Last updated: July 09. 2014 8:01PM - 429 Views
By - wtoler@civitasmedia.com

William R. Toler | Daily JournalJames Armstrong, county planning director, tests out a new geographic information system application on his smartphone.
William R. Toler | Daily JournalJames Armstrong, county planning director, tests out a new geographic information system application on his smartphone.
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ROCKINGHAM — Residents will soon be able to hold real-time Richmond County maps in the palm of their hand.

James Armstrong, director of planning and geographic information system services, was in the middle of upgrading the county’s GIS website Wednesday to allow for easier editing and viewing on mobile devices. A smartphone app is also in the works.

Armstrong said the system was moving from a Flex viewer to HTML5 which he said, “allows for mobile and Web mapping applications that can be read and edited.”

With the old way of doing things, data would have to be collected in the field and brought back to the office to be entered into the system.

Armstrong said with the new system, pictures and other information could be entered and uploaded on site from a smartphone. Before going to the main server, the information would be verified by county staff.

He said one internal use for the new system would be for code enforcement. Armstrong explained that a registered user could take a picture of an overgrown lot and instantly upload it to the system, so the situation could be dealt with quicker.

Another practical application Armstrong mentioned was using the system during a neighborhood disaster.

He said disaster response teams could go out to different areas, assess the damage and upload the information. That would give those back at the command center a better idea of how to allocate resources.

“In an emergency situation, you want that data to be coming up live,” Armstrong said.

The county currently has five licensed GIS accounts. Armstrong has one and said the other four can be interchanged depending on who wanted to collect certain types of data.

“I hope we can show this is a powerful tool and warrant the licensing of additional accounts,” he said.

Armstrong said the cost to license five additional user logins would be $2,000.

He said county commissioners have been supportive of GIS technology.

“We have a good return on investment,” he said. “People can have access to a lot of information.

Information currently available on the county’s GIS website includes parcel lines and boundaries, fire districts and locations of fire hydrants, cemeteries and bike routes.

Armstrong said he would like to see other geographical information added, such as historic sites, but he doesn’t have the manpower to collect it all.

“I like the concept of crowdsourcing,” he said. “(It allows) others with a particular interest in spatial data to participate in managing it.”

He said additional users would have to apply for a login. While there is no current application process, Armstrong said there probably will be if more logins are purchased.

He said the Richmond County Historical Society would be a prime candidate for one of the additional logins. He said it would give members a way to keep an inventory of all local cemeteries and even add some that may be hidden in the woods.

“If someone wanted to collect data information for parking lots, we could create a data set for parking lots,” he said.

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.

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