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The Fifth Dimension of GIS

Case Studies

The Fifth Dimension of GIS is a relatively new concept in the GIS industry. While many agencies want spatially enabled business and analytic intelligence, few have tried to achieve it. The following case studies illustrate the application of this approach to government problems and addresses issues of domestic security, full cycle accountability, and creating more from less.

Case Study 1: Business and Data System Interoperability


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Conceptual architecture of a spatially enabled enterprise address system (EAS)

A county needs to improve, modernize, and centralize its address data storage and administration into a single data source. The county's goal is a spatially enabled enterprise address system (EAS) that is automated and standardized. There are two drivers for this project-efficiency and enhanced public safety. Eliminating needless data management and creating a reliable source of address information will make the system more efficient and improve the delivery of services. Eliminating address ambiguity and providing locations to first responders, even when they are dispatched to locations without assigned addresses, will help advance public safety. EAS must deal with complexities caused by the multiple business systems that collect, maintain, and use addresses. These complexities include different classes of addresses, different types and representations of addresses, and the challenge of maintaining data integrity.

  • Classes of Addresses—There are three classes of addresses: situs, mailing, and geographic. Each differs in structure and application, and some addresses can be in more than one class. Situs addresses typically have known locations on the ground (e.g., a parcel, condo, utility feature). Mailing addresses can also be situs addresses but may also exist outside of the county. Geographic addresses have known locations based on coordinate values.
  • Types and Representations of Addresses—Situs addresses may be associated with multiple features on the ground and may be represented locationally in multiple ways (e.g., parcel centroid, driveway access, or building structure location). Most situs addresses must also be represented in an address range format tied to street centerline geometry for geographic representation and geocoding purposes.
  • Maintaining Data Integrity—A major benefit of EAS is data integrity. Tabular and spatial referential integrity mechanisms are necessary. Situs address numbers and street names must be compliant with street centerline names and address ranges (both theoretical and actual).


EAS architecture consists of presentation, integration, application, and database tiers. It is strategic in nature because it supports and enhances, but does not drive, agency business systems. The central concept of this architecture is found in the integration tier, which will drive management, maintenance, and access to spatial and nonspatial address information.

SAS's ETL Server technology helps create a consistent, validated view of nonspatial address data by mediating among various business systems and cleansing, validating, and publishing enhanced data. ArcSDE is the primary technology to maintain, manage, and publish spatial data. Enhanced data can be pushed back into the originating business systems, published into an enterprise repository with a generic data model, or moved to a data mart to meet a specific business need.

The integration framework also provides a mechanism for Web and application services. ArcGIS Server technology can provide a set of standard spatial analytics such as location referencing, discovery and extraction, validation, and reporting. Where appropriate, ArcGIS Server can also provide explicit spatial editing tools to support address maintenance.

The SAS Information Delivery Portal can provide a public view of spatial and nonspatial address data that is entirely Web based. Constituents, system subscribers, and municipalities can leverage the Information Delivery Portal for validation, reporting, and analytics. This technology also supports data capture to provide a feedback mechanism.

Strategic Value

Some key strategic aspects of this proposed architecture include abstracted functionality, transparency, augmentation, ubiquity, and Web accessibility.

  • Abstracted Functionality—This architecture is designed to abstract maintenance and publication of spatial and nonspatial data from operational and business systems. This design philosophy maximizes flexibility at an operational level and reduces obstructive dependencies.
  • Transparency—Integration and access to EAS so individual business systems can leverage reliable, consistent spatial, and nonspatial address information.
  • Augmentation—Stakeholders can augment the enterprise by verifying (i.e., ground truthing) address and related data. Individual business systems can leverage enhanced data, augmenting those systems at an operational level.
  • Ubiquity—This approach offers access for stakeholders and systems within and outside of a government.
  • Web Accessibility—Systems and users access data and application services through both traditional and Web-enabled mechanisms.

Case Study 2: Performance Management


In a large urban county in the Rust Belt in the United States, decreasing funds for operations have affected management and maintenance of the county road system. Road deterioration has been hastened by a lack of good information to support planning, repair, and maintenance. The information systems supporting roads management are old and decentralized, making it difficult for decision makers to triage repairs.

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Conceptual architecture of the Road Information Management System (RIMS)


A Road Information Management System (RIMS) project is an enterprise decision support solution. This system automates the full life cycle of road management by taking constituent complaints; creating work orders for repairs; planning for regular maintenance; managing equipment, staff, and inventory; and ensuring that costs are allocated to the appropriate funding source. Key components of this system are shown in the diagram above.

Strategic Value

The principal outcome of the RIMS project is the development of a system that improves both roads and infrastructure management. The county can establish acceptable levels of performance and, in turn, measure, report, and act upon results. Metrics may include complaint response times, inventory costs, and asset life cycles. This system will enable decision makers to understand how well roads are being managed against budget and work plans and in response to events. RIMS will help the county communicate its efforts, accomplishments, and plans to constituents. Constituent complaints will be tracked from intake to resolution with real-time constituent communication on status and planned resolution date.

One of the biggest challenges in road asset management is the allocation of costs against the myriad of federal, state, and local funding sources. This system will enable the use of activity-based costing to optimize reimbursement of county expenses. The analysis and reporting tools available will help the county collect all it is entitled to and find new sources for funding projects.

Decision support tools will help the county better understand and optimize allocation of resources to priority projects. Analytical tools will enable the county to perform predicative modeling to understand the useful life of various road surfaces based on traffic patterns and preventive maintenance alternatives.


The Fifth Dimension of GIS—spatially enabling business and analytic intelligence—extends existing concepts of enterprise, interoperability, and integration and creates new value for government by leveraging the power of place and analytics in support of fact-based decision making, science, governance, and operation.

About the Author

William S. Holland is a principal, cofounder, and chief executive officer of GeoAnalytics, Inc. He is regarded as an industry expert in the organizational, legal, economic, policy, and administrative aspects of GIS implementation. Prior to cofounding GeoAnalytics, he was the first executive director of the state of Wisconsin Land Information Board and was responsible for implementing the nation's premier program for the coordinated development of integrated geographic and land information systems across local, state, and federal agencies. He is a past president and board member of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) and provided leadership in its development and formulation of key policy instruments underlying the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. He is currently a member of the National Research Council Committee on Licensing Geographic Data and Services.

Resource ManagementManagers can track time, equipment, and material resources utilized in the maintenance of the county road infrastructure.
Complaint and Work Order ManagementThis supports the overall work flow and publishes status to constituents via a Web interface.
Financial ManagementManagers can more accurately track and account for expenses through integration with the county's accounting and personnel timekeeping systems.
Asset ManagementThis enables modeling trends, establishes benchmarks, and models future expenditures in what-if scenarios to assist in the inventory and management of road-related assets.
Mobile Asset ManagementAVL technology tracks work and dispatch crews using a Web-based application built on the county's enterprise GIS.
Wireless and Mobile ComputingTools and data are delivered in real time to staff in the field via a secure, wireless, virtual private network (VPN).
Performance Management and ReportingStaff at all levels have access to key information using standard reporting and a Web-based "dashboard" of maps, status, and performance. This dashboard can be structured to define appropriate information for different levels of decision making.

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