Putting Victoria on the digital map

City of Victoria's new VicMap has 'tremendous potential' for future applications, say experts

Imagine walking past a construction site in downtown Victoria, pulling out your smartphone or iPad and immediately seeing what that same space looked like last year, a decade or even 100 years ago.

Now imagine panning your smartphone towards the sky and seeing exactly what that building will look like when it’s complete.

Thanks to VicMap, that app and hundreds of others could soon be a reality.

The City of Victoria’s new interactive, multi-layered online map takes massive caches of municipal data and puts them in one place, creating a one-stop shop for information that previously required a trip to City Hall.

From sewage lines to rezoning development applications to parks that allow off-leash dogs, VicMap is intended to simplify data for residents and businesses alike.

“There’s very basic targeted information like property tax (details) or garbage pick-up dates, but what this application does is it allows people to combine information to do some pretty neat things,” said Steve Myhill-Jones, CEO of Latitude Geographics, a Victoria-based IT company that built the program used by the city.

Zoning data can be combined with census and demographic information, for example, to determine the best location for a new grocery store, or the city could easily add the locations of voting stations during the next municipal election, Myhill-Jones said.

CloverPoint CEO Karl Swannie and his team specialize in using geospatial data to create easy-to-use visualized applications (for an impressive example, see Islands Trust’s MapIT application).

Swannie applauded the City of Victoria for getting much of its data online in one place – no small feat in a municipal environment.

“Building the application is almost the easier part, because you’ve got to get years of data together,” said James Fernandes, CloverPoint’s chief technology officer.

“Everything we do is all predicated on good data,” Swannie said. “If we get good data from our clients, then we can build amazing things.”

He holds up his iPad and pans it left and right, displaying a navigable 3-D model of the Victoria International Airport’s newest wing, which hasn’t yet been built.

The interface combines digital architectural drawings to create the feel of being in the space.

“We did a project like Google Street View but on the coast of Alaska, just in case there’s an oil spill, they’re going to know where to land crews,” he said.

Myhill-Jones praised the City of Victoria for developing a version of VicMap that works on smartphones and tablets, something many municipalities are slow to embrace.

“You can actually bring up property and zoning information on the go. It’s the first step, but there’s tremendous potential and I think we’ll see the city develop it,” he said.

To explore VicMap, visit victoria.ca/map.

dpalmer@vicnews.com