Mapping info: More city data within reach online

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson

Check out Mappmycity.ca

Wanna know Windsor? There’s an app for that.

The City of Windsor increasingly puts its reams of data online — everything from bike paths and sewers to heritage and cultural sites. It’s a component of technology called Geographic Information System, used by everyone from Google to Uber.

On Wednesday, to celebrate International GIS Day, city hall held a high-tech fair for employees to showcase the growing field of information sharing.

“People are looking for more information, and more information online,” Drew Dilkens said Wednesday. “And we’ve been able to do that.

“To the extent that the public’s involved in that kind of review on a frequent basis, it causes people at city hall to see if there’s a way we can improve.”

The city managed to secure a website name that sounds like it should have been claimed by a social media company years ago: Mappmycity.ca.

It plays on maps and apps, and provides a wealth of Windsor knowledge that keeps growing. Visitors to the site can use computers, tablets and smart phones to check out a range of info, including: what waste water and storm sewers run past your place; where the bike paths and trails go; when garbage is collected in your neighbourhood; where sculptures are located; and much more.

Coming in the future: tracking Transit Windsor buses in real time, and finding out about heritage sites and what makes them special, all plotted on a map with pictures and details.

Of course, the more information that goes online, the more neighbours might know about neighbours.

But Dilkens said that has all been considered.

“We have to comply with all privacy regulations,” Dilkens said. “We’re sensitive to having certain things online. But there’s a bigger push today for open data. Certain people like to have data — and track what we do.”

Some stuff does not pop up on apps, but is still available, through the “open catalogue” feature on the city’s website under E-services. For instance, browsers can uncover info on 311 calls, elections results and community centres.

Marian Drouillard, the city’s manager of geometrics, said no names are released on the map apps. But certain personal information was available before and still is. The most sensitive stuff still requires residents to visit the office to find out.

But information, some that used to cost residents money to see, is now digitally tied to a geographic location.

“GIS technology is just amazing,” Drouillard said. “We really take it for granted. Now everything is GIS-related. Everybody has a phone or device where we can put in an address and know exactly where that is in the world.”

A slogan at Wednesday’s tech-fair from the software company ArcGIS summed up the mood of the day: “Apply geography to every decision.”