Caliper takes on HUD application

Caliper Corp. Newton Mass. is developing the second version of a Department of Housing and Urban Development application that allows applicants for HUD grants to show by way of computer-generated maps the impact of proposed housing projects.

The new software slated to be released before the end of the month comes packaged with Census Bureau information such as unemployment levels ages and incomes of residents in U.S. neighborhoods. It also includes data on existing HUD housing projects.

The data will allow state and local recipients of HUD grants - worth more than $7 billion annually - to paint a computer-generated picture of how proposed projects will serve to fill the housing needs of communities. Likewise the approach rolled out last year provides HUD with a quicker and more vivid picture of the prospective grantees' plans.

"Instead of telling us what you want to do we're asking grantees to show us what you want to do " said Andrew Cuomo former HUD assistant secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development upon the release of the software project. Cuomo is now secretary of the department.

Graham Barrowman technical manager for Caliper said his company was tapped for the software job by Aspen Systems Marlborough Mass. Aspen Systems is the prime contractor for the HUD software project called the Consolidated Planning System (CPS).

Caliper's new software was supposed to be released under the name CPS+ for about $250. But the release has apparently hit a snag. "The product is temporarily on hold because of a naming issue " said Barrowman who explained that the product name conflicted with an existing product containing the same letters. HUD spokeswoman Phyllis Amon however said the release of the software appears to remain on schedule for this month.

Caliper's work follows that of MapInfo Corp. a Troy N.Y. company that developed the first version of CPS. Although MapInfo is not involved in the second version of CPS the company's work has not become obsolete Caliper's product reads all data generated in the MapInfo-based system.

Like its predecessor the new application is purported to be user-friendly. "The user doesn't really have to know anything about GIS or mapping to use the product " Barrowman said.

The Caliper application based on its Maptitude software differs from MapInfo's original planning software in several areas. Four CD-ROMs now hold all the information needed to plan housing projects anywhere in the United States whereas it would take hundreds of diskettes to get the same data with the original CPS Barrowman said.

The inclusion of a "map library" that allows users to view maps showing various demographic features is also new as is tighter integration between tabular information and corresponding maps according to Barrowman.

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