GIS Tech News #7

11 Jul, 2005 By: Arnie Williams

Cadalyst GIS Tech News

Wide-Ranging GIS Solutions

Intergraph technologies help agencies respond nimbly to growth, security and weather disasters and data overload

In the past two issues of GIS Tech Trends (click here for archives), we looked at real-world GIS applications using systems from ESRI and Autodesk, showing the integration of the technology across many disciplines. In this issue, we'll focus on Intergraph's GIS products in action. The company's GeoMedia products have long been used for civil and government applications, and today its customers continue to find creative ways to put mapping technology to work. Read on for a few examples.

GIS Assists Growing County
Iowa's Dallas County has been pegged as one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States. That high rate of growth has intensified the demand for mapping data by community members pursuing the county's growth opportunities.

"With the current growth explosion," says Todd Noah, GIS coordinator with Dallas County's GIS department, "Intergraph solutions provided us an effective, easy-to-implement means to better serve the needs of our residents and local businesses."

The county serves those needs through its easily navigable Web site, where users can view maps and study location-specific information from their own PCs. This eliminates trips to the courthouse, saving time for the users as well as for county staffers.

Based on GeoMedia WebMap technology, the site integrates disparate datasets from six county offices, including property lines, centerline data, rivers, lakes, political borders, section lines and property owner description data. Online visitors can plot to scale, plot aerial photos, gather general property data, look up real estate taxes and view assessment data.

The Web site has been active for less half a year and already records more than 400 visits daily, which translates into a 50% drop in telephone and in-person queries at county offices.

Improving Homeland Security
Intergraph technology also helps U.S. Navy and Marine Corps commands in the Washington, D.C., area as they prepare for emergency homeland security response. Using a combination of Intergraph technologies, including CAD and GIS, the Navy has developed a comprehensive database that will integrate 9-1-1 services, fire alarms, security alarms, radio systems, security cameras, fiber-optic intrusion detection and other technologies to make the nation's capital safer. A key goal of the military commands is to improve operational efficiency of emergency services and enable large-scale event management.

Integrating CAD and GIS systems enables personnel to concisely input, manage, analyze and output information. The location-based system helps the military visualize incidents and better understand the complexity of emergency situations.

Severe Weather Response
Hurricane season is in full swing in the United States, but one agency in the threatened region breathes a bit easier than others this time of year, thanks to a proven GIS-based system from Intergraph. Progress Energy Florida in Orlando put its GIS to the test following a tornado two years ago to help restore service to almost 2,000 residents who lost power.

The power company began its move to a digital environment in 1997 by implementing Intergraph's FRAMME-based GIS. It next added Intergraph's InService OMS (outage management system) and linked it to both the GIS and a customer information system. The system today combines the GIS-based facility mapping, automated outage management, mobile workforce management and automatic vehicle location technologies.

Progress Energy Florida's 150 or so trucks are equipped with laptop computers to access the system from the field. Any reports coming from customers during an emergency situation, such as a hurricane or other extreme weather, are fed directly to the OMS, which relates caller locations to the feeder, transformer, branch line or fuse serving those individuals.

Consolidating Myriad Databases
At the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, emergency response wasn't what drove one of its successful GIS-based applications. Rather, the city wanted to replace 49 existing applications and more than 166 databases with a single land-information management system.

Using Intergraph's MGE (Modular GIS Environment), the city created SLIM, or Spatial Land Inventory Management. SLIM incorporates the spatial data management strength of GeoMedia with the real-time distribution capability of GeoMedia WebMap, a Web-based visualization tool that offers real-time links to GIS data warehouses. SLIM delivers a range of location-based information to Edmonton residents and city employees.

"SLIM came from the vision to reduce and rationalize land-based applications," says SLIM project manager Joni Mines. "The city understood that we needed a corporate land-information system that would collate and maintain inventories of all our assets and would be available to civic employees and public through one gateway."

Users can access a host of land-based information. For example, public works staffers can view maps of utility installations citywide to better support operations. Assessment and finance staff can access detailed legal surveys, assessments and title data.

"Although SLIM is a central database, staff from all city departments are responsible for inputting and maintaining their own data as well as setting up controls to specify who can access certain information," says Mines. After users enter departmental data, SLIM standardizes all graphics and textual information to create a similar look and feel for all the city's corporate data. "With this model, we can now look at different sets of data, such as titles, assessments and zoning, and compare them and put them together to create layered maps or complex reports -- a task we haven't been able to do in the past."

Open Access
It's clear that Intergraph GIS technology cuts across all disciplines that take advantage of mapping and location-based databases. The company's long history in developing this technology and its leadership role in the OpenGIS forum and other organizations devoted to making GIS data widely accessible are helping GIS developers and users in general enjoy much wider interoperability than users of other technologies, such as CAD alone.

All technology developers would be wise to follow the example of Intergraph and other GIS developers in providing such a sophisticated level of open data for widest possible access. We'll keep an eye on this aspect of GIS as we continue to look into this technology.

Upcoming GIS Events
Cadalyst's full calendar of events is available at

14th Annual GIS for Oil & Gas Conference and Exhibition
September 19-21, 2005
JW Marriott Hotel, Houston, Texas
Organized by the Geospatial Information & Technology Association, the conference is devoted exclusively to GIS applications and technologies for both the upstream and downstream aspects of the oil and gas industry.

October 4-6, 2005
Dusseldorf, Germany
Conference and trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation and land management.