Managing Your Paper Assets Geospatially With Digital Tools

Managing Your Paper Assets Geospatially With Digital Tools
March 27, 2008 Mike Tully

Today’s business world demands information instantly. Unfortunately many have a hard time efficiently managing, accessing, and distributing such requests. This situation often arises in offices that have accumulated important paper documents for decades.

For instance, County Engineering departments house a plethora of historical land surveys, maps, infrastructure design drawings, land corner records, and other documents in traditional filing cabinets, map drawers, and boxes. These documents can be retrieved only after trained personnel locate them.

Disorganization from many decades of use, along with new documentation being added regularly to the files, leads to an unacceptable situation. It can take hours to find some documents. These high-value and one-of-a-kind documents are often left at risk because there are no copies at a separate location. Solutions are needed to archive and protect these valuable assets, to enable untrained staff to easily find and retrieve needed information, and make these documents accessible to collaborators and the public as needed.

Does this sound familiar? Many organizations, of all types, face similar problems in today’s information age.

Why Can’t This Be Done In A Geospatial Way?

Instead of leafing through thousands of files, documents, photographs, and forms to find a paper or digital document, Aerial Services looked for a digital and geospatially related solution.

In speaking with clients, Aerial Services wondered:

  • Why couldn’t paper and data information be tied together to make the organization more effective?
  • Why couldn’t everyone within their organization instantly find needed data and eliminate timely paper file searches?
  • Since many of the assets described on paper had a geographic location, why can’t the assets be organized into a central database that ties them together geospatially?
  • Finally, why not make it all accessible via the internet so everyone can easily use them with a browser?

After thorough research of these questions, Aerial Services became determined to develop a software solution.

The Key To Solving Asset Overload

As the software development process began, Aerial Services realized the key to digitizing, geo-referencing, and making searchable assets is harnessing existing tools. Using these tools, the geo-referenced asset system, E-Docs, became within reach. They included:

  • High-speed flat-bed scanners
  • Image/document compression (SID and/or PDF)
  • Database (relational)
  • Internet/web (browsers, ASP, .net)
  • Geospatial technologies (ERSI products, geo-tagging, etc.)

I Want A System Like This, How Can We Do It On Our Own?

You must start your system’s design by assessing the current organizational system and recreate its structure and organization in the new digital environment. Relationships that were difficult or impossible to exploit when everything was on paper will now be possible once the information is made digital.

When deciding what will be included in your asset database, keep in mind your organization’s information will be drastically enhanced by exploiting previously unused relationships. Further, many asset types can be managed. Examples could include:

  • Documents: records, forms, reports, letters, certificates, spreadsheets, etc.
  • Visuals: photographs, graphics, location markers, maps, charts, graphs, etc.
  • Physical Assets: personnel, equipment, inventory, locations, etc.

Converting Data Into Digital Documents

High-speed scanners can be used to convert all of your existing large and small paper documents into digital form. These are then stored inside high-performance databases using image/document compression. File drawers full of paper forms, cabinets of records, and visuals disappear. In addition, existing database tabulations can be intelligently cross-referenced with the newly scanned data to make information accessible based on the way you work with your information, or you can design a much more intelligent and flexible approach. A side benefit is all your irreplaceable documents have digital copies and are smartly preserved forever.

Enable Spatially Referenced Search

Spatial searching is what will set your system apart. Much of the value embodied by your data may be hidden or under-utilized because relationships between different data sources are not easily exploited when they are all paper-based. Spatial search allows these complex relationships to be readily understood by presenting it visually. While serving as an excellent means of explaining the information, spatial visualizations also help inter-relate your data. Put simply, spatial search is a means to present highly complex and abstract information without overwhelming the user.

Since it is estimated 80% of all information has a spatial aspect, you can design your system to allow search for the majority of your data visually via spatial components using a map, diagram, or other visual. To do this, your assets are tagged with metadata and a spatial location.

Make It Easy To Update & Add Information

Development of easy-to-use tools facilitate your organization adding new data and documents perpetually, maximizing your workflow and adding value to your investment. You should require customized software to meet your specifications and design data entry solutions that work best for your organization.

Start Saving Time And Money, Create You Asset Management System

Imagine browsing all of your existing documents, reports, photographs, and plans visually on any desktop while backing them up for perpetuity and maximizing your asset workflow. With some planning, time, and your imagination, it can become reality.

Need Help? Ask Aerial Services

Aerial Services has developed their award-winning E-Docs Asset GIS so it can be customized for organizations just like yours. If interested in learning more about their services, please contact them today and/or visit the E-Docs page.

Why not save time and money while allowing you to be more effective in your work? Contact Aerial Services’ today to find out how they can help you.