Re-engineering historic house number addresses for Soweto

Sometimes radical out-of-the-box thinking is called for when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. Reconstructing accurate address maps for Soweto – many years after they had been destroyed – was one such challenge.

Originally published as an editorial in Position IT - 17 March 2014

Utility companies were contracted by the City of Joburg to install and maintain utilities in Soweto. The job request contained the dwelling stand numbers as used by residents, while the only existing maps for Soweto contained completely different addresses that were never adopted by the residents, causing a disconnect between what was happening in theory on the maps, and what was happening on the ground. This meant that service providers had to rely on local knowledge, asking members of the community along the road for guidance to their destination. Emergency services, including police and ambulance services, also had no maps and had to request persons in distress to meet them at known landmarks and then guide them to their destination, wasting critical time in the process.

Background

Before 1994, housing in Soweto consisted mainly of rental properties administered by the authorities. Many of the properties were semi-detached dwellings with two or more housing units on a single stand. The residents used the original stand numbers as addresses. In the case of semi-detached dwellings the letters A, B and C were added to the stand number to differentiate between the constituent dwelling units.

After 1994, a decision was taken to transfer ownership of the properties to the rental occupants of the properties. As a deed refers to the land and not the house, the stands that included semi-detached dwellings, had to be subdivided to make deed registration possible. As the dwellings already existed, this had to be an “as-built” subdivision. This also explains the very strangely-shaped stands in many parts of Soweto. The dividing boundary, separating the original stand, had to follow the inside walls of the semi-detached house separating the two, or more, dwelling units.1map-228-03-14-fig1

After subdivision all the historic maps disappeared and it was assumed that the residents would adopt their newly allocated stand numbers as their addresses. This was not to be as the residents continued using their historic house numbers, many of which were painted on their houses. The city embarked on a major project confirming street names and allocating names to many areas where there were no street names. Street numbers were assigned in the conventional address numbering manner, with odd and even numbers on either side of the road. Still the residents persisted in using their historic house numbers.

Requirement

1map Spatial Solutions was called in to create maps showing addresses as used by the community, with no historic maps as reference, no historic cross-reference information, and with very few numbers appearing on the dwellings.

Solution

Outlined below are the steps taken by the company to restore historical address maps for Soweto.

Step 1: Obtain the property owner’s ID number attached to the newly allocated stand number.

Step 2: Obtain history of addresses used by the identified property owner from various sources.

Step 3: Identify addresses within the same suburb – preferably in the same street as the registered property. This would then likely be the address used by the occupant of the property.

Step 4: Populate the GIS with the addresses presumably used by the owner/occupant.

Step 5: From the aerial photography identify which properties came about through subdivision and what the original properties would have looked like (reverse consolidation).

Step 6: Using the assumed historic stand numbers, identify the pattern used when allocating the original stand numbers and fill in the gaps.

Step 7: Study the pattern used in deciding the direction in which the A, B and C signifiers were allocated and, once again, fill in the gaps.

Step 8: Do spot checks against numbers appearing on houses to validate previous assumptions.

Conclusion

1map’s commitment to restore all of Soweto’s house number maps must not be viewed as support for the practice of using house numbers. Having completed this project, the company is of the opinion that a concerted effort should be made to phase out stand and house number addressing, and switch addressing throughout the country to conventional street number and name addressing.

Offline, in-vehicle GPS devices carry no data pertaining to actual street addresses. These devices compute their destination by interpolating the distance between street nodes, where the street number is known at the respective nodes, with the assumption that street numbers increase or decrease on both sides of the road, in the same direction, and that odd and even are on different sides of the road. With stand and house number addressing, none of these criteria are met and therefore the best that these GPS devices can do is navigate to the centroid of the road centreline.

Without a street name, these GPS devices are unable to provide accurate navigation options.

The next quantum leap in improving navigation, which in turn will reduce response time and improve service delivery, is adopting the street addresses that have been allocated. However, allocating addresses is the easy part – integrating change in a way that is sensitive to the community is the challenge.

