Report shows trends in GIS technology use
Managing land records and tracking utility infrastructure are the most common uses for geographic information system (GIS) technology in the public sector, according to a report released in March by the Aurora, Colo.-based Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA). The 10th annual survey of GIS trends also found that geospatial data sharing is popular among public sector agencies, mobile applications are on the rise, and the most commonly used GIS software continues to be produced by familiar companies.
The 2008 Geospatial Technology Report (GTR), which tracks GIS trends in the private and public sector, found that public sector GIS users are among the most established users of the technology, 74 percent of which started using it in the 1980s and 1990s. “We have been monitoring the increasing numbers of public sector agencies using geographic information systems and geospatial technologies,” says GITA’s executive director Robert Samborski. “More of the [GTR] participants come from public sector than all of the other vertical markets combined.” For the 2008 survey, 269 public sector agencies participated, outnumbering the total number of participants in all other sectors, including electric, gas, pipeline, telecommunications and water.
The creation of land records, including address lists and tax assessment maps, remained the top GIS application in the public sector in 2007, according to the report. Water and sewer line tracking is the second most popular application in public sector GIS. Community planning fell two spaces in the GTR’s list of top 10 applications, from third most common in 2006 to fifth in 2007, but Samborski says that still is an important use for GIS technology. “Using geospatial systems, city and county planners can ensure that development occurs only when the local environment is capable of absorbing it and also where it will positively affect the maximum number of residents,” he says.
More than half (51 percent) of the public sector respondents report that they share geospatial information across agencies, storing data in a central repository, accessible to a wide range of users and interfaces. Forty-one percent report creating and maintaining GIS applications in separate departments, and 8 percent have one GIS service organization that serves all departments.
Mobile applications that extend GIS data collection and maintenance into the field are gradually increasing, with 75 percent of respondents reporting the use of some mobile computers this year, up from 63 percent last year. The use of wireless communications to share GIS data in the field increased from 4 percent last year to 15 percent this year. “The uptake of mobile technology in field operations is resulting in increasing productivity levels and significantly streamlined operations in organizations that have committed to mobile implementations,” Samborski says. “We have documented many success stories [in which] tasks that previously took hours or even days to complete are now being accomplished in minutes. This is a major trend that will continue as mobile technology continues its rapid evolution and more governments and utilities use it.”
The names of the most commonly used software vendors have remained the same. Most survey respondents report using GIS software from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI (77 percent); followed by San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk; Birmingham, Ala.-based Intergraph; Exton, Pa.-based Bentley; Troy, N.Y.-based MapInfo; and Atlanta-based GE Network Solutions. The most prevalent types of relational database management systems are SQL Server, Access and Oracle. “Web-based applications and geospatially enabled tools that promote ‘smart,’ environmentally friendly, and energy- conscious development will account for an increasing share of geospatial information technology implementations, especially in the public sector, in the coming years,” Samborski says.
Top 10 GIS applications
- Land records
- Utilities (Water/sewer)
- Address Maintenance/E-911
- Asset Management
- Community Planning
- Public Safety/Health
- Land Development
- Law Enforcement
- Pavement Management
SOURCE: “Geospatial Technology Report,” GITA, March 2008.