im Peden - CGIS Spatial Solutions

Meet Jim Peden - President of CGIS Spatial Solutions in Perth

Suppose you had old property maps on microfilm, some county road maps of dubious accuracy, and some loose information about projects that involved digging. You might be forgiven if you thought there was no hope of ever cross correlating the information in these three sets of documents. However, Jim Peden and his CGIS group have already helped over a dozen small urban and rural communities bring their information into the 21st century through the use of Geographic Informations Systems or GIS.

The common thread in the above sets of information is that they all take place somewhere on the surface of planet Earth. Virtually everything related to this surface can be described in terms of a point, a line or an area. A manhole exists at a point; a road is a line; and a property is an area. If you take data from diverse sources and can accurately map this data to the Earth's surface, then it is possible to correlate this data and get answers to questions that were previously impossible or extremely expensive to get.

Geographical Positioning System (GPS) Satellites now surround the planet, and very accurate hand held receivers are available to allow one to measure exactly where you are. Hence the CGIS people were able to "walk the roads" on the maps, take measurements at the start and end of road segments with these hand held devices, and come up with significantly improved information about where the roads were, mapped accurately onto the surface of the Earth. The microfilm was transformed into data base information with survey coordinates transformed into positions on this same map. Finally the digging information could be added, again using position on the Earth's surface as the common link to all other information.

Now it is possible to determine the impact of the digging on roads and property. It should be clear that if you were also able to add other layers of information, say the location of ecologically sensitive areas, and the location of underground infrastructures you would be more able to accurately predict the level of difficulty for the planned project.

There can be a more human side to systems such as this. Take for example an Emergency Dispatch System such as "9-1-1". It turns out that a visitor to Perth slipped, fell and serious injured himself late in the evening on the main street of Perth. Someone noticed the incident and came to assist. 9-1-1 was called, which was routed to an emergency operator. The operator asked for the location of the person who required assistance. The answer was in front of Harry and Rosies in Perth. Since the operator was in Kingston, this information was not sufficient. There was no numbers on the building, and since everything was closed there was no one to ask. Clearly was was needed was some system where the operator could enter "Perth" and "Harry and Rosies" and find the street address, and the best route for the emergency vehicles to take to get there.

CGIS has developed the Dispatch Information Management Emergency Services (DIMES) system which integrates landmarks, key building floor plans, and other information to assist the EMS dispatch to quickly pin down an exact location based on information available. Ontario has recently passed Bill 148 - the Emergency Readiness Act which requires towns and municipalities to collect and maintain this class of information to be prepared for such emergencies.

Another scenario might involve an accident with a truck carrying toxic material which is spilling onto a street and into a particular storm sewer inlet. A key question would be, where is this toxic material now headed? An automated system showing a map of Perth, with an overlay of the storm sewer system, available on site to police or fire vehicles, would quickly reveal where the material is headed so that a plan of attack to contain and remove the material can be developed. This is infinitely faster than crawling through blueprints in some county office, something that is important when lives and environment is at stake.

It is possible to take an online look at this class of system at the following public access link on the Town of Perth site. You can explore this interactive map of downtown Perth and find shops and restaurants, find out which areas are best for roof top solar heaters, and a myriad of other information.

CGIS is a corporation that specializes in Municipal Geographic Information Systems. CGIS operates as a Systems Integrator providing a one-stop shopping opportunity for a broad range of clients in both the public and the private sectors.

They have recently moved into new expanded space at 13 Gore Street West in the downtown area.

To find out more about the CGIS and the ways they might be able to assist your organization visit their web site.

It is interesting to note that much of what Jim Peden and the CGIS group is accomplishing on a smaller scale was thought of by Buckminster Fuller (Bucky) on a planet size scale in something he called World Game. Basically this was a means of "projecting" very large quantities of data about the planet and its resources onto a map of the surface of the Earth to allow us to correlate and run "what-if" scenarios about the future of the Earth and mankind. He started an Inventory of World Resources, Human Trends and Needs to serve as an information bank for this World Game.

Given this was some time ago, he thought he could use a very large model of the Earth to display this data with "lights" controlled electronically. In fact he proposed that the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal contain an implementation of this idea - a 100 foot diameter Earth inside the larger geodesic dome continously displaying data about the planet. Unfortunately this vision was never realized, but we did get to see his beautiful geodesic dome realized.

For more information on Buckminster Fuller and the World Game visit the Buckminster Fuller Institute

For more information on GIS, read this excellent introduction from the US Geological Survey

Also check out this Internet Guide to GIS