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    Credit: Bartlett & West Engineers Inc.

    Annual GIS budget by population
    Not surprisingly, half of respondents feel their GIS budget is less than adequate. About 55% fund surveying and mapping efforts with general revenues, 3.3% use sales taxes, 11% use internal charges, and 21% use utility fees.

In addition, data collected in the field can be transmitted back to the office via mobile GIS devices for analysis and to update the GIS database — or geodatabase — on the fly. That information can, in turn, be quickly distributed to managers and the public in case of, say, an unexpected road closure or emergency.

The cloud takes these concepts even further by making the functions of an office-based GIS available when a user needs them and from wherever that user is. Users can make decisions about assets in the office, the field, and even on the weekend at home from a smartphone.

How one Web GIS works

A successful enterprise GIS includes people, hardware, software, data, and related business processes. In the past, such resources often exceeded public works budgets and expertise.

Developed by Esri, the ArcGIS Online cloud-based mapping platform provides some of the necessary resources in an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface.

Municipal workers including public works employees, emergency responders, and land-use planners can find existing ArcGIS Online maps relevant to their work by searching an extensive catalog of data with keywords related to a subject — i.e., “traffic cams” or “occupied housing” — which can be mapped by using one of the ready-to-use viewers. A user can begin with an existing map and add provided data layers to it or start with a fresh map by choosing from a variety of online basemaps and adding their own data on top of it.

Users with no GIS experience (or software) can easily upload their data from Excel spreadsheets or Access databases and visualize it as a map using symbolized points, lines, and polygons. They can configure interactive pop-up windows and integrate other data, such as reports, photos, documents, and links, that add rich context to Web maps.

Because ArcGIS Online is in the cloud, once a map has been created and shared, it's automatically part of an online catalog. Other members of your department can choose to keep it private, share it with other groups, or share it with everyone in the organization. Additional layers can later be added to these maps and then shared again as new maps. These maps can be used in a variety of ways: through a browser, on a mobile device, in a desktop GIS system, or in a custom application.

7% OF NORTH AMERICAN COMMUNITIES LACK GIS MAPS

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Annual GIS budget by population
Not surprisingly, half of respondents feel their GIS budget is less than adequate. About 55% fund surveying and mapping efforts with general revenues, 3.3% use sales taxes, 11% use internal charges, and 21% use utility fees.

Credit: Bartlett & West Engineers Inc.

For several years, Bartlett & West Engineers Inc. has asked North American communities if they have a geographic information system (GIS) and how they use it. Only 7% of this year's 800 respondents don't and, of those, most plan to implement a GIS within five years. When they do, they'll probably use it to manage maintenance and projects — the most commonly cited reason for deployment.

The larger the community, the more likely the system is morphed from a simple map to a geodatabase used to proactively manage infrastructure assets. Larger communities also are more likely to make the map available to the public.

Several forces are driving implementation. Tools like GPS and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging, optical remote-sensing measurement technology) speed the tedious and time-consuming process of gathering and entering asset information, and communities that have completed this significant initial step are beginning to use the data. Also, software and data are no longer accessible only at a desktop but, thanks to mobile communications technology and cloud computing, in the field as well.

One thing hasn't changed: GIS continues to be somewhat of a specialty. Eighty-one percent of respondents have on-staff experts for technical support while the rest contract for outside support services. The latter is more likely to be the case in smaller communities.