Wellington City Council has caught the attention of other local authorities by building a new application which gives users live access to spatial and non-spatial information in disparate expert systems.
An internal team of GIS and application development staff used a smorgasbord of technology to build the system.
WCC applications development manager John Stabler (pictured) says access to the customer, property management and resource consent process data has until now been limited to expert users.
The council has built an application which aggregates information from those sources, as well as from its spatial data set, to give users of any skill level a combined view.
California-based ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) software is used to manage spatial data such as maps and photographs. Earlier this year ESRI released an internet map service product with a full Java API.
WCC took advantage of that to build an n-tier J2EE architecture using J Builder IDE and Sybase EA as the application server. J2EE-standard web components draw information from the spatial and non-spatial data sets and deploy it to the application server.
Stabler says the front-end applications allow users to call from a browser screen.
“The only information they need to know is a street address. The application will bring back a spatial view of the property, which can be a map or aerial photo and other vector data, such as a building footprint, or boundary information. It also brings back non-spatial data, which relates to everything about that property — street address, owner, survey and land parcels information, resource consent information at a summary level, and some valuation details.
“Traditionally this has been done by taking snapshots of the data but now we can go live into our transactional operational system.
“If someone makes an update in the system it’s immediately reflected at the browser end. The large number of transactions which take place in our databases daily are reflected immediately.”
Lands and GIS operations team leader Martin Erasmuson (pictured) says this is the first time the council has been able to combine spatial and non-spatial data sets and it was surprised to be told by software vendors that what it had achieved was unique. Now the council has been approached by, and is sharing the knowledge gleaned from the project, with other local authorities, he says.
Stabler says the problem the council has solved isn’t specific to local authorities, but relates to any organisation with disparate databases held within expert systems.
WCC also upgraded its non-spatial database to Informix after evaluating Informix, Oracle and Microsoft offerings.
“We are particularly interested in Informix’s datablades technology which at a high level allows us to do GIS queries at the database without needing a GIS application,” says Erasmuson.
The non-spatial data remains on Sybase databases with client applications built in Powerbuilder.
The application has been in beta for a month and the aim is to go live in the second half of this month.