Bridging Traditional Property Identification to Modern Technology

By | September 16, 2015

ECCMA Standard 1 – Vision or Version  –May 2015 – ECCMA Newsletter

By Elizabeth Green, Chair – ePROP

Natural identifiers enable straightforward resolution in the public domain and can assist in a number of use cases where information about property including its physical location is needed.  In the first of a three-part series, this article will discuss what Standard 1 is, what it is presently being used for and, what the goals for the future are.

Historically the description of a property was made through the use of natural markers, and while this is still in use today, a lot boundary is most commonly described by the coordinates of a polygon in a local coordinate system which is itself, at some point, referenced to the Earth’s coordinate system.

In most countries, the existence of a physical property is recorded through the registration of the legal description in a public registry—the land registry—maintained by the local legal jurisdiction. The index to the land registry is often used as an abbreviation of, or replacement for, a parcel’s legal description.

ECCMA Standard 1 provides a formula for creating unique identifiers for a specific locational point on the Earth – Property Natural Identifier Unit (PNIU) or a collection of points that represent a contiguous area of land, typically referred to as a “lot” – Property Natural Identifier Lot (PNIL).  These identifiers are defined as natural as they are self-described from their parts: latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.

These identifiers have been developed to support the wide-spread use of global-positioning technology in everything from smart phone applications for driving directions to the use of drones.

PNIU – This part of ECCMA 1 specifies requirements for identifying a unit space. The identifier is an encoding of the latitude, longitude, and floor (elevation) of the front door or egress of the unit space.  It can also be used for marking any component’s location such as utility box, a well, etc.

PNIL – This part of ECCMA-1 specifies a method for generating a PNIL from such a boundary representation. It also specifies the format for a controlled identifier (identifier that is arbitrarily assigned and are not based on intrinsic characteristics of a lot) and requirements for organizations that issue controlled identifiers.

The PNIL  is unique to a single property—the property fingerprint because it is derived from the actual physical boundaries of the parcel of land.  Any change in the property boundaries, such a division into two new parcels, would necessitate a new, different PNIL.  Beyond its value as a natural identifier, the PNIL is intended to be used to display the boundaries of a property in any geospatial enabled system.

The PNIL is not intended to replace any of the existing property identifiers but represents an opportunity to add a standard geospatially interpretable identifier that will make it easy to visualize the boundaries of a property in commonly available geospatial systems.  However, the eProp workgroup will seek to articulate a common format for expressing metes and bounds so that this classical method of naming boundaries in land records systems can be codified.