Most companies now have multiple databases for customers, sales and project information, but keeping track of relational data can be difficult. CADline has a new product to visualise multiple databases simultaneously on a map, writes Martyn Day.
We are all familiar with spreadsheets and databases as part of our daily lives — endless pages of fields and text that are frankly uninspiring and boring. MapThat is a product from UK CAD dealer and developer CADline, which can import data from multiple sources and display them on detailed maps for powerful queries and searches.
Programmed in Microsoft .NET, MapThat is web-based and can import data from Access, SQL, Oracle, Excel or any ODBC compliant database. This data is then ‘geo’ referenced and displayed via the web, over the Internet or an Intranet, using Microsoft Bing maps to show the location. Document instances, such as drawings or Word docs can be included or linked to, as well as pretty much any other format or resource.
Powerful data and geo-referenced queries and searches can then be run, with the mapped results displayed.
MapThat has a raft of possible applications: sales teams, marketing, logistics, warranty teams, servicing, estate agents, utilities and architects. In the AEC market, project information could be linked to points on the map, where files, webcams, Gant charts and contacts could all be accessed via an online MapThat page.
Utilities companies are already trialing managing repairs to their networks, combining CAD data and repair crew management.
While vector CAD models cannot be displayed on the map, rasterised ‘images’ of the CAD files can be, so there are ways to combine design and map data. Teams can access the maps remotely on Windows tablets and Smartphones. When faults are identified these can be photographed and documented and sent back to the database, where they can be viewed through MapThat.
The more data that is linked to MapThat, the bigger the benefits are. Project teams could track tender stage progress and updates, access site and survey information, and hold project reviews. CADline has also been working with Ordnance Survey to link MapThat with highly accurate and detailed OS data. As OS maps can be expensive, the company is working with intermediaries to reduce this cost significantly.
Local councils are using MapThat. Lewisham Council uses the product to help the management of local authority land, property and services.
MapThat offers a number of core apps: an area search utility from a multipoint line, shape or radius; a measuring tool for distance or area; a route planning application for turn by turn instructions and an address locator from address, latitude and longitude or reverse geocode.
The key limitation at the moment appears to be the reliance on Windows technology, namely Silverlight. The development work is already well underway to move this to HTML5 and should make an appearance sometime in June. This would enable MapThat to work on everything from iPhone and iPad to Android devices, with no loss of speed.
We all know how useful Google Maps is to our everyday searches; MapThat is very similar but works on your own company data and offers very specific filter and search criteria. Having a map-based front end to collate a number of important company databases can actually give your company new possibilities to identify sales prospects or simply filter and access data that is specific to design engineering information at a particular geographic location.
Web mapping is probably one of the more exciting GIS applications and the vast majority of projects have a ‘geo’ element to them. CAD developers such as Autodesk and Bentley have recognised this through their support for global coordinate systems and products such as Google Earth. The development of this product will be very interesting to follow.
In terms of costs, CADline has not yet defined pricing for small to medium sized business but there will be a set-up fee and an ongoing per-licence cost. Typically Microsoft’s Bing services are only available for companies with larger numbers of seats per sale. CADline is currently addressing this issue for those that want an Intranet-based product; meanwhile the company offers a SAAS (software as a service) web-based hosted version for smaller deployments of less than 50 seats.