4-page Case Study - Posted 12/20/2010
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City Engages Citizens, Delivers Better Information, with Interactive Mapping
The City of Brampton, Ontario, works to provide essential services to its citizens, cooperate with neighboring municipalities, and compete to attract new businesses and residents. The City wanted to make it easier for citizens to find information and engage with public services. It developed an Internet-based Citizen Services Portal (CSP), where Brampton residents and businesses can engage directly with City agencies and services; however, feedback indicated that the old mapping application was too complex. After evaluating mapping technologies, the City integrated IDV Solutions’ Visual Fusion and the Bing Maps Platform into the new CSP. Now, CSP users can find what they need, and internal users in every city department can efficiently provide up-to-date geographically based information. As a result, the City is reducing costs, providing better services, and competing more effectively.Situation
With a population of more than 500,000 and an annual growth rate above 6 percent, Brampton, Ontario, is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. The third-largest city in the Toronto metropolitan area, Brampton has a demographically young and culturally diverse population, and the city has developed an economic base that includes advanced manufacturing, information technology, and life sciences.
To continue to grow and promote prosperity for its citizens, the City of Brampton must compete to attract new businesses and industries in addition to new residents. As Brampton grows, the City has to help maintain and enhance the conditions that make Brampton an attractive place to live and work. “Citizens—especially an emerging demographic group of young, mobile information workers—expect the same level of customer service that they get in the private commercial sector,” says Robert Meikle, Chief Information Officer at the City of Brampton.
The City of Brampton provides its half-million residents with essential services such as fire; planning and zoning; public works and transportation; economic development; parks and recreation; and visitor support. The City also coordinates services and cooperates with neighboring municipalities.
|Figure 1. IDV mapping tool on the City’s CSP Portal. By expanding the menus in the right-hand pane of the map interface, site visitors can click on options to expose the locations of City facilities, services, and activities, such as road construction and closures. By resting the pointer on an icon, users expose a pane with more details, such as schedules and location information.|
While the City continually works to enhance the services it delivers, Mayor Susan Fennell wanted to go further. She wanted to fundamentally change how Brampton citizens engage with the City and the services it provides. She wanted City service agencies to be transparent and responsive, and she wanted it to be more convenient for citizens to find and use the information and services they need.
Toward that vision, the City began a year-long project to remake its website into the Brampton Citizen Services Portal (CSP), which it built with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The City launched the CSP in 2009, and Brampton residents and businesses began using it to engage with City agencies and services. They can find information, apply for permits, register and pay for services, and contact City staff.
The city’s website included a geographic information system (GIS)–based mapping application that provided the public with a way to access spatial information visually, whether they were trying to locate a public jogging trail, find the nearest police station, or look up property information. However, the application was complex, and some users complained that it was difficult to find the information they wanted.
“To be honest, the GIS-based interface was not easy to use,” says Bill Latchford, Manager of IT System Operations at the City of Brampton. “We had to handle a lot of support calls, and we actually held public education sessions about how to find things with the maps.”
It was also difficult and time consuming to publish new information with the application, a task that could be completed only by GIS and IT staff. As a result, information was not always published in a timely manner, and GIS and IT staff were often being distracted from higher value tasks.
The City wanted to make it much simpler for the public to use maps on the CSP; at the same time, it wanted to make it easier for internal business users to publish and manage mapping information. To help streamline IT management, the City wanted its mapping solution to integrate directly with the Office SharePoint Server 2007 environment that supports the CSP.Solution
The City of Brampton utilized the expertise of Infusion Development to architect and implement the core CSP Portal Platform, and then the City used a mapping solution called Visual Fusion developed by Microsoft Gold Certified Partner IDV Solutions to create interactive mapping applications for the CSP that work with the tools in Office SharePoint Server 2007. “The implementation of the Visual Fusion product was completed within a relatively short timeline, with one dedicated City IT developer and in just three months,” says Alber Hanna, Manager of CSP Program at the City of Brampton.
||By integrating information and services with Bing Maps, we’re taking a big step toward making Brampton more competitive.
Manager of IT System Operations, City of Brampton
The City’s IT department evaluated several mapping options, including Google Maps and Bing Maps Platform from Microsoft. The City chose Bing Maps for two primary reasons: Bing Maps would integrate easily with Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Visual Fusion, and its datasets are very accurate.
“Our internal mapping data is accurate to within a foot, and Bing Maps fit seamlessly with our data,” says Latchford. “Our decision makers put pressure on us to deliver, but they gave us the opportunity to make the common-sense decisions and move on. So choosing Bing Maps was easy.”
With Bing Maps and Visual Fusion, the City can maintain detailed, complex, and accurate geographic databases, while making it easy for business users to publish the data. GIS specialists manage the City’s core internal geographic data sets, such as the citywide property fabric, aerial photos, and street network, updating the data directly into the GIS database. Internal business users at Brampton can then combine built-in functionalities in Office SharePoint Server 2007 with Visual Fusion to display information with a spatial context.
