Mapping subscription pinpoints savings
- By Brian Robinson
- Feb 05, 2002
Everything Northampton, Mass., looked at to boost the usefulness of its
Web site with interactive maps turned out to be too expensive. But now the
city of 30,000 boasts a multilayered, citywide map on its site thanks to
a $2,000-a-month subscription service.
Called BeyondGeo (www.beyondgeo.com), the
service allows an almost unlimited number of feature layers to be overlaid
on the map, which is put together at the BeyondGeo service location from
data supplied by Northampton, and then posted directly to the city's Web
site using HTML.
"We found, when we published our own maps [as PRF files], that no one
was accessing them because they didn't have PDF readers," said Wayne Feiden,
director of planning and development for Northampton. "We were losing [visitors]
to the site, so we went looking for something that could come up in a Web
browser that that could be searched."
As well as providing map services for the public, Feiden said the city
has also been able to provide maps with specific data layers that are applicable
to the work of the city's own departments. These maps are protected by a
password unique to the city users who need to access them.
The advantages of the service, Feiden said, besides the city not having
to invest in its own map servers, is that the maps can be put together from
existing city geographic information systems data and resources.
Company officials at Blue Marble Geographics, which hosts the BeyondGeo
service, believed they were on to a good thing when they saw GIS-related
projects at municipalities the size of Northampton and realized the potential
cost of the cities having to buy their own mapping servers, said Jeff Taplin,
a spokesman for the firm.
With just the 100M of server space that the $2,000 monthly fee buys,
the company enables customers to build maps that have hundreds of layers
and many more than that if they can afford more space.
"Five years from now, when mapping servers are easier to use, then I
could see us setting up our own system," Feiden said. "But that's of marginal
benefit to us right now."
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.