Accessible GIS data: The game-changer for SA

How 1map has democratised GIS data by championing the open online availability of spatial data to South Africa.

Originally published as an editorial in Position IT - 11 February 2014
Introduction

We live in a wonderful country where the sun shines most of the time and where clouds bring promise of new life. In the world of geography and maps it’s also fitting that the cloud should symbolise a new dawn, a promise of new growth.

In South Africa, the pioneers of survey have left us with a legacy which is the envy of many a country. We are one of the few countries in the world that boasts a national repository where all approved survey records are saved and made available to all who require them in the execution of their work.

A legacy gives you a head start, but if the next generation of visionaries do not rise to the challenge and build upon the legacy, it soon fades and becomes merely an interesting historical fact.

The Vision: Open Data

Like Madonna, we all live in a material world - meaning that we are physical beings, living in physical houses, on physical erven. We drive on physical roads. Maps and spatial data will therefore never become redundant. On the contrary - the more technology advances, the more value we can now extract from spatial data through GIS.

The necessity for spatial data transcends the traditional users - the town planners, land surveyors, etc. - and now there is almost no industry left that does not have an aspect that can greatly benefit from spatially enabling their databases. From the obvious ones like courier companies and travel agents, to more unconventional ones like credit bureaus and retailers. Even if a company does not have a physical storefront, or sell physical items, the customers remain physical people, and their location remains important.

What is open data?

In order for data to be classified as being “open data”, the data should be:

1) Freely accessible: Acquiring access to the data needs to be easy, and any person wishing to obtain access should be able to do so without much effort. This includes the medium that is used to access or distribute the data.

2) Affordable: Price should not be a barrier to entry, and should only be used as a means to subsidise the cost of the data and dissemination channels.

3) Usable: Data should be in a format that enables even non-technical users to make effective use of the data.

The importance of achieving the Vision - why Open Data?

If GIS is so important for generating value and growing our companies and organizations, it becomes less of a luxury item, and more of a critical infrastructure component. Unfortunately, many hurdles exist at present to obtaining and using GIS data of a high quality, hurdles such as unaffordable cost, ease of obtaining, and usability of the data.

Our vision is to make basic GIS data available to any person who requires it to make a positive contribution to the economy, overcoming hurdles that make it impossible for persons or organizations to benefit from existing GIS data.

In South Africa, a country with a huge amount of potential and yet an obscenely high unemployment rate, it is more important now than ever before to leverage every single advantage that we possibly have to grow the economy and generate value for all citizens. It is important to use GIS data optimally to ensure effective and efficient service delivery to overcome challenges and capacity constraints. In a globalizing world, our companies and individuals are no longer only competing against themselves, but are competing against other countries much larger and more developed than we are. Open GIS data is one of the elements that is needed in order to compete on the international scene.

What is needed to achieve this vision?

Now we come to the interesting part of the discussion - what is needed to realise this vision of Open Spatial Data? Firstly, we need to look at the issue of the data being:

Freely Accessible

Currently, a lot of spatial data in South Africa is theoretically “freely accessible” in the sense that the public can gain access to it. But often times the general public is not aware of the procedures to be used or indeed which custodian to approach in order to gain access to specifically needed GIS data. Furthermore, some custodians require users to collect the data from them on a physical medium, greatly decreasing the accessibility especially for users who need quick access to a small amount of spatial data for a specific purpose. The only feasible solution is an online solution, where data is made available through an internet portal.

The modern trend is for users of data to be increasingly mobile. We need access to our data from our laptop at home, our workstation at the office, and our phones when we’re on the road. Obtaining a full dataset on a physical medium that you load onto your various devices is no longer a feasible option in today’s cloud-based world.

