Service hosts municipal maps

A company that makes 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 system (GIS) data and mapping files directly

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 the "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 the time and money

they would have spent to print maps for constituents.

For the past year, Marietta posted a few maps on its GIS Department's

Web 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.

City officials 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 try it.

He said MapCiti is convenient and flexible when making modifications

to maps, so maps can 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, municipal officials

won't have to worry about cost overruns or maintenance issues and will have

instant upgrades and features, he said. The service is also scalable.

In addition to Marietta, Syncline has four customers, with another 30 customers

signed up on a trial basis.

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