Service hosts municipal maps

A maker of interactive maps has begun offering a hosted service in which cities, towns and government agencies can share municipal maps with the public via the Internet.

MapCiti, a browser-based service created by Syncline Inc., enables governments to upload geographic information systems (GIS) data and mapping files straight to the company's servers, said Matt Gentile, president of Syncline.

Marietta, Ga., is one of the first cities to use the subscription service, which does not require any software downloads or extra hardware, Gentile said. He noted that a "vast majority" of municipalities are digitizing their maps, and once they have done so, uploading data is relatively easy.

"What we're seeing is the beginning of a trend in this industry and in this market," he said. "Marietta is the first to recognize doing business this way. Web-based GIS was really something you couldn't do five years ago because the technology was not there to support it."

Users can manipulate map data, including information related to planning and zoning, utilities, the census and public safety, and they can even provide feedback to the governments. Gentile said that using the service saves people trips to City Hall and saves governments time and money from having to print maps for constituents.

For the past year, Marietta posted a few maps on its GIS Department site (www.city.marietta.ga.us/Gis) using a customized software program, said Bruce Bishop, Marietta's GIS manager. But the program proved inflexible, and changes to posted maps essentially had to be outsourced.

The city began developing an in-house computerized mapping application, but realized it would take several months to get it right. In the meantime, Bishop saw a flier for MapCiti and decided to use the service.

He said MapCiti is convenient and flexible when making modifications to maps, so maps could be more up-to-date. So far, Marietta has one general map on the site but plans to post 15 more by the summer. Bishop said he would weigh the cost-effectiveness and his staff's proficiency before deciding to continue with Syncline or do it in-house.

Gentile said many municipalities find that it's just too expensive and complicated to create, maintain and update such a mapping application. By paying a monthly subscription to a Web hosting company, he said municipalities wouldn't have to worry about cost overruns or maintenance issues and would have instant upgrades and features. The service is also scalable.

In addition to Marietta, Syncline has four other customers and 30 trial ones.

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