Geographic Information Systems by Tekgra


Note: All the pictures shown here are our customised GIS applications implemented in Malaysia and Brunei.

GIS Projects profolio

Tekgra′s key personnel have had over 20 years′ of GIS experience. We started off implementing ESRI GIS solutions for clients in Brunei in 1991. Since then, we have gone through virtually the whole range of ESRI products as reseller, together with implementation in other flavours like Autodesk Mapguide, Mapinfo and Quantum GIS.

We always work with clients to plan, design, build and integrate information management systems to GIS.

We use leading GIS software like ESRI, Autodesk, MapInfo, Erdas. Users have option of using Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL or Access databases for backend data storage.

GIS trend in the 21st century

The GIS industry is moving towards more cost-effective web-based customised GIS systems. In addition, open-sourced systems like Quantum GIS (QGIS) are also challenging the capability and features of commercial GIS products.

In a web GIS system, users simply open a session using a web browser like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. The customised GIS tools and query functions are embedded in the GIS web page.

In the traditional standalone or shared-licensed, each GIS user requires a costly individual software license. At between RM7-20K per license, the cost adds up very quickly.

Standalone GIS

GIS users can be broadly divided into two classes, (i) the front-end users who query, browse and print out GIS data and images, and (ii) the back-end data capture and editing user. From our experience, a typically front-end GIS user, which outnumbers the back-end users by a ratio of 30:1, needs around 20 GIS commands (eg: pan, zoom, identify, query) for his/her everyday work.

Mobile GIS

Increasingly, the trend is moving towards a mobile GIS system, where GIS data are either store on devices like Android or Apple tablets and smartphones and the remaining served via a 3G or Wifi network.

On-board Tablet/Smarthone′s GIS is integrated into the spatial data, so users will know the relative location of his/her position to his GIS data or aerial images.

Key GIS data can be retrieved via the 3G network and overlaid with freely available data like Google Map. Users can perform on-field data query and data entry, with the updated data synchronised with the main server either via the same mobile network or via wifi when back in the office.

How not to implement a GIS infrastructure

GIS investment can be cost-effective, or it can go horribly wrong and ended up a white elephant.

The key part of a GIS system is data. Repeat - data. The data should be available, either already in a digital format like Autodesk, or in hardcopy like printed maps. Either way, these can be converted into GIS format via a few techniques which will be explained later.

Many GIS users, usually under pressure from management and suppliers, rush in and bought a set of GIS software with high-end PCs, plotters and networking. Then they start to capture or convert their data and at the same time customise GIS modules. This is usually the wrong approach, because GIS data capture takes time. If you don′t have any digital data to start off with, it will take a long time. By the time you have a working prototype set of spatial data, the GIS software′s one year support warranty is long over, and you will need to spend more money on maintenance to upgrade the software before you actually start using it.

Just like building a house, we don′t go out to stock up all the bricks, steel and cement before first engaging an architect to design it.

DATA first ...

So, get your GIS data right first, by investing in the people to gather, enter, digitize, vectorise or geo-reference the data. Digital data typically need to be converted to your local projection and coordinate system, eg: RSO. It needed to be cleaned (eg: snapping, remove dangles, close polygons). Hardcopy maps need to be digitized or vectorised and cleaned. Then attributes need to be attached to the GIS data, a process called features-coding, and for this you will need to come up with a data dictionary for consistency. It can be a lot or work. For example, a 1:1,000 scale topographical A0 size contour map may need over two man-months just to digitize! Imagine you have ten such maps. By the time you finish, your software warranty is long over.

So initially, just spend enough on the necessary GIS software for data capture and data conversion. Some software, like QGIS, is free, and is just as capable as commercial GIS software.

You may need to acquire a digitizer for hardcopy maps, or get your maps scanned with a scanner and do on-screen digitizing. It is usually cheaper and faster to outsource this work instead of engaging new staff.

Types of GIS licenses and data

After you have a working spatial data set, then you will need to decide the type of GIS system you want - standalone, local network or web. For standalone, each GIS user will need a license, or share a concurrent license. This can be very costly. If more than one person is doing data editing, soon you will end up with different versions of the same area and this will be a mess to clean up.

To overcome this problem, you will need a GIS database (spatial database) where all users share the same data. There are cost-effective spatial database like SQL Server Spatial and there are also proprietary spatial databases like ESRI ArcGIS Server (ArcSDE) or you can also go for Oracle Spatial which is more open (enable access by non-ESRI softwares as well).

Either way, with a spatial database, you are on your way to create a web GIS system! A web GIS system is basically a set of customised GIS functions embedded into the Internet browser and accessing the spatial database. After the initial customisation costs, no further licenses are required to use it, whether you have five or fifty users.

For example, we have a client with over 100 web GIS users. The software cost? GIS Web Server license costs around RM40K. If they were to purchase a standalone GIS license for each user at RM9K each, the capital software cost for 100 licenses alone would be RM900K - before the yearly maintenance kicks in, typically at between 10-18% of the initial software cost.