August 12, 2008

Implementing GIS on the web and ArcGIS smashups

From last week's International ESRI User Conference - A recap of Implementing GIS on the web - In a presentation titled “Implementing GIS on the web”, Clint Brown provided a Tuesday AM wake-up discussion on what’s happening in the web world and what opportunities are being created. Brown reminded us that at Web 2.0, our second generation web tools and organized access to information has proliferated. The term mashups, is relatively new to the web world but old news to the us in the GIS space… we’ve been mashing up data forever! Keep in mind though, the web is the platform to build a mashup world. I enjoyed Clint's reference to GIS mashups as "Smashups".

Interesting [and accurately in my opinion], Brown conveyed how to the web community, and the bloggers, it’s not GIS but rather, it’s web mapping with the citizens as censors providing the content – citizen censors - and in the future everyone will contribute their own content and search will organize it. BUT, users require an authoritative information framework. A framework to:
Understand and exploit observations
Analyze observations.
Visualize what it means
Give observations meaning.

Addressing the geo tech professionals, Brown pointed out how "your role is about building and sharing a framework"... We need a framework, not just a list of layer.” Obviously, what Brown was referring to is the geodatabase (interesting to note, I head several times during the week that we need to move to the geodatabase rather than SHP files. Given the number of times this topic arose, many users are obviously content with layers of information stored as files (SHP) rather than jumping head-first into developing a geodatabase - a direction you are encouraged to move towards.

Recall though that everyone is talking about using Google maps and virtual earth… as a result, user expectations are changing. Most GIS apps will need to support this, particularly as the use expectations have changed. So, making your Geo information consumable on the web is important. Users want and need to build and serve: GIS apps, digital base maps, operational layers, tasks and tools in the GIS applications. As a result there are many application choices to deal with: ArcExplorer, mobile, web map, Javascript/Flex web apps (new at 9.3), or ArGIS desktop.

Brown was quick to point out that programming via the new Javascript API is so simple, “if you know html you can use this”. Ideal for simple implementations, easy to program (you can focus on your content), lightweight. Brown offers up the following tips for the developer:
- Once you chose your application, you design and select your basemap… one map for each scale, each map becomes a group layer in your ArcMap TOC.
- Build on exist framework like ArcGIS online, Google Microsoft, Other GIS depts.
- Be sure of the tiling scheme you select to use… e.g. A Virtual Earth basemap may be using a different coordinate system.
I found it interesting that we seem to be grappling with the same user issues (like various coordinate systems, datums, scales) that we frequently dealt with 10 yeas ago.
As a tip, see also planning a map cache in the ArcGIS online help resource center.


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