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By Martin Gregory, General Manager, 1Spatial Asia Pacific

Local government organizations face challenges when deploying geospatial systems to provide better services at a lower cost. While tech savvy citizens are happy to jump online to interact with a map-based interface – whether for planning applications or to see when to put out the rubbish – organizations’ resources are often overstretched with maintaining existing services.

1Spatial’s recent Australian Local Government GIS Survey, for example, drew a picture of local governments consumed with maintaining existing geospatial applications rather than delivering new ones. Over half the organizations surveyed spent most of their time performing processes manually when managing geospatial data. Around half also said staff and skills limitations – with a similar proportion citing budget constraints – prevented them from doing more with geographic information systems (GIS) or maps to provide solutions to staff and the public.

1Spatial has worked with a number of local governments facing staff, skills and budget challenges. One we recently worked with is typical of many that want to do more with mapping with less budget and staff. While it has used GIS technology extensively, the activity was fairly siloed. Every project undertaken was approached in different ways, using different standards and storing data in different formats and places.

With smarter geospatial solutions, 1Spatial removed duplication of data, resources and effort to find new ways to do a better job. Even with fewer staff, process improvements and automation enabled the organization to deliver new geospatial services. One prepares data on planning applications, with the organization’s website now displaying interactive maps with current and recent historical planning information.

Change of Strategy

The key to the success of the project was choosing a data transformation tool to create new workflow processes. These synchronize and update spatial and non-spatial data between existing GIS and other systems such as financial, asset and workforce management applications. This approach – which is becoming common in a number of Asian countries – involved a significant change of strategy.

When the local government organization formed a GIS team four years ago, it asked the team to remove the duplication of data, resources and effort. The team aimed to provide a unifying strategy to break down departmental data silos. It formed a long term plan to consolidate all geospatial data into a single, authoritative SQL Server database.

Planning for the data migration, the organization purchased Safe Software’s FME from 1Spatial. When a restructure reduced its headcount, the GIS team further explored FME’s capabilities and decided to replace the organization’s older processes as a less labor intensive option. As a result, the team developed more than 100 new, automated processes using FME. The software populates data into mapping systems, audits data quality, transforms and geocodes data, and retrieves new data from the web. Joining up data from different sources – using FME to transform it so that it is synchronized and not duplicated – has effectively dissolved departmental barriers. Users now have the spatial data they require to support decisions, without the organizational effort of finding it and negotiating its use.

Locating Assets

Agile transformation tools that build upon existing systems, rather than consolidating data into a new and more expensive one, also assisted a local government organization in the Australian state of Victoria to deploy new map-based services. Working with 1Spatial, the organization developed a single, common mapping platform using foundational data from the state government’s Vicmap API service. The data included aerial imagery, road layouts, cadastral information, land contours, vegetation density, planning zones and public facilities.

On top of this, the local government layered local information such as refuse collection zones (when will my rubbish bin be emptied next if I live here?) from a combination of spatial and corporate databases, including many that are not “spatially aware”. For example, assets like bridges and footpaths are linked by asset IDs to map locations where users can see information like length, width and composition.

For local government users, an animal registration layer can geographically display 17,000 registered pets. If a stray dog is found, local government rangers can use the system to search the vicinity by breed or color to try and locate the owner. If a local resident contacts the organization, staff can use the system to more easily reunite pet and owner without the need for a ranger visit.

Thousands of local governments worldwide are using one of the FME Editions available to maximize their existing investments in systems and data with new workflows for reading, integration, transformation, improvement and writing data between more than 335 spatial and non-spatial formats. These FME processes can be easily chained together, automated or scheduled to reduce the manual effort required to manage data and enable citizens and staff to use published information whenever and however they need it.

Recognizing the demand for organizations across the region who want to fully realize the benefits that the FME product can give them, 1Spatial provides a cost effective FME Desktop Interactive Online Training course using Certified FME Trainers.