Quick mapping for US census: independence from UK Ordinance Survey

Monday 22nd June 2009
Maptel secures contract for US census using ArcPad software. Photo Joe Armao.

The US takes up Australia's on-line ArcPad from Maptel with the Australian Melbourne based technology company that designed software used to record the location of properties destroyed in the February bushfires, lading a lucrative contract with the US Government. In the UK, the GeoInformation Group starts its UKMap, a new mapping programme and the first database completely independant of the Ordnance Survey.

Maptel specialises in mobile mapping systems, and has secured a major part of a five-year, $600m contract to digitise data collection for US authorities. Known as ArcPad, the software will be used in the US census to verify and update the addresses of 145m households and lock in GPS co-ordinates for each household before the count next year.

It is estimated since the previous US census in 2000, about 8m addresses have come into being — all of which have to be confirmed and recorded before the paper census is mailed out next year. Could be that the hardware from Trimble  a global presence in GPS had something to do with the deal.

The 12-year-old software, whose V8 has just been released, is used on site with hand-held computers, is in use in 100 countries and has been translated into 23 languages.  It also comes with some neat Applets and extensions, such as compact flash camera extension, GPs correct, auto detect GPD, redelining markup tool, voice enabled, CAD extension and laser offset.

MD Elvin Slavik said the software could be used to map everything from diseases in mosquito-prone areas for health authorities to street trees for local councils. Hand-held devices use GPS technology for data capture, rather than navigation. "It's more thinking about maps as a geographic database,"  Slavik said.

The software was used by police after the Black Saturday fires to map the homes and properties destroyed as well as the locations of victims. The data gathered by police in the field was sent in real time through a wireless network to base.

"We were up and running within a couple of weeks of the fire," Mr Slavik said, "and the information was collated into wall charts to mark the progress in real time as properties were re-searched."

About 80% of ArcPad customers are government, with about 1000 councils globally using the software, most of them US-based.

Commercial map and address UK database
UKMap is the UK’s first commercially funded, large-scale topographic mapping and address database created completely independently of the Ordnance Survey which started more than two years ago, employing more than 100 people across three continents, UKMap forms part of an ambitious five-year programme to map over 500 towns and cities covering all urban areas with a population greater than 10,000, or some 24,000 sq.km of the UK.

London is the first complete UKMap city covering over 1,700 sqkm available  1 September 2009. Areas to be published in 2010 include the West Midlands conurbation, Merseyside, Manchester and parts of Yorkshire.

UKMap is a highly detailed, feature rich mapping database, which comprises integrated map layers and attribute tables. Captured for use at 1:1,000 scale, UKMap includes buildings with 3D information, road detail including pavements, lane markings, pedestrian crossings and speed humps, a full address gazetteer, inferred property boundaries, land use coding and a wide range of points of interest. It includes aerial photography and terrain layers.

“The technology changes of the last few years have made the creation of UKMap not only technically feasible but commercially viable. There is a growing demand for choice when it comes to mapping. We believe the time is right for the UK mapping industry to provide GIS users with that choice.” says Seppe Cassettari, (right) CEO of The GeoInformation Group.

“We have invested a considerable amount of time and effort in the development of UKMap and have now secured long-term funding along with commitments from a number of commercial partners which ensure the programme can achieve its ambitious targets.”

(Below) Overlaid aerial photography can calculates tonnes of CO2 per year or kgCO2/m2/year emitted from each individual property

From the outset, an active UKMap forum, comprising key industry representatives, have advised on the development of UKMap. Forum member Alisdair Maclean, GIS Manager of London Borough of Brent, comments, “UKMap represents a revolution in mapping and brings the provision of large scale mapping in the UK into the 21st Century. For the first time, users of large scale maps will not only have an accurate and feature rich layered solution, but have it in a format of their choice."

Alun Jones, MD of The GeoInformation Group adds, “UKMap also offers choice with innovative licensing and flexibility when it comes to IPR, publishing and on-line distribution. We strongly believe that this will revolutionise the way many people think about using large scale geospatial information.

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