In order for the data to be truly accessible, the procedure to obtain the data needs to be easy to follow. In an internet solution, this means that the web portal needs to be user friendly and intuitive. It should be easy to find the specific data that the user requires, and to extract the required value from the data. The portal should also be well known, and easy to access. Currently, each municipality and organ of state that does make its data available on the internet each has its own unique portal, with unique layout and interface - necessitating users who require access to a range of different areas’ spatial data to become proficient in the use of each of these disparate portals, not even to mention that users need to be aware of and know the addresses of each portal. What is needed is one single, consolidated portal that users know, and where they can access any spatial data.

Furthermore, especially in a developing country such as South Africa, many internet users do not have access to a computer, but rather access the internet through their cell phones. This necessitates that “freely accessible” data needs to be available on smartphones and not only on computers.

Then there is the issue of data being:

Affordable

In order for data to be open to those who need to use it, it need to be affordable. Pricing of data provision services should cover the costs of providing the service. Unfortunately we often see international companies charge exorbitant fees for even the most basic GIS functionality or data subscription. Sometimes more affordable data subscription options are offered, but these data subscriptions are often so riddled with fine-print and restrictions, that users of the data are unable to effectively use or share the data.

The argument of many is that data is expensive due to the cost incurred in procuring, managing and disseminating the data. But as with most infrastructure and basic services, it is our belief that it should be subsidised by the fiscus. Imagine if you were presented with a payment-up-front bill by the fire department before they extinguish the flames in your house…

And then finally,

Usable

Data is only valuable to the extent that it is usable. Even if you have data of the highest integrity, updated daily, and made available at no cost if the data is not in a format that makes it usable, it is not useful. This means that data should be made available in the industry standard data exchange formats, and be usable by standard application software.

Furthermore, the data should be searchable to enable users who need to access a certain section of the data to easily locate it.

Lastly, the usability of data is greatly increased by the context. If you see a cadastral erven boundary without coordinates, it has very little value since you have no way of knowing where this property is. Adding the spatial reference coordinates adds significant value since the property now becomes a spatial object with a known location. Add to this property an aerial photography layer, and now you can see what the area looks like. Is it in a forest? Is it in a river? etc. Add the municipal utilities data, and you know what services are connected, what the usage is, whether there are variances, etc. Therefore, the more data from various sources are combined, the more useful and usable the data becomes.

Now the question begs to be asked: If open data is such a big priority, what is being done in order to make it a reality?

What is 1map doing to help realise the Vision?

1map is the first platform in Africa that hosts spatial data for an entire country, including Surveyor General erven cadastre and NGI aerial photography, on an online portal. We source, upload, manage, and update the data centrally.

How is 1map helping to make spatial data Freely Accessible?

As mentioned above, a major challenge in achieving the “Freely Accessible” status of our data, is the distribution by the data custodians. 1map overcomes the challenge by making data available on an internet portal. This means that at any time of day or night, wherever a user might be, he or she can have access to data produced by any number of the South African data custodians.

The 1map portal also hosts data from all the major data custodians in South Africa, including SG, NGI, Stats SA, various municipalities, etc. This means that whatever spatial data users are looking for, they only need to remember the web address of one data portal, and only need to be proficient in the use of one portal and its tools. There are also step-by-step video tutorials and detailed documentation to guide users in how to gain the full benefit from the 1map application. This removes many of the barriers to freely accessing data.

The fact that 1map is a web app, also means that users are no longer limited to accessing their data only on the specific computer on which the data or application has been installed. Wherever there is an internet connection, the user can use any PC to gain access to all their 1map data and functionality.

Internet speed is a big concern in many places in South Africa. Since 1map has been developed locally, it has been a priority to achieve a high level of speed despite bandwidth constraints, making the 1map portal accessible even on slow connections.

The 1map online GIS does not only have a powerful user interface, but also allows for other applications to access the data and features of 1map directly without human intervention through the extensive API (application programming interface). This drastically increases the accessibility of the data, and reduces the amount of duplication of effort and resources. Applications that need to be spatially enabled, i.e. having a spatial reference point brought in to augment the application, can now access the data and tools already built into 1map directly, with no need to re-engineer the spatial engine.

