Name: Courtney Guc
Title: Business Intelligence Engineer
Company: Continuus Technologies
Collaborators: Chrystal Kingstad, Jake Van Hecke, Rachel Burge
Overview of Use Case
In honor of National Park Week 2018 (April 21-29), our team harnessed the power of Alteryx’s input, spatial, and interface tools to help you #FindYourPark. By incorporating the National Park Service Data API and Dark Sky weather API into Alteryx Designer, we made an app that matches your location to parks and monuments nearby. Our team provides an elegant, flexible application in the same spirit as the National Park Service: for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.
Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve
Passionate about preservation and seeking solutions, Business Intelligence Engineer Jake Van Hecke, shared with our team the need for a search engine that can address three questions in a modern way:
- Which National Parks and Monuments are near me?
- What types of features do they have?
- What kind of weather conditions can I expect there?
Surprised at the simplicity of this request, we searched the internet for his answer. Although the National Park Service currently has a “Find a Park” feature on its website, the tool only addresses the user’s state-level location and does not provide accurate or updated weather forecasts. Google Maps had varied levels of success depending on the quality of data in each zip code, an inconsistency we were unwilling to settle for.
As Alteryx Partners, data enthusiasts, and conservation advocates, we know that National Parks are served best by the technology and consideration of those who ask big questions: in what ways can our team’s diversity of experience empower others to preserve and admire the United States’ natural resources?
In only a matter of minutes, it was clear to us that Alteryx was our vehicle to change.
Describe your working solution
Our solution has three main tenets: API development, data blending, and application design.
National Parks Service API
The parks data is configured in a batch macro that utilizes an API call to the National Parks Service (NPS) website. The API structure for the NPS data requires an API Key and has different parameters the developer can hit. A batch macro is configured that downloads the data from the API call using the API URL and the API key that is attained from the NPS website. The data is then sent through JSON parse tools and configured to make the data user-friendly.
The weather data is configured in a batch macro that utilizes an API call to the Dark Sky website. The API structure for the Dark Sky data requires an account with a call limit, the maximum calls per day is 1000. The weather data workflow is configured to download the data from the API call using the API URL and the API key from the Dark Sky website after creating an account. The data is then sent through the JSON parse tools and configured to determine what parameter to focus on. We chose to download a summary of the upcoming week’s weather for this project. This workflow is scheduled to run weekly on Monday at 3 am to refresh the workflow’s inputs.
Data Blending and Spatial Matching
The outputs from the API pulls are joined together. First park and campsite data are combined and then matched to the weather forecast by latitude and longitude. We used a formula tool to tag information from the park descriptions that a user may want to search by. A list of US zip codes is added to the workflow and matched to the park results using the “Find Nearest” tool. The results are put into a “Report Text” tool for a guide-like user experience.
The application interface is designed to be a simple search tool. By incorporating a dropdown and text boxes, the user can enter information and preferences in three simple steps.
We plan to launch this app at the end of National Park Week to maintain the excitement around National Parks throughout the year. We will use this tool within Continuus to encourage employees to learn spatial skills and application design as well as enjoy the great outdoors.
Describe the benefits you have achieved
The API macros allow our team to quickly connect into a host of publicly available datasets. Building the macros for APIs featured on the data.gov portal, creates a template for thousands of possible connections that are now only clicks away. As consultants, we are consistently building creative and impactful data solutions that require third party data. These pre-built API macros help us deliver solutions quickly and accurately—a priority for our clients.
Additionally, the use of spatial data to build an analytic app provides Continuus with the skills to answer the most common and interesting analytical questions:
- Where are my customers?
- How can I get to them?
- What products or services should I offer them?
We have built this functionality to be flexible and useful in a broad array of cases. Using this specific workflow as a template, we have built an application that could be applied to any series of addresses or locations.
This project has inspired us to explore within Alteryx, but also explore and preserve America’s great National Parks!