The State of Spatial Data Infrastructure
Geospatial web-based infrastructure, or the GeoWeb as it is known
today, created by the ability to exchange complex geodata through such
standards as GML(Geographic Markup Language) and KML(Keyhole Markup
Language), is a game changer in the way geodata are consumed,
analyzed, visualized, and distributed. The second annual GeoWeb
Conference, held in Vancouver July 25-27, 2007, is a testament to this
change. Galdos, a middleware company for next-generation GIS, teamed up
with GITA(Geospatial Information Technology Association) to co-host
Ron Lake, CEOof Galdos and developer of GML, has a vision for
powering the GeoWeb; Henry Rosales, Deputy Executive Director of GITA,
says that GITAmembers are looking for faster web-based solutions to
infrastructure (water, utilities, telecommunications, roads,
transportation, etc.) operational issues.
Together they attracted
approximately 200 decision makers from around the world, including such
industry leaders as Jack Dangermond, Founder and President of ESRI;
Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google;
Michael Jones, CTOof Google Earth; and Vincent Tao, Director Local
Search and Virtual Earth of Microsoft, to discuss the vision of
web-enabled GISand I/RS(Imaging/Remote Sensing).
This was first and foremost a software technology conference with a
focus on new consumer and business applications. Beyond the now
traditional 2Dweb presentation, there were innovations such as
multi-media integration of applications and video into a 3Dspatial
landscape. Leica Geosystems Geospatial Imaging demonstrated the power
of multi-media in geospatial sharing through Leica TITAN, an online
data-sharing solution including a Geospatial Instant Messenger (GeoIM)
and a 3DMyWorld. Amy Zeller, Visualization Product Manager for Leica
Geosystems, describes the GeoIM as "a geospatial data bridge" that
enables users (including government and commercial data providers,
GISdata clearinghouses, and city, county, state and federal agencies)
to access data from other users' geospatial data shares into any
application such as ArcMap, uDig, or Google Earth, and to communicate
real-time in Leica TITAN's 3Donline world environment.
Where the GeoIM provides other users with access to your data, the
Leica TITAN client allows users simply to present their geospatial
profile, including location-based content, to others in a 3DMyWorld.
Figure 1 illustrates the seamless communication enabled between users
with the GeoIM and the ability to access datasets shared by others. The
3Dglobe rotates to allow others to see your profile, including
geospatial data and content such as camera feeds, screenshots and
ancillary information. Figure 2 illustrates how users can rotate the
3Dglobe to switch among other users' 3DMyWorlds.
I/RSwas a backdrop to many of these new applications. In other
words, the I/RSimage increased in value and information to the user
based on the number of attributes overlaid onto that image. Some call
this ‘layering,' or in the Web2.0 world—the ‘spatial mashup.'
Traditionally, structured data is overlaid on images such as census
data, weather data, or economic data. Now, with such java script
extensions as GreaseMonkey and such geotagging software as MetaCarta,
unstructured information can be easily turned into structured
information, and customized maps can be generated on the web.
‘Expressive mapping,' coined by Mansoud Raad, Senior Architect for
ESRIArcWeb Services, is the future of analyzing and interpreting data.
Mr. Raad demonstrated several examples of expressive mapping, including
an interactive book that provides an overlay of more information with
each page turn, a multi-media map that incorporates sound and video
into the map, and the ability to map unstructured data such as news
events to determine a pattern of behavior, for example among extremists
and terrorists. Expressive mapping takes visualizing data, whether it's
business, political, social, or environmental, to an entirely different
level. With expressive mapping, the user determines the relevant inputs
and the visual presentation.