1map has also developed a mobile app that accesses the powerful 1map back-end through the API. This gives users with an Android smartphone or GPS device access to their 1map accounts and data through their mobile device for navigation, inspection, and even capturing. There are also plans to develop an iPhone app in the near future.

All these functions, make data through 1map truly “Freely Accessible”.

Affordable

1map is proud to be a South African company, and we believe that if we are to make our country work, we should all work together. Therefore we do not chase high profits, and keep our overheads as low as we can. We do this by making use of the premier international open source spatial software, and supporting our official data custodians in improving their data rather than building our own competitive dataset.

This means that we have been able to build the largest online GIS in South Africa, with over 6000 registered users, and have never charged a fee for basic access to the GIS data that we serve, offering free Lite accounts to any user who wishes to register.

We are also constantly looking for subsidies from government or sponsorships from investors and corporate partners in order to keep our Lite service free and to continue to improve the tools and data that we offer. In order to continue to maintain and improve 1map, we have recently introduced access to advanced features and functionality to professional and power users at a nominal fee, starting at R195 per month.

This means that price is no longer a barrier to gain access to reliable spatial data.

Usable

1map has placed a lot of importance on the usability of the data hosted on the portal.

Firstly, there is a range of different search options, including 1map’s proprietary street address database, differentiating between areas which use street addresses, house numbers or stand numbers (especially useful when navigating in informal housing settlements).

Users can also view, edit, print, or export spatial data to be used in a desktop GIS application. Editing functionality includes editing both attribute data and spatial data, live and dynamically online, with a reversible audit trail of all changes made. Export formats include shapefile, TAB, DXF, and KML formats, for use in a variety of applications. Users can also print the data directly from 1map, in large format prints and with full colour aerial photography.

Because 1map brings together spatial data from a wide variety of sources, the data can now also be viewed in context, even by non-GIS technicians who are unable to create a multi-layered map from various sources. Any user can now view a piece of land with their chosen spatial data all displayed as a layered map, including the user’s own custom spatial data.

These all factors contribute to the usability of spatial data in South Africa through the 1map portal.

Conclusion

Much has been said about Open Spatial Data, the importance thereof, the requirements to implement it, and the complexity of making the dream a reality. 1map has taken the vision, and has started to run with it. We are already at a stage where we can start making the claim that Open Spatial Data has become a reality for South Africa. That does not mean there isn’t still much that can be done to refine and improve, but every day brings with it more people and organizations who are willing to participate and to cooperate. Together we are realising a vision of establishing a solid infrastructural foundation of Reliable, Accessible, Affordable, and Useful spatial data available to any person who can use it to grow our economy, help our people, and build our nation.

Will you partner with us?

Spatial Intelligence in Retail

How GIS and spatial intelligence can establish a competitive advantage for retailers in the digital age.
Adapting to the changing nature of retail

The local retail space is changing. Factors causing this include changing demographics, disruptive technology, changing consumer habits, etc. And these issues are not at all limited to the South African context. Internationally, many retailers struggle to reinvent themselves to meet the new challenges.

Changing Consumer Behaviour

Although research indicates that even the most sophisticated online shopping experience won’t eliminate the consumer’s desire for a brick-and-mortar shopping experience, the popularity of e-commerce is experiencing exponential growth as more South African’s have access to internet and as consumers embrace the new technology.

One of the indirect effects of e-commerce is a trend called “showrooming”, where consumers do price and product research online and then go to a physical store with an exact idea of what it is they want without walking from shop to shop browsing. This has led to dramatically increased competition in the market, as well as decreasing revenue from impulse buying.

To increase consumers’ desire to visit physical shops, retailers need to look to the overall shopping experience that consumers get when visiting a shop. This includes innovative measures such as incorporating a coffee shop within a store, but for smaller stores it can be as basic as having sufficient stock of frequently purchased items, and less unnecessary products that clutter without adding to the consumer experience. To optimise the product range that stores carry, analysis of customer buying patterns is crucial.

