C.4 Data Access

C.4 – Data Access

Connected and Disconnected Editing

Field maintenance staff need the ability to access, update, or input data in both connected and disconnected environments. 

Connected editing requires an internet connection through cellular or Wi-Fi to be able to read or write data back to a database.  In a connected environment, field data collection can be made available immediately upon collection, allowing efficient coordination with office staff or other stakeholders who are not in the field. 

Field staff can also access information that is otherwise unavailable without advanced planning (e.g. detailed design files from previous projects or comprehensive asset work histories).  This improves field decision-making and generates significant efficiencies by avoiding unnecessary travel time between field and office locations.

Disconnected editing allows a user to download and store data locally on the mobile device (in the office or at another location with a reliable internet connection).  The user can then write to the local data and upload updates back to the main database once an internet connection is reestablished. 

If field work requires users to retrieve or collect data in remote areas, disconnected editing options will be required to support these activities.

Access Levels and Data Security

Data access and security is more easily managed early in system development, when the system and associated data models can be structured to support assignment and enforcement of data access or security levels.  With proper consideration, data access and security can be controlled at the system level, the application level, or even the database level.  Sample questions to aid in determining data access levels are provided in the supporting example.

Mobile Access

Mobile devices, such as laptops, phones, or tablets, provide handy means to access data when away from the primary office environment.  

When evaluating mobile access, consider:

  • Security protocols and technical programming that are required to make data and/or tools available.
  • Data required in the field versus desired or useful only in office.
  • Agency policy and practice relating to mobile device procurement and personal cell phone use.

The proliferation of mobile technologies offers a perception of ease and convenience, but having too much data or overcomplicated tools can reduce efficiency and create adoption challenges.  Industry trends are toward making mobile tools targeted for niche functions and employing responsive web design (RWD) on primary applications that make web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes to avoid costly additional programming to support mobile device use.

Story Boards and Dashboards

Story boards and dashboards have emerged as key data visualization and communication tools.  The ability to use illustrations, maps, charts and other graphics is critical effective communication of the complex messages of a DOT asset management program. 

For example, Esri GIS story boards with embedded maps and charts communicate critical asset risk areas or forecasted network-level asset condition far more powerfully than presenting the same data in written reports and spreadsheets. 

Tools such as Microsoft Power BI and Tableau make it easy to mine and present trends for historical asset condition values or projected savings based on different project prioritization schemes to support funding approvals.  These tools also allow a DOT to provide curated access to agency data, which is particularly useful when engaging non-expert or external stakeholders.

Important Terminology

The following terms are used within this Section.


An information technology security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic, screening what is and is not let through based on predetermined security rules. It is essentially a barrier between trusted sources and untrusted sources. Adjustments may be required in firewall security protocols to account for new means of access (such as mobile or third-party access to agency systems).

Single Sign On:

Technology facilitating ease of data access across different enterprise applications and network resources, through an authentication process allowing access to multiple applications with one set of login credentials. This eliminates the need for users to maintain different user names and passwords for different systems.

Conceptual Examples
Data Access and Security
Database Access Qualifying Questions

Determining who should have access to different data sets can be a daunting task.  Key questions that can serve as a guide include:

  • Why does the user need to access the data?
  • How will the data be used?
  • Is the data being accessed sensitive (i.e. would release of the data pose risks)
  • Does the user need read only access or will they need to update the data as part of their task?
Role Based Data Access

Role base data access is an approach to granting or denying access to users based on their designated role in an organization.  By defining roles and responsibilities, the appropriate levels of data access can be granted across enterprise-wide systems. 

Data governance programs commonly define such roles and implement oversight to monitor and manage the roles and responsibilities so that they can evolve over time to support the changing data and systems environment of the organization.