Mapmechanics cuts map creation time to minutes for property agent Christie & Co

I can’t remember any other project that was delivered on time and on budget with so few problems

Tim Moxon, Christie’s IT director

automated map generation system developed by MapmechanicsAn automated map generation system developed by Mapmechanics for leading property agent and valuer Christie & Co has reduced a task that previously took hours or even days to a matter of minutes. The system has also provided Christie with an enhanced resource for doing map-based analysis on the properties it handles. According to the company’s IT director, Tim Moxon: “It takes our mapping capability to a new level.”

Mapmechanics is one of Britain’s leading specialists in digital map data and software for displaying and analysing maps. The company collates, prepares and distributes mapping from numerous sources, and provides a bespoke software development service for clients needing special map-related software functionality. It is also the UK distributor of the widely-used Geoconcept geographic information systems (GIS).

Christie & Co deals with a wide range of property types, with special emphasis on retail shops, hotels and restaurants, public houses and healthcare facilities. When a Christie agent takes an instruction on a new property or portfolio of properties, then in a similar way to a conventional estate agent the company produces a map showing the premises in relation to the surrounding area. This is circulated in print and digitally as part of the package of information available to potential buyers.

“In the past,” says Tim Moxon, “this task was handled by a single designated member of staff, who had to enter the coordinates of the premises and other details into a mapping system manually, and then send the resultant map by email to the person requesting it.”

He adds: “She had to deal with requests from all 16 of the company’s UK offices, and inevitably some requests took a day or more to complete. If she was away from work, a backlog could build up. It was far from ideal.”

The company therefore approached Mapmechanics with a request to build an automated mapping system; and the resultant system is now in use throughout the country.

Agents now simply enter details of the premises into the company’s IBIS management system on their local computer, and the request is passed automatically via the web to the company’s centralised Geoconcept GIS. The new module developed by Mapmechanics then produces appropriate maps automatically.

Historically, the company would consider the environment around the property in question to determine it was urban, semi-rural or rural in character. In towns and cities it would produce a street map, whereas in on the outskirts of towns or in the country it would create smaller-scale maps showing the location in relation to neighbouring towns and villages or other landmarks.

The new Mapmechanics system automatically generates all three types of map, using output scales of 1:300,000, 1:80,000 and 1:3000, giving agents a choice of which to use. “In some cases they might use more than one,” Tim Moxon says.

He adds: “The best part is that no matter how busy our system is, the maps always come back within fifteen minutes. It can deal with ten map requests as quickly as two.” In addition, he says, users can now order up a map on an ad hoc basis.

Using this expanded mapping resource in conjunction with demographic data, Christie can now also perform much more complex map-related analysis than before. “For instance, we might want to generate a heat map showing the values of houses around a property in graphical form,” Tim says, “or a map showing the affluence rating or population breakdown of the area.”

Mapmechanics originally supplied the Geoconcept GIS used by Christie & Co, and has now supplied a range of digital map data for this project, including two composite datasets of its own – ForGIS unit postcode points UK, and ForGIS sector, district and area boundaries UK. Also included are OS Vectormap local colour raster GB mapping and OS Boundary line GB mapping. Finally a 1:1 million vector and raster map dataset of Europe is used for consultancy and analysis on the Continent.

The use of vector (scaleable) maps allows the software to generate one-off maps at the various different scales required by Christie. They are output as raster (image) maps in standard JPEG format, which reproduce well both on screen and in print.

Tim Moxon says he was impressed by the willingness of the Mapmechanics team to spend time discussing the requirements in detail. The investment paid off, he says. “In my twenty-seven years in IT, I can’t remember any other project that was delivered on time and on budget with so few problems.

The system now simply sits there and does the job. We couldn’t ask for more.