Integrated Spatial Information System
ISIS-Online is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that enables you to view map-based data belonging to the Council. A GIS is a computer system capable of assembling, storing, manipulating and displaying geographically referenced information - essentially it is a tool for mapping and analysing features on earth. Another way of describing GIS is that it answers two basic questions - where is it and what's there. We first establish an area of interest, such as an address, and then see what information we have about it. Such information has traditionally been stored in separate filing cabinets, map chests, microfilm, photo albums etc.
Furthermore GIS technology integrates database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the visualisation and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps. These abilities allow GIS queries to use geographic criteria, such as "tell me all the addresses that are within 1,000 meters of a road", or "what ward is this street light in"?
So where does Accusoft fit in? Well, we already had a rich source of spatial and tabular data that had been captured in our first generation GIS running on a closed proprietary mini-computer environment that was migrated to an open systems environment in 1999. At the top of our list for the second phase of this exercise was to tap into other technologies that we somehow now take for granted with modern computer systems - i.e. image and browser technologies.
We did a quick trawl of the www market that would give us a programmable Active X in VB and singled out Accusoft partly because of value for money, partly because of richness/ease of use of their Active X and partly because of their sample code/documentation. The latter was particularly important to us as we had no formal training at all in the science of image technology and therefore needed to shortcut by hacking existing code and working backwards using first principles.
ImagXpress now provides our internal client/server system users with a painless and seamless patch through to what should be a very complex technology (i.e. we intercept and think for them via intelligent program code). TwainPro allows us to take total control of capture devices and hence embed image capture into our tight indexing environment. ImagN' allows us to show these images via our cut down browser application to our local tax residents (and obviously beyond).
Yes we made some mistakes on our learning curves like allowing some 12000 A4 documents captured on £60 scanners at 75 dpi saved as greyscale jpg's. Fortunately, we were able to batch clean up most of them for web use thanks again to the richness of ImagXpress. We are now gearing up to scan A0 size architects drawings associated with Planning and Building Control regulations in the UK for web release in October 2001. These drawings are scanned at 300 dpi and stored as Tif Group 4 but ImagN' handles them quite nicely over a 56k modem.
We have also recently discovered that NotateXpress can provide a neat way of introducing colour graphics to a bitonal image within the client/server environment such as drawing a polyline to extract a measurement off the drawing. To sum up, we would strongly recommend end user application developers like ourselves to download the Accusoft trial product samplers and play.