With the increase in number of shopping malls in South Africa, individual malls are seeing less and less traffic. Consumers are much more convenience conscious and prefer to have a quick, focused shopping excursion for their day to day requirements rather than spend time walking around large shopping centres. Therefore we are seeing a trend in consumers buying bulk purchases online and preferring smaller, localised shops for daily items. Malls are also particularly susceptible to a decrease in foot traffic due to customers embracing e-commerce.

This changing retail landscape creates the opportunity for retailers to siphon market share from competitors who don’t move fast enough by the innovative use of technology and data.

What can a Geographic Information System (“GIS”) do?

A GIS is basically a database with a spatial component, meaning that spatial analysis can be performed on the data. Analysis ranges from basic queries such as counting the number of objects (records) within a given area to complex queries extracting spend patterns and product mix baskets for certain areas. These kinds of queries are very powerful in determining marketing campaign focus, planning for new stores, or in predicting what product mix customers living in close proximity to a certain store would be interested in. The basis for these analyses is a geo-coded customer database.

Cleaning and geocoding the customer database

Retailers often have vast databases of customer databases collected from loyalty card and credit card applications, deliveries, etc. These customer records are also used to keep purchase histories for clients. Many retailers have credit- or loyalty cards collecting data of the purchase history of individual clients. Since a requirement of applying for a loyalty card is an address, these card holders can be mapped out as spatial objects linked to a specific address.

The starting point for spatial intelligence is clean spatial data, i.e. geocoded client data. There are a number of methods for address cleaning and geocoding, each with various measures of accuracy and therefore usefulness towards specific applications. Even though geocoding to individual property level might not be critical for store location analysis or the like, it is very important for deliveries of e-commerce sales where time wasted looking for addresses equates to increased overheads.

For highly accurate geocoding, one requires a comprehensive and accurate National Point Address Database (NPAD). One also requires sophisticated algorithms to clean the addresses and get it into a consistent format for geocoding. Due to the human error factor in address capturing, even the most sophisticated algorithms only match around 30-50% of addresses accurately. Therefore an efficient process is required for geocoding using manual process and human operators. This makes geocoding a complex process, requiring specialised software, good quality data, and experienced staff.

The people at 1map has been involved in geocoding persons data in the South African context since 1992, and therefore have extensive experience in addition to highly specialised, locally developed tools. Furthermore, 1map ran what was probably the most extensive process of mapping persons to addresses and coordinates in South Africa’s history – geocoding a significant proportion of the South African population to individual address level for election purposes.

Determine optimal store locations based on customer trends

Once the customer records have been geocoded, other data can be analysed with reference to geographic distribution. Data associated with the customers that can be analysed on a map can include average spend, spend limit, purchase history, etc. Add to this the ability to overlay your data with statistical information such as Stats SA Household Income or other demographics measures.

This would give analysts the ability to do spatial analysis based on specific consumer spending habits, and also determine where frequent customers reside and purchase.

Determining the product mix to be stocked by a store in a particular country can be complex, especially in a country as diverse as ours. It depends on the demographics of the area, the culture, habits, income, etc. Finding the optimal mix can be done on a trial and error basis by experienced buyers or store managers, but by analysing the customers in the relevant area along with their business intelligence data, this process can be done much more accurately and efficiently – even for new stores.

By linking each customer to a property, and monitoring the spatial extent of that customer’s, his/her household’s and even neighbours’ purchasing patterns, new store locations and contents can be planned with a high level of intelligence.

Optimise marketing strategy based on spatially referenced consumer baskets

If customers and their locations are properly mapped out, reports can then be pulled out of the system detailing product sales in a given area. This allows for highly localised, detailed analysis of consumer trends for targeted marketing campaigns. Information can also be overlaid with other relevant data, such as the Stats SA census data indicating household income statistics, or LSM data layers obtained from market intelligence companies.

