo tracks our time to the minute and you never end up paying for services you don’t receive.

The Standard Firefly Subscription Cost: As described above, Firefly is priced at $12,000 a year and billed at $1000 a month. That includes up to 80 hours of GeoVelo’s time per contract year, with no additional fees unless extra services and equipment is requested in writing.

No Up Charges: GeoVelo never up charges or adds fees to the cost of your Esri account or equipment purchases. You’ll pay what we pay. We do count the time we spend ordering, configuring, testing, and delivering your accounts ad equipment against your annual allotted hours.

Updates: Clients will be notified of our monthly and total hours accrued at the first of each month. This allows you to budget for your GIS project priorities.

Price Equity: Rest assured that all Missouri communities pay the same monthly fees for the Standard Firefly service, as well as the same fees for custom programming, equipment, and additional services. Everyone gets the same fair deal.

Improvements to Firefly: As Firefly grows and users make suggestions we will implement the best ones and they will be ported over to the rest of the Firefly community at no charge.

Fees Change: Firefly’s fees are subject to change. But never during a contract period, and never without ample notice.

Contact for pricing information.

Chris Dunn at MAGIC 2016: GIS is Always Fun for Everyone.

Question: Will you train our staff to support Firefly?

Answer: Yes. Training your staff to collect and enter GIS data is a key component of Firefly. Firefly doesn’t stop at training either. You’ll have access to web, video, telephone, email, and text support during the life of your contract.

We use and recommend the Esri community of products.

Question: Will Firefly box us into a proprietary GIS system?

Answer: No. While your GIS data will be stored and used from within the Esri ArcGIS Online ecosystem, your data can always be downloaded and shared in all the common GIS file formats.

In fact, if someday you outgrow Firefly and want to manage your own GIS or work with another GIS firm, the transition will be seamless because Firefly follows the common GIS industry practices.

Question: Who will own and control our GIS Data?

Answer: You will always own and control your GIS data! GeoVelo will also help you maintain backups of your data. GeoVelo will never try to assert control or ownership over your GIS data. Nor will GeoVelo allow anyone else to use your data without either your prior written authorization or a valid court order from a court of law.

Hey, there has to be a catch? What’s the fine print?

Question: Okay. It sounds good. So, what’s the catch?

Answer: Your city must provide several items to make Firefly work and you will have to address the following considerations:

  • ANDROID PHONE: You will need to furnish a recent-model Android cellular smartphone. We recommend getting a tough one and putting it into a brightly colored case.****
    • It should have:
      • A data plan
      • A camera
      • A memory chip
      • An internal GPS
      • Developer Access to the Android program
      • The ability to load Esri’s apps
    • Consider getting a phone ready for 5G.
  • WE DON’T SUPPORT APPLE PRODUCTS (YET): At this time we can not guarantee we can make the Firefly platform work on laptops or phones using Apple iOS. This includes other operating systems like Linux. We’ll work with you if this is your ONLY option. Otherwise, we make no guarantees.
  • MAP ACCURACY: It is your responsibility to understand the issues surrounding the accuracy of your GNSS equipment, maps, and other records. GeoVelo is not responsible for damages resulting from the improper use of the Firefly system.
  • OTHERS MAY CHARGE YOU: If you contract with an engineering or surveying firm, they may charge you for the time they invest in helping you develop the data schema which we will program into your Survey123 field data collection app. It is your decision whether to include them in developing the schema. We think it is wise to include them.
  • PARCEL DATA: Your county controls the use and sharing of their GIS parcel data. We can integrate their parcel layer into your GIS, but we can’t force them to share it with you. Please be nice to your County GIS department. Many are member of the Missouri Mappers Association and they are almost always great people who are eager to work with the communities within their county. You can often return the favor by sharing your GIS data with them.
  • FIREFLY IS NOT LAND SURVEYING: Firefly purposely does not support “Survey Grade” GNSS devices.
    • A ‘survey’ and ‘land surveying’ are statutorily defined terms with serious legal implications.
    • The Survey123 app does not produce “Survey Grade” location information either. Esri named it Survey123 because—we think—it makes for a great public web survey portal, as well as a field mapping tool.
    • Surveying is for licensed professionals only. For more information about Missouri Surveyors, please click here.
  • PAPER FILES: Firefly does not automatically digitize your existing paper infrastructure records. Such a service is a separate and complex project that would require additional funds to complete.
  • CAD FILES: Firefly does not automatically convert your existing digital infrastructure records from CAD to GIS. Such a service is a separate project but less complex than converting paper records, and it would require additional funds to complete.
  • DESKTOP ArcMAP & PRO: Purchasing a license for ArcMap Desktop or ArcPRO is not part of the Standard Firefly Subscription. Desktop and Pro always come at an additional expense. They are not necessary if you are just starting up your GIS for the first time.
  • PARTNERS: GeoVelo partners with several independent, US-based, GIS firms. For specialty work, where we feel the the client would be better served by outsourcing, we may outsource some programming tasks.
  • SECURITY: Your GIS data and Esri account is only as secure as you are willing to make them.
    • The ArcGIS online platform is generally quite secure.
    • If you get into the habit of using easy passwords, sharing account access, or leaving your computer unsecured and logged into AGOL, you should expect to be breached or hacked.
  • SERVICE CREDITS: It is possible—but unlikely—that you could load your Esri account with so much data and so many high-resolution photographs that you might have to purchase extra Esri Service Credits to continue to access your account. We’ll help you monitor your service credit usage.
  • INTERNET: You will need internet service at your office or the site where your city staff works.
  • COMPUTER: You will also need a computer to view the maps created by Firefly.
  • SAFETY: Your designated staff member will need to wear a high-viz reflective safety vest. We don’t know what OSHA or MODOT require for the safety of your staff, but we do know standing in the street using a GNSS and cell phone can distract a person.
    • It has also been our experience that drivers and other people presenting potential hazards to your field technician will be more cautious around someone wearing a safety vest.
    • Consider using your safety flashers and an caution light bar on the vehicles used during data collection and locates.
  • TRANSPORTATION: Your staff member will also need a vehicle or a good pair of boots.
  • STORAGE: Please provide a dry, secure, and temperature controlled place to secure the equipment when you are not using it.
  • RESPONSIBILITY: Regarding the GNSS equipment we may lease to you, we operate under the Pottery Barn rule: You break it—you bought it.

Your Community is Better with GIS!

Question: What are the benefits of GIS?


*Subject to Esri’s contract and allowances for qualifying small governments.

**These materials are currently under development.

***The Survey123 app is the intellectual property of GeoVelo. The app is only available during the life of the contract.

****In case you drop the phone into the deep grass.

*****Even if our contract has expired GeoVelo will be there if requested.

Firefly GIS