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Honduras in the Palm of Your Hand

Documenting property boundaries for both commercial and residential owners may seem like an easy and common task. However for most Honduran residents, the undertaking has been constrained by access, limiting owners’ ability to sell property, obtain loans or build credit. Building on its technological expertise, Ingenieria Gerencial, a nationally recognized survey and mapping firm, believes it has found an answer.

Precise coordinates from mobile mapping is helping build a national property inventory of the country of Honduras.

Using its wealth of experience in the fields of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), geographic information systems (GIS) and digital cartography, the company is building a national property inventory that directly supports transactional platforms. Using the vehicle-mounted Trimble® MX7 mobile mapping system, they are mapping every inch of the country, with an eye to delivering a continuously updated, highly accurate geographic database that includes every city, town and village.

Envisioning a National Inventory

The Republic of Honduras in Central America is about 112,492 square kilometers (43,433 square miles), roughly the size of Tennessee. It’s a heavily mountainous landscape that spans from the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. The country’s population currently is around 8 million, of which a large majority live near major cities, such as the Tegucigalpa (Capital) and the region of the Valley of Sula, which includes the cities of San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Lima, Progreso, Puerto Cortes, and others.

Daniel Corrales, Legal Advisor at Ingenieria Gerencial, explained, “Our mission is to develop a complete land inventory of the country that will become an essential tool for businesses and property owners alike.” 

When asked what prompted the program, Corrales explained, “By law, every property action—sell, donate, gift or even get a loan—requires the signature of a legal notary, who in turn needs georeferenced property boundaries, which in many cases, are difficult to find.”

“It's essential technology that will allow us to put Honduras in the palm of everyone’s hand.”

— Daniel Corrales, Legal Advisor, Ingenieria Gerencial

Much of Honduras is rural, with few walls, fences or even survey markers to demarcate property lines. Further adding to the challenge, the land has been handed down from generation to generation, often with little or no legal paperwork.

By taking advantage of advances in mobile mapping, Ingenieria Gerencial set out to develop a national property inventory as a way to make boundary information accessible.

The Data Collection Continuum

The national property inventory began with the vehicle-mounted Trimble MX7 mobile mapping system. The Trimble MX7 incorporates a panoramic camera and a Trimble Applanix GNSS and inertial geo-referencing system to quickly capture 360-degree, 30 megapixel geo-referenced images at highway speeds. For the national property inventory, Ingenieria Gerencial assigned seven MX7 units on seven different vehicles. These vehicles are constantly on the move, driving through communities around the country gathering detailed information about everything from roads to structures, including business names.

One of 7 constantly on-the-move vehicles equipped with an MX7 system.

As the data is gathered, it is automatically sent back to Ingenieria Gerencial headquarters for processing and then uploaded into the countrywide property mapping program. Currently, Ingenieria Gerencial updates the geographic data for all major cities (those with populations of over 700,000) every three months, while cities with populations of 300,000 are surveyed every 6-12 months. The rest of the country is updated at least annually. 

Corrales points out that without the MX7, such an undertaking would not have been possible. “The MX7 provides the right combination of speed, accuracy, and the ability to capture comprehensive information in a single operation,” he said. 

The collected data is downloaded and processed using Orbit Geospatial Technologies (Orbit GT) and Trimble Business Center (TBC). Orbit GT provides direct georeferencing of mobile mapping sensors, while TBC provides data management, visualization and computational tools. The georeferenced images are then uploaded to Esri where additional information and data can be added, all of which are integrated into the final inventory database. Of note, Ingenieria Gerencial is an Esri silver partner and a facilitator of Trimble GNSS and RTX solutions.

Leveraging Logistics

Currently, approximately 85% of the country is available via the Ingenieria Gerencial’s property inventory database, which includes streets, businesses, homes, power networks, etc. Analysts at the firm evaluate every detail of the MX7-derived data to document shops, restaurants, residences, manufacturing facilities and so on. It includes detailed information on the quality of every highway and road, information that has proven extremely valuable to the logistics sector. 

For instance, the company contracted with a concrete company that was looking to better manage its supply chains. Using the Ingenieria Gerencial platform, the customer can easily identify the best route to a destination, avoiding poorly maintained roads that can damage trucks and cause costly delays.

Ingenieria Gerencial also facilitates business relationships with major manufacturers and companies looking to identify points of interest and areas of potential sales, marketing and branding. For instance, contracted shops advertise their affiliation with various companies by placing a banner or sign on their window or door. 

“Through the MX7, we were able to provide a visual map of which stores display the banner,” said Corrales. “That map can save our customers considerable money as they would no longer need to physically visit all these shops for inspections.” 

Corrales noted that the MX7 is “essential technology that will allow us to put Honduras in the palm of your hand.” 

That ease-of-use and accuracy is particularly beneficial to homeowners and business owners because past hand surveys have been less than precise because of the old technology that was used. As shown in the figure below, the boundaries in red provided by old legal documentation are off from the actual property lines. That error could create issues with the neighboring homeowner in the future. 

The boundaries in red provided by old legal documentation are off from the actual property lines, shown in black.

Even more helpful to the owner, the Ingenieria Gerencial’s property inventory can break down a piece of property by structures as shown in the next graph. The precise coordinates are easily documented by simply clicking an area or position. 

An example of a property inventory, breaking down a piece of property by structures.

Banking On Success

Ingenieria Gerencial entered into a joint venture with two of Honduras’ largest banks to facilitate the use of the property inventory database. The partnership includes back-office support such as data security and inventory updates provided by Ingenieria Gerencial. The banking institutions see the database as a way to help homeowners determine accurate georeferenced property boundaries—and thereby qualify for loans or sell property. 

For Ingenieria Gerencial, the value of the countrywide land inventory solution, and the ability to update the digital details easily, accurately and quickly, has opened windows of opportunity outside Honduras. 

“As our partners have subsidiaries throughout Central America, there’s an opportunity to conduct similar mapping and build similar databases around the region,” Corrales added.

To continue its data-gathering efforts, Ingenieria Gerencial is already looking to purchase three more Trimble MX7 systems—a move that will be essential to the continued expansion of the national property inventory as well as projects in other regions of Central America.