Having clean addresses in your marketing database also greatly reduces the wasted expenditure due to undelivered returned mail (“nixies”), since only mail to addresses with guaranteed existence and location are sent out. If the approximate cost for printing and postage of a full colour marketing brochure is R15, then even cleaning up 1 000 undeliverable addresses equates to a saving of R15 000 per month, or R180 000 during the first year!

1map has extensive experience in applying its geocoding algorithms and experienced staff to returned mail processing, saving clients thousands of Rands in wasted expense, and adding the benefit to the bottom line in enhanced revenue due to successfully delivered mail.

Optimise e-commerce delivery with accurate geo-referenced addresses

As e-commerce, and with it market competition, continues to grow, being able to keep overheads low are crucial. Equally important for customer satisfaction (especially while confidence in the new technology is still growing) is the ability to efficiently deliver at a given location at the agreed upon time. To this effect, having clean, geocoded addresses for your customers, and the ability to match addresses when entered to a clean database of existing addresses, can form the basis of a competitive advantage in the e-commerce arena. Each time the delivery van does not need to make a U-turn to look for an address, the retailer saves money and enhances brand reputation.

Having an integrated web-based GIS that can be accessed via mobile devices by drivers can be a great boon to any company doing door-to-door deliveries, especially in areas without formal addressing or where house or stand numbers are used.

Examples of applications
Business Intelligence portal

A Business Intelligence portal will display a geographic reference on the left side of the screen, with intelligence about a specific object or group of objects on the right side as a graph. An example of this is the 1map Statistics Portal, (currently in beta phase). Reports that could be pulled is to group residents into a specific area and displaying top 5 products purchased, top 5 stores visited by residents of the area, average household income for a given area compared to average sales to residents in that area, marketing coverage of the area, geographic spread of a customers of a particular store, product category sales for a particular store, etc.

Client and supplier support portal for e-commerce

By having all information integrate into an online dynamic database with a spatial intelligence, client support staff can access customer data real time to respond to queries by either customers waiting for their deliveries or drivers who cannot find the address. Progress on delivery routes can be tracked by implementing conditional styling based on delivery status.

Drivers will also have access to tablet devices enabling them to interact with the database live and update personnel at the support desk in terms of issues they are experiencing, the progress they are making, etc. Support agents will also be able to see which driver is responsible for a specific area or route, and communicate with that driver.

Conclusion

By adapting to changing user trends and utilising GIS, especially a dynamic web-GIS like 1map, retailers can set themselves up for dramatic advantage over their competitors in an increasingly competitive environment. The basic tools used by 1map to address the challenges facing the retail sector can also be applied to other industries, and customised and integrated as users find necessary.

References

Interone GmbH. (n.d.). The Retail Revolution. München: Interone GmbH; Jörg Jelden Trend & Transformation Consulting.

Reingold, J., & Wahba, P. (2014, 09 03). Where have all the shoppers gone? Fortune, pp. 39-42.

Maximising Revenue from General Valuations

1map introduces a new way of thinking about general valuation in order to generate maximum benefit for local government.

Originally published as an editorial in Goverment Digest
The Status Quo

When speaking about maximising revenue in local government, the General Valuation is critical. The key is a mass appraisals process that is Efficient, Effective, Affordable, Sustainable, Transparent and Fair.

Currently, the most valuations are still very much characterised by manual process, paper forms, and duplication of effort – leading to high costs and inefficiencies. Furthermore, councils rarely have much of an idea as to the progress of the valuation process until the deadline for the deliverables arise – too late for intervention if something’s wrong!

A Better Way

The General Valuations process of tomorrow looks very different, increasing efficiency while lowering costs, and providing a sustainable platform for utilising and analysing the data effectively.

By using a map as reference, councils can see which properties are not yet registered, which properties don’t have a valuation attached, property usage, etc. This ensures that all properties are billed accurately.

Deeds, Billing and Valuation information is linked and displayed on a map. This is done on a central server, ensuring an affordable and stable system that provides access to all authorised persons when and where they need it.

