The use of geospatial information has for some time been moving away from paper and static digital maps – and it’s the same for how we store it.
Physical copies in a paper ﬁle or even digital snapshots on an oﬃce server limit the eﬀective use of this material.
The Covid-19 lockdown ﬁrst removed and even now limits our ability to acquire information from a ﬁle in the oﬃce. And there’s the technical challenge of ensuring stable access to stored documents on oﬃce networks while working from home. These restrictions highlight the importance of secure cloud-based systems that can be accessed with ease and ﬂexibility.
These new circumstances apply as much to GIS (geographic information system) data as to more conventional materials and since so much of what we do at Galbraith is geospatial work, part of the solution for us has been to use online maps – webmaps. These enable key team members, contractors and clients on a project to access, view and if necessary edit key GIS information.
The potential for this technology is vast, but for now we are using it in two broad ways:
First – as a reference tool. we have created business stream-speciﬁc webmaps with relevant data that goes considerably beyond what you’d ﬁnd on Google Maps, an internet search or on webmaps owned by public bodies.
In our energy and utilities business, with permission from key utilities, we host interactive maps with national geospatial datasets – location information linked to data such as an address, city or postcode – of their infrastructure alongside other important data ‘layers’. These maps can be accessed and used securely by the relevant staﬀ members regardless of where they are, provided they have an internet connection.
Second – for collaborative projects. Increasingly we use these technologies to support geographically disparate teams both internally and externally for project-speciﬁc work. These bespoke webmaps contain GIS data that is relevant only to the speciﬁc project involved. Potential uses for these maps vary depending on the roles of team members. A contractor with a speciﬁc technical role may use them for inputting new information directly onto the map so other staﬀ can view or if appropriate verify it; a client project manager requiring only a high-level overview could use it to aid wider project monitoring or to help plan and target subsequent phases of work.
As we continue what looks like a shift towards working from home, the use of these technologies can only increase and become more normalised.