What is GIS?

GIS or Geographic Information Systems is mapping technology that uses computers to collect, store, manipulate, analyze, and display data.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology works by linking information stored in databases to a place or location on a map. Since 80% of all information has a geographic component, the power of GIS can be widely used to support decision-making and problem solving across all sectors: government agencies, private and non-profit organizations, and the public. But GIS is much more than maps. Users can query the data and present the answers in maps, tables and other graphic representations to virtually see the issues before them and then select the best course of action.

GIS offers a reliable and cost-effective means for the sharing and analysis of geographic data among government agencies, private industry, non-profit organizations and the general public.

 

Enterprise GIS in the City of Boston

Background and History of GIS in the City of Boston

The City of Boston has been using GIS to enhance both operational and analytical functions since the early 1990s.  The Assessing Department was the initial creator of spatial basemap information in 1990.  The basemap contains essential cadastral map information to which all other location-based information can be referenced, such as parcel boundaries, street and address annotation.
 
Census, land use, zoning, centerline, address and asset management data had all been gathered and maintained by various departments throughout the City of Boston.  However, providing broad access to consolidated map information to city employees and the public had been difficult.  In an effort to resolve this issue, the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) established a centralized, citywide GIS Team in 2007.  This team is responsible for managing the enterprise technical infrastructure, maintaining the GIS data warehouse, supporting City departments that have no internal GIS capacity and promoting the use of GIS as a tool throughout all City agencies.

The GIS Team is also responsible for managing the City’s centralized address data.  This is accomplished using the SAM (Street and Address Management) system.  SAM was created by the City as a master repository for all addresses in Boston.  It is not just a master address database but also a collection of tools designed to manage and maintain the address data.  Every address in SAM has a unique ID number.  This address and ID are now carried through several lines of business systems at the City such as CRM, permitting, and asset management which allows the City to make common connections among disparate datasets.

In 2008 DoIT signed an Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) with Esri to provide GIS software and services to all City departments.  This provides the City with unlimited access to software and an ability to standardize on a common GIS platform.
 
In 2011 the City completed a new 40 scale flyover and collected over 125 new base map layers.  Access to all of these layers is available both internally within the City and to the public.
 


 

Resources

  • City of Boston Maps

    City of Boston Maps is a Geographic Information System (GIS) which allows residents, City employees and visitors to visually display city data through maps. Using our simple mapping interface you can use an ordinary web browser to access City data from a variety of departments.

    City of Boston Maps

Video & Multimedia

  • City Officials Impress with Maps at 2011 ESRI Conference

    At the 2011 ESRI International User Conference, representatives from the City of Boston demonstrated the City's use of GIS applications to attendees, highlighting how the applications are being used to engage citizens and improve the City's efficiency and effectiveness.

    Watch The Boston Way with GIS

    Watch GIS Engaging Citizens

    Watch GIS Strategy

Awards

  • Significant Achievement Award 2011

    Public Technologies Institute for SAM, Street and Address Management

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  • Technology Solutions Award 2010

    Public Technologies Institute, GIS category for the GIS Data Hub

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  • Special Achievement Award 2009

    Esri for significant achievement in GIS

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