The field work is done primarily on mobile devices that update the valuation data online. All information edited or captured is geo-tagged to validate that the field surveyor was in fact on-site. In addition, multi-media (photos, text, etc.) is captured on the mobile device and automatically geo-tagged and linked to the object being valued as evidence.

Since the entire valuation process is done on a live online database, council can monitor the progress of the valuation to ensure that contractors keep to schedules, and avoid crisis management when deadlines are missed.

The integrated online map allows users to see the property being examined within its full context, i.e. the property boundary, the location, the adjacent properties, the aerial photograph, and even the street view where available.

Thematic maps allows the valuation roll to be visually analysed in a user friendly manner, indicating the zoning, land usage, previous valuations, etc. Properties where the current valuation differs significantly from that of the previous valuation or that of its neighbourhood are all indicated on the map with different colours, symbols, and opacity. This means that anomalies and outliers can easily be identified and investigated before final roll, thus reducing the number of appeals.

Post General Valuation

The appeals process is greatly simplified, because all relevant information and evidence needed to substantiate the valuation is integrated into the online portal and can be viewed by selecting the relevant property.

Once the General Valuation is accepted, the system acts as a viewing portal for the public, where they can view the valuation data.

The 1map Valuation System, driven through the 1map Online GIS, makes all these things possible. And not somewhere in the distant future either – the underlying software and data are already in place and being deployed! Contact the staff at 1map to hear how your council can benefit from this new technology.

1map for Architects

How the use of 1map Web GIS can provide a competitive advantage.

Introduction

In a competitive environment, any advantage that gives your firm an edge over another can mean the difference between a firm that prospers and one that doesn’t. In this quest for competitive advantage, the 1map Online Geographical Information System (“GIS”) will save you time and frustration, enabling you to accomplish more while keeping your overheads low.

1map Online GIS: South Africa’s Spatial Data Repository

The vision of 1map is to be the online data library of all readily available spatial data in South Africa. To this end, 1map has populated its database with over 100 publicly accessible layers, in addition to hundreds of private layers (layers that can only be accessed by certain companies and institutions). Some of the data sets that are most relevant to the Architectural field are the following:

Contours

1map hosts a full set of 20m and 5m relief points and lines obtained from NGI (National Geo-spatial Information, the official custodian).

Erven Cadastre

1map hosts the entire SG (Surveyor General) database of erf boundary lines, and where available, also hosts municipal cadastral data, along with erf numbers and street addresses. SG data is currently being updated quarterly, with plans to move towards monthly updates by 2016.

Aerial photography

1map hosts full colour aerial photography for the entire South Africa, obtained from the official South African custodians, NGI.

What can an architect do with 1map?
Search for a property

Whether using street address or erf number, with 1map users can accurately locate the exact property they are interested in. This is because each property in the 1map database carries its own address and erf number field. This is in contrast to most online mapping and GPS services that carry only corner addresses and calculate the other address points by means of interpolation.

Inspect surrounding properties to understand the area aesthetics

1map has integrated its map portal with Google’s Street View, so that users can view the house frontage of the property they are inspecting.

Download contour and other spatial data for use in CAD software

Users can selectively export spatial data such as erven cadastre, contours, etc. in a variety of formats (DXF, Shapefile, KML, TAB) to be used in desktop GIS or CAD software packages.

By downloading the property boundaries of the property that a user is interested in and importing that into his/her CAD software, the user can start designing knowing that his/her property boundaries are correct and spatially referenced.

Get accurate survey information from SG diagrams – instantly

Currently, the process of obtaining SG diagrams and General Plans for a specific property can be both time consuming and burdensome. 1map takes out the effort by providing a user-friendly interface incorporating an SG diagram viewer, also allowing you to download and print the SG diagrams. The diagrams are pulled directly from the SG’s servers, and therefore you are always guaranteed of the most up to date and accurate set of diagrams available.

