The idea that the more people who use and interact with the mapping data, the more its value will increase it is not new. The key to achieving this is to use a geo-referenced Portable Document Format (PDF) file known as GeoPDF. The London Borough of Brent now uses GeoPDF to distribute their mapping data to all departments of the council and to the wider public.
Londonâs Brent Council provides services to over a quarter of a million people, about half of whom come from ethnic minority backgrounds. It is estimated that over 90 languages are spoken within the council boundary and the GIS Development team plays a key role in getting vital information out to all the members of this diverse community. The Brent GIS team members combine a range of skills from all aspects of the GIS, mapping and demographics disciplines. Their responsibilities extend to providing mapping and data services to all the council staff as well as the councilâs partners. On a daily basis, the GIS group is conducting spatial analysis and modelling data in an attempt to improve every service the council provides. To help them achieve their aim, the team employs a number of GIS software including; ESRI products (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcSDE, ArcIMS and ArcVIEW), Cadcorpâs SIS and MapInfo Professional. Each software product provides the team with the âbest-of-breedâ solution to a specific spatial requirement and the overall solution ensures that council staff can make informed decisions about the services they offer. The most recent addition to this catalogue of geo-software is a number of licences of TerraGo Technologiesâ Publisher software (previously called Map2PDF for ArcGIS) which was provided by London based geo-sales and marketing agency, Quarry One Eleven. Since the inception of the company, the focus of TerraGo Technologies has been to bridge the link between the GIS specialists and the huge potential user base of non-mapping experts (field workers, the public etc.). The idea being, that the more people who use and interact with the mapping data, the more its value will increase. The key to achieving this is to use a geo-referenced Portable Document Format (PDF) file known as GeoPDF. Adobeâs ubiquitous PDF format is the de-facto standard in computer data transfer and presentation; of the hundreds of millions of computers in the world, one would have to search long and hard to find one that didnât have the Adobe Reader pre-installed. This universal user recognition means that providing GIS data in the GeoPDF format removes some of the most common barriers to the acceptance of mapping throughout an organisation and within the public; i.e. removing the need to load unfamiliar reader software or for users to even handle unrecognisable file formats. The TerraGo Publisher seamlessly plugs in to the ArcGIS software and allows the Brent GIS team members to create their GIS data as GeoPDF files. A very simple workflow will see the team decide the scale and content of the map they want to provide, including which layers and object data to make available to the end user, create the GeoPDF (which maintains the layers) and then send the file to users via download on the web or distributed on CDs. This control of layers has proved to an extremely popular feature as GIS Analyst, Vinesh Govind explains; âby supplying layered maps, more information can be provided within a single map without over-cluttering the image and the user can see how simple it is to turn on and off each layer as and when the situation demandsâ. The GeoPDF mapping files have been welcomed across the council and in particular by the Emergency Planning Team and their partners. The team now displays fixed mapping data layers on standalone Control Room computers as well as supplying secure USB Drives for their response officers. The simple to understand GeoPDF maps have proved to be hugely useful tools in risk assessment, planning procedures and real-time exercises. A recent combined training exercise which included Police, Fire and Ambulance crews saw them provided with GeoPDF files on which to base a coordinated response to a fictitious emergency situation. In this kind of a scenario it is vital to remove any confusion at all about how to use the data and the simple information-rich GeoPDF files did just that.
Author: Alistair Maclenan, Quarry One Eleven Ltd
Managing Project Communication
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