GeoAfrika Technologies is a leading geographic information system (GIS) company with a focus on both geospatial solutions and application (app) development.

IMIESA speaks to managing director Chris Carter about the geospatial industry.

What sets your company apart?

CC  As GeoAfrika, we provide a broad range of professional services and products within the built environment arena, using the world’s best available technologies. Geography, science, engineering and property law combine to deliver a unique value proposition and a single point of contact for our clients.

From a GIS standpoint, we are creators, recorders and providers of information, as well as users and consumers of this information. In turn, as specialist geospatial experts, we’ve led for over 40 years, and have always been progressive when it comes to technology. For example, we’ve been capturing, measuring, modelling and recording information in the two- and three-dimensional (3D) space from inception.

Overall, our core strength is in providing appropriate solutions tailored to the needs of the client. These could be systems-driven requirements and/or a requirement for high data quality and accuracy. Essentially, we create simplicity within complexity and that invariably requires us to develop bespoke solutions. It’s an area in which we have considerable expertise. This also allows us to deliver appropriate detail at different levels, depending on the audience.

Advancements in drone mapping, as well as the use of laser scanners for internal and external building surveys, have greatly enhanced the tools used by geospatial practitioners.

What hasn’t changed in the survey profession?

The baseline skills required to survey to prescribed millimetre, centimetre or decimetre accuracies, depending on the project requirements, remain the same. However, the tools of the trade have improved significantly – a prime example being in the field of drone mapping, as well as the use of laser scanners for internal and external building surveys. 

How is GIS evolving?

GIS has evolved exponentially over the past decade, providing even greater precision and certainty when it comes to data analysis. In our field, we define the value of GIS data according to the three Cs, namely: Completeness, Coordinate Accuracy and Currency. Keeping data up to date is essential.

Major advances in information technology (IT) and computing power enable us to model and manipulate big data at unprecedented speeds. Cloud platforms, in turn, allow us to secure, update and share data with our client and their professional team.

What are key benefits of your bespoke apps?

Apps are designed to focus on a specific aspect of a business. A simple example would be the monitoring of streetlight functioning within a town or city. They are relatively quick to develop and can be updated 24/7. The benefits are immediate.

Within the public sector, for example, ‘eyes on the ground’ provide near-real-time reporting and verification of critical information required for municipal asset registers. Traditionally, municipal asset registers need to be updated annually. Using our apps, they can now be updated continuously. Within the construction space, the same applies to work in progress from a bill of quantities perspective.

Advancements in drone mapping, as well as the use of laser scanners for internal and external building surveys, have greatly enhanced the tools used by geospatial practitioners.

What are the typical requirements for app implementation?

Completing a user requirement analysis (URA) at inception is the starting point. That will determine the level of investment and sophistication. A URA ensures that client expectations are managed up front, before development starts, for the best possible outcome.

We have some simple, standardised apps that require little if any customisation. Examples are apps we’ve developed for asset management.

Bespoke apps follow a systems approach. They evolve in complexity as clients request additional functionality. Also, apps don’t function in isolation. The intention is that they interconnect with other IT processes.

How does your organization leverage the advantages of geospatial data?

The immediacy of GIS data is great, but that’s only the starting point. Within our group, there’s an interconnecting team of legal property experts, environmental and town planning professionals, and specialists in cadastral and engineering surveying, who work together to successfully execute infrastructure roll-outs and property developments.

Accurate information is an asset. For this reason, we emphasise the importance of data workflow maintenance to support current and future decision-making processes.

How do these solutions positively influence smart city developments?

It all starts with collecting the right data sets. The refocus and re-scrutiny of data is essential for mapping out future town planning models. Spatial accuracy and quality GIS data are central to all building and property development initiatives, roads, telecommunications, pipelines, water, sanitation, and allied services. Completeness of data is essential, but there are still major gaps in municipal infrastructure archives. Infrastructure data set gaps have major downside implications when it comes to decision-making.

What does PIMS offer?

Our Property Information Management System, or PIMS, enables users to view and query municipal property-related information from multiple departments via a single web portal.

PIMS is particularly popular with national and provincial roads agencies, where it’s highly effective in, for example, managing the complete property survey, acquisition and transfer process from start to finish.

PIMS is a very effective workflow system displaying both spatial and textual information. The system pulls information from a variety of sources. Examples include GIS-based cadastre data, title deeds, municipal financial data, building plan information, Surveyor-General diagrams and town planning registers.

How are your custom solutions helping to roll out key municipal services?

Our IT systems typically result in solutions as a service for our clients. Whether for those in the municipal space or in the private sector, the solution marries the products of our professional services work in a single web-based portal that is maintainable to ensure longevity and therefore provide ongoing returns on the investment made. More recently, mobile apps have added an additional dimension to these solutions by enabling our clients to interact with and maintain their data on the go.

Clients with a strong property focus – such as Msunduzi Municipality in Edendale, Sanral and private developments such as Palm Lakes
Estate – have immediate access to the status of every land parcel in their portfolio, with details such as land tenure and inspection statuses, sales stage within the workflow and commercial value details. The field inspection app, for example, will enable field inspectors to upload photographs and conduct property inspections to a pre-established schedule according to property type and risk – a latter example being illegal settlement.

Clients with a service infrastructure focus use the same technology to manage and maintain water and sewer networks, road infrastructure, road furniture and other fixed assets. We are seeing a similar demand from our facilities management clients to achieve tighter control over their movable assets.     

Importantly, and in closing, it’s essential to note that clients must ensure that they have the capacity in place to maintain and update their data investment.   

Key services

  • Software and system development
  • GIS consulting and enterprise
  • GIS implementation
  • GIS training
  • GIS web development and system hosting
  • Mass data capture (field and office), conversion and analysis
  • Project and programme management
  • Land audit, valuation and asset registers
  • Mobile app development

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