Upload CAD drawing of building plans and view as overlay on 1map

Users can upload data to 1map as a private layer. If users download the erven boundaries from 1map (therefore a property with a spatial reference), the plans drawn on the property are relative to the same spatial object (i.e. the erf) and can therefore be uploaded to 1map and be displayed as a building plan layer that can be viewed along with other 1map layers and presented to clients.

Print full colour A0 maps

Users can print maps with a variety of layers, including aerial photography, erven cadastre, road centrelines, and even custom layers that users have captured or imported. This means that architects can print out an overlay of the completed building plans over the aerial photography, erf boundary lines and contour lines for presentation to the client.

How to use 1map
Free Lite subscription

Basic use of 1map is absolutely free. Although we encourage professionals who get value from 1map to subscribe in order for us to improve the service, Lite users can view aerial photographs, search for properties, etc. Users can register here.

Pro subscription

For most users, 1map Pro would be the ideal option. The Pro subscription allows users to access all the advanced features that 1map has to offer, including full scale printing, data exporting, data importing, spatial editing, viewing of SG diagrams, etc. Once registered, users can upgrade by going to their account settings.

1map Test Drive

If you are curious about how 1map can work for you and want to try it before you subscribe, register for free and then send a Test Drive request to jnk@1map.co.za for a chance to explore 1map Pro for yourself.

Training Videos

Go to https://www.1map.co.za/docs/#!/video to watch training videos that illustrate the various features within 1map, or read the extensive illustrated help documentation to view screenshots of what 1map looks like.

Interactive mapping for everyone

Making the power of interactive maps and data available to everyone in local government, not just the GIS department.

Originally published as an editorial in Government Gazette - March 2015
The importance of GIS for all departments

Almost everything that happens in a municipality or public sector agency relates in some way to a property or point on a map, from service delivery, to revenue enhancement, to infrastructure planning, asset management, etc. Because of this, interactive maps are the ultimate management tool for local government. Whether you are in the finance department, emergency management, or responsible for water meter readings - the ability to see your data on an interactive map can significantly improve your efficiency and effectivity.

Databases plotted on maps (basically a GIS) are nothing new. Most people have seen a GIS, and many municipalities also have a GIS department. Unfortunately however, GIS implementation in South Africa is still very far behind due to a number of factors, including

  • Exorbitantly high costs for infrastructure, software licensing, consultancy and training,

  • Software that is far too complicated, resulting in end-user resistance,

  • Skills shortage of knowledgeable and committed staff, and

  • Solutions that are only available on stand-alone computers or municipal infrastructure.

Often the bulk of the GIS budget is spent on infrastructure and licence fees, with little remaining for qualified staff or data.

Clearly a need exists for a workable GIS that makes interactive database-driven maps available in a fast and user-friendly way to all departments in local government.

The proudly South African solution

A South African company has developed a solution with the challenges facing our local government in mind. It provides a user-friendly interface that allows for:

  • powerful search and viewing tools,

  • online data capture and editing,

  • map printing and data downloading,

  • custom data uploading,

  • SPLUMA readiness,

  • collaboration workflow,

  • custom layers for Zoning, Usage, Valuation, Revenue Protection, Deeds, Asset Management, Meter Readings, and more,

  • mobile application for field-work and even in-field data capture.

What makes the solution particularly attractive, is that it requires no technical support or specialist infrastructure, only a computer with access to internet. This means no more system down-time or hassles due to equipment or software failure. The solution also aims to be accessible to all users, from GIS professionals to accountants. It has an easy to understand interface and online video tutorials enabling users to get up and running in no time, regardless of prior GIS experience.

How to start using it

The 1Map solution has been developed to address the needs of government at a fraction of the cost of other international vendors. The application is already pre-populated with mapping information for all municipalities throughout South Africa. All that is needed to start using 1map in your municipality is to register at www.1map.co.za and to send at least 2 persons on a training workshop at their offices.

Every municipality can now have access to an operational multi-functional GIS within hours, and without breaking the budget. There is no excuse for not having GIS working for you.