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’s 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 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.