GIS greens San Francisco

The Numerator: Logistics

Think Wal-Mart has a lot of items on the store shelves?

According to the Bentonville, Ark., retailer, the average store has only 120,000 items. By contrast, the Defense Logistics Agency keeps track of 5.2 million items, said Thomas Modly, deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management.

Modly spoke at the Cognos Government Forum, a conference held recently in Washington.

AVERAGE WAL-MART STORE: 120,000 items

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY: 5.2 Million items

Geographical information systems have a lot of power. And, generally, a lot of complexity. That is why their use traditionally has been limited to highly trained specialists. A new project in San Francisco, however, shows how much the world of GIS is changing.

The Urban Forest Mapping Project, a joint undertaking by the city's Bureau of Urban Forestry (BUF) and the nonprofit Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), allows the city's existing and newly planted trees to be tracked. In addition, the system allows the city to map future planting locations and calculate costs.

Before the Urban Forest Mapping Project, both BUF and FUF tracked tree data using separate databases that relied primarily on paper maps, which made sharing and updating data difficult.

What makes the Urban Forest Mapping Project interesting is that it was built on an open-source version of Autodesk's MapGuide program, which began shipping last year.

'Because [the project] was an initiative that was not at the top of the city's management agenda, it wasn't funded,' said Juliana Slye, director of Autodesk's government division. Slye said that Autodesk stepped in to provide a level of funding in addition to engineering support and the MapGuide open-source product.

Slye predicts that we will see more such implements of GIS technology. 'We see a couple of key trends that are happening in GIS,' Slye said. 'The first key trend that we see is the democratization of GIS out to the business user.'

The other trend, Slye said, is an increasing move to open-source programs in certain sectors. 'We are really dedicated to providing open-source technology to a wide variety of our users,' she said.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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