One of the most important uses for the MELA software is to generate different kinds of estimates of forest production and utilisation. The data source used in these calculations are the NFI field surveys. During the summer term, around 20 different groups of field surveyors from Natural Resources Institute Finland collect the data yearly from approximately 14,000 survey plots. The process of checking, complementing and processing the large amount of data which is collected on the surveyors’ devices takes long and has many phases.

Developing the processing of NFI data has been one of the MENU project’s main themes right from the start. The aim is to make the NFI calculation data available for users quicker than before. Generally, the data collected in the field needs to be complemented with other data sources, as well as occasionally corrected. The objective was to have these changes documented and recorded. In addition, the aim was to decentralise, in a controlled manner, the making of these changes and the related data maintenance to a larger team of experts instead of being just one person’s responsibility. Another important goal was also to be able to start the data processing already while the field surveying is carried out.

A special data editor application was designed and implemented in the core of the data processing for the use of the NFI team. With this tool, each person processing the data is able to browse, perform searches and edit it. Each user operates in their own data storage, which is a synchronised copy of the central data storage updates. The users can also see the changes made by other users in the data.

Image 1. Data editor in the core of NFI data processing.

The data editor is integrated in the data management service, which provides versatile tools for managing, documenting and tracing changes. It is possible to add new field data into the data storage at any moment; the system allows for adding and combining data. This data management solution also makes it possible to edit the data even with commonly used text editors, supporting the flexible use of different kinds of tools.

The data editor combined with the upgraded procedure for processing the NFI data offers significant benefits and improvements regarding the whole process from beginning to end. One of the most tangible benefits is the possibility to start the further processing of the data already while field surveying is still going on. The graphic user interface of the data editor is straightforward yet adaptable, and offers an easily accessible view to the constantly updated data. Moreover, possible errors in the data can be quickly found and easily corrected, and the corrections are all documented. The history of updates and changes in the data is clearly visible to users. Regarding the time required for the calculation data to become available, the new solution speeds up the process by 2-3 months annually. In addition, using the data editor makes quality control an integral part of the data processing.

Click here to see the data editor described from a software development project point of view (in Finnish).

Author: Reijo Mykkänen