Now, when a public user opens the mapping application on the CSP, he or she can navigate a visual map interface that shows the boundaries of the City of Brampton. The user can zoom out to see Brampton in a regional or even global context, or zoom in to street level, choosing between roadmap and aerial photo views. From a right-hand pane, users can expand menus and find options to expose different data layers over the map interface.
For example, from the Roadworks menu, Brampton residents or visitors can click options to locate road closures, construction projects, or street-sweeping schedules. By resting the pointer above an icon that locates a road closure, a site visitor exposes a pane with the location and schedule of the closure. Clicking the icon opens a larger pane with details on the closure, including the schedule and contact information (Figure 1). Other menus locate property boundaries, zoning bylaws, economic development areas, schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, parks, transit routes, City council districts, and other civic facilities, services, and features, all with opportunities to quickly explore more detailed information.
Internal users in almost every City department can publish new information to the mapping application without support from GIS or IT staff, and without needing GIS software installed on their computer. They can use data from infinite sources, including web feeds, GISs, and other databases, and with Visual Fusion, they can spatially enable data in a SharePoint list and integrate it directly with the Bing Maps application programming interface. Benefits
The City of Brampton is using its Visual Fusion and Bing Maps solution to deliver timely, accurate information in a visual format. Now, whether a Brampton resident is planning a bus route to work or researching zoning codes, he or she can find the information quickly. City departments can publish timely information to the mapping application without IT help, reducing costs and saving time. The City is serving its citizens more effectively, and helping Brampton to attract the residents and businesses it needs to remain dynamic and prosperous.
”Making all this intelligence available on the City’s portal promotes the Brampton brand and attracts investors,” says Susan Fennell, Mayor of the City of Brampton. “We’re committed to providing Bramptonians with the services they need to enjoy an exceptional quality of life.”More Efficient Operation
Because internal business users can publish information to the Bing Maps application on the CSP without relying on GIS and IT support, and without needing licensed GIS software or the training required to operate it, the City is saving time and money. For instance, the city saves approximately U.S.$6,000 per user for software and training. “Now, people can just spatially enable a SharePoint list and post the data on the map themselves. The only thing the IT staff needs to do is make sure they’re following standards,” says Latchford. “People can focus on doing their job and making the information available to whoever needs it.”
||Citizens—especially an emerging demographic group of young, mobile information workers—expect the same level of customer service that they get in the private commercial sector
Chief Information Officer,City of Brampton
Since the City zoning department began publishing zoning information on the mapping application, Plan Examiners have reported that the amount of time they have to spend assisting permit applicants has dropped by 50 percent, time they can now use to process more permits. Because Bing Maps was easy to deploy and will be easy to manage, modify, and update, IT and GIS staff can focus their efforts on higher-value tasks, and the City of Brampton can enhance the value of its investment in the CSP and Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Better Services Delivered Faster
Because they now have easy access to accurate information, residents and businesses in Brampton can get projects planned, approved, and initiated quickly, increasing the return on their investments.
“In the past, if you wanted, say, zoning information about a property, you had to come in, fill out a form and come back in 5 to 10 days,” says Latchford. “Now, the most current information is available at your fingertips on the web, and even if you come into the office, you can walk out with what you need in minutes.” Engaged Citizens
With the CSP and Bing Maps, the City of Brampton is beginning a true dialog with its citizens. By introducing a new, easy-to-use interface for its mapping application, Brampton has increased public traffic to the CSP. Additionally, because it is so easy to publish information to the Bing Maps application, internal users in every City department are updating the application more often, which means the public receives fresher and more detailed information. If a zoning bylaw is changed at a council meeting, for example, the information will be updated on the mapping application in three days or less.
“We are tracking an overall increase of approximately 300 percent in site visits in just six months after launch, without any marketing efforts,” says Hanna. “We profoundly believe that by architecting an intuitive and service-oriented public portal and by utilizing solutions such as Visual Fusion and Bing Maps, it will invite more citizens and casual surfers to experience our portal firsthand.”
Staff in the City’s Economic Development Office have installed a business directory in the mapping application. They intend to eventually allow Brampton businesses to manage some of their own information in the directory.
“The Mayor has given us a tremendous amount of positive feedback on the site,” says Latchford. “She wanted to change how citizens of Brampton engage with their City, and Visual Fusion and Bing Maps have been a huge part of fulfilling that strategy.” Competitive City
By making information more available, and delivering services more efficiently, Brampton can compete more effectively with neighboring cities to attract and serve new residents and new businesses. Businesses researching economic development initiatives in Brampton can find accurate, up-to-date information quickly and easily. Real estate agents can use the mapping application to print and distribute relevant zoning information to potential property buyers.
“We want to attract new business to Brampton.” says Latchford. “By integrating information and services with Bing Maps, we’re taking a big step toward making Brampton more competitive.”
Bing Maps Platform
Build immersive mapping experiences with the Bing Maps Platform. Thousands of organizations and developers worldwide depend on Bing Maps for rich imagery, innovative APIs, and leading-edge technology.
From engaging customer interactions to insightful business analysis, Bing Maps provides the mapping platform to help developers and organizations realize their vision.
For more information about Bing maps, go to: For More Information
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