In the midst of Web 2.0 vendors, the surprising innovation in
I/RScame from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF). UAF is the
only arctic university in the United States and supports over 40
research institutes and centers that focus on issues affecting the
Arctic Region. Aclearinghouse was needed to manage the volumes of
geospatial data, in particular I/RSdata, consumed by these research
centers. Software applications did not exist to address the problem of
viewing imagery that crosses the dateline or that includes the North
Pole. UAF set out to solve two problems: cataloging all their remote
sensing data and then providing a service enabling users to select
geographically and to browse visually the imagery intersecting their
search region through an interactive browser-based tool. SwathViewer is
the visualization tool that emerged and was developed by the Geographic
Information Network of Alaska (GINA) to improve polar research.
SwathViewer provides near real-time images of 50-60 polar orbiting
satellite passes a day, compared to a six-to-eight hour delay if
visiting NASAor NOAAsites. This advantage became particularly critical
to the Alaska Fire Service, Bureau of Land Management, as they were
fighting forest fires in 2004, when forest fires burned 6,523,182 acres
across Alaska. The smoke was so thick that aircraft were unable to
launch, because there was no runway capable of recovering the aircraft
that was not completely socked in with smoke. Asatellite orbits the
earth about every 90 to 100 minutes, and with optical I/R, can see
fire, clouds and smoke. Massive smoke plumes can be seen over Alaska in
Figure 3 on page 11. With SwathViewer, the Alaska Fire Service was able
to browse imagery to monitor fire conditions until the smoke cleared
sufficiently to allow aircraft operations to resume two days later.
UAF is able to provide real-time data because it has its own ground
stations to receive the satellite feeds. "What different-iates
SwathViewer from other web-based mapping tools is that we are first to
get the imagery because of our ground stations, we are first to enhance
the imagery, and we are first in making it available to users through a
web-based lightweight viewer," said Kevin Engle, Research Programmer
and Ground Station Engineer for GINA.
automatically enhances the imagery to correct brightness and contrast
variations, producing incredible images. The SwathViewer datasets are
focused on Alaska and the polar region, but are not limited to viewing
only Alaska. Figure 4 illustrates the freshwater runoff from the
MacKenzie River in Canada into the blue Arctic Ocean waters. Global
datasets are available online or you can add your own by pointing
SwathViewer at a web mapping service (WMS) of your choice. "As a
publicly funded institution, UAF would like to make SwathViewer more
broadly available to the public and is looking for a partner to help
commercialize it and meet that objective," said Diane McLean,
University of Alaska IP Director.
The GeoWeb Conference presented many tools and few strategic
questions. Web 2.0, in its infancy, has found advertising as a means of
funding a number of tools that don't seem to solve a clear problem.
Instead, the problem to be solved appears to materialize once people
have access to new tools. As long as land and water, labor and capital
remain factors of production and are fundamental to food, shelter, and
safety, a map is a fundamental organizing principle. The GeoWeb,
including Digital Earth, presents an unprecedented opportunity to
integrate volumes of data into meaningful presentations that improve
decision making. Information and the ability to make better and faster
decisions is the competitive advantage of the future.
Editor’s Note Imaging Notes brought you the 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth in June (www.isde5.org ), a gathering similar to the GeoWeb Conference (www.geoweb2007.org ). An overview of The Digital Earth Symposium is in our September eNewsletter .
The web-based geospatial data infrastructure is here. Is the
enterprise ready for it? Web 2.0 and the GeoWeb present a challenge for
traditional enterprises and organizations that seek to control the flow
of information both internally and externally, and to control the tools
used by employees. Susan Ancel, General Manager, Network Services and
Operations for EPCORWater Services and past President of GITA,
acknowledged this tension in her closing remarks and left attendees
with the following strategic question: "How does an enterprise
integrate the new, innovative, off-the-shelf geospatial consumer
applications such as GoogleEarth and Microsoft Virtual Earth with
legacy enterprise GIS systems?"
- The OpenGIS Geography Markup Language (GML) Encoding Specification
is an XML encoding for the modeling, transport and storage of
geographic information, including the spatial and non-spatial
properties of geographic features.
- KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an
Earth browser, such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for
Mobile. KML uses a tag-based structure with nested elements and
attributes and is based on the XML standard.
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