Wednesday, September 29, 2010

USGS map service gets rid of aerial image "mess"

As the WMS Song says (to the tune of the Beatles "Let it Be") -

"When I need aerial images, I've got to download some files
Oh, what a mess, WMS.
And that weird image format, doesn't load in my GIS
Oh, what a mess, WMS.
...Get rid of this mess, WMS"

USGS has taken this advice to heart and deployed a great web mapping service (WMS) that makes it easier for citizens to access the geographic data it produces and manages - especially aerial images. The map service is called the National Map Seamless Server and it's taking aerial image access to a new level.

The Seamless WMS provides orthoimagery (images processed to overlay on maps) of major U.S. urban areas, streets, bridges, buildings, sidewalks, streams and more at 3-inch, 6-inch, 1-foot, and 2.5-foot spatial resolutions. This means objects roughly these sizes are identifiable on the ground. Because of its detail - better than Bing or Yahoo! in the "Georgetown" area of DC above - the imagery can provide a critical tool for resource managers, city planners, emergency responders, open data digitizers and others. And it's served in an open standard interface (WMS) that's not controlled by any one organization or group like Google - so the official data can be shared all over the Net.

Overlayed on top of the High Resolution Orthoimagery WMS above are Roads from the USGS Framework Web Map and Feature Services - styled to provide an easy reference for Georgetown streets. The free spatial data infrastructure (SDI) platform Gaia is used for access and map display.

Yep, the USGS Seamless WMS helps "get rid of the mess"...

- Jeff

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gaia app simplifies geonames access

Access to consistent, reliable and local geographic names information is essential for understanding communities and geosocial dynamics. In many situations, geographic names provide one of the most important keys for referencing and accessing a variety of other information. Geonames databases, called Gazetteers, are an information resource for representing places, groups of people and cultures - and one of the best ways to share this resource with others is through online web services like the Web Feature Service - Gazetteer (WFS-G).

But if you think about the way technology is evolving there needs to be a kind of separation of usability from the standard web services like WFS-G. Think about iPhone apps - they're very focused software tools. You want to access news, you just open an app that goes to FoxNews (or whatever). Very focused tools reduce user operations to get what the user wants - and hide the underlying web services.

The prototype WFS-G Extender for Gaia is similar - very focused on a simple task - getting answers to questions from a WFS-G. All you need to do is click one button to access the WFS-G and get the information you need. You don't need to worry about complicated GIS layers - just click, click done.

For example, lets say you want to find "Universities" in a gazetteer. In response to your search multiple Gazetteer Features are returned from the Prototype WFS-G - and displayed in a user-friendly format as lists and notes - done. You can also exercise complex "Parent-Child" relationships in the WFS-G GMLsf schema to check if the geoname is part of a larger geosocial construct - like seeing that Los Angeles County is the "Parent" to the university above. You can also see that a more extensive set of geonames features were displayed as a WFS Layer in Gaia for reference, but most people will not want to see this geospatial information - they just want the answer to the question.

In future articles we'll look at how to update Geonames using the same simple approach. The Gaia WFS-G Extender is based on the Gaia Extenders API and CarbonTools PRO, and the Prototype WFS-G is provided by CubeWerx.

- Jeff

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The WMS Song

The WMS Song is an instant classic! Someone needs to post the lyrics...