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Posts Tagged ‘ESRI’

The new Northwest Maps website sets a new standard for municipal information services.

October 11th, 2011 admin No comments

For the past 15 years, delivery of location-based community information has been fragmented across departments and delivered through archaic and inconsistent user interfaces. In short, user needs and their experience weren’t considered so much. Over the past year, we’ve had a chance to work with the eCityGov alliance to create a new information service that was focused on the end user and how they could efficiently access the information they need.

The new NWMap.net landing page

We are very proud of the new NWMaps.net, launched this past June. It takes the best conventions of web-design and provides an efficient means to access a plethora of community information from property-based information to community demographics, from environmental resource information to commercial property listings. NWMaps.net is a one-stop shop for the citizens living in the central Puget Sound Region.

Based on ESRI’s ArcGIS Server and Javascript API,  NWMaps.net starts with a data schema common across the member cities and an aggregation/validation process scripted in python that unites each city’s data into a common database.

The application has a true service oriented architecture that not only incorporates web map services, but mashes in several other web services (permits, parks and commercial property listings) from third-party sources. This architecture not only allows for extensibility when other data come online, it also provides a means by which the data and services can be exploited directly via their REST endpoints by other applications.

The real advantage of NWMaps comes from the user experience it provides. Site layout is simple. There is a Home page, a Results page and a Map view Page. The home page provides a single search box that will accept addresses, place names or parcel numbers. As far as we know, this is the first time this kind of custom search has been provided. We think it responds to users’ expectations for a Google-like search experience, including type-ahead suggestions and search criteria disambiguation.

Flexible search via a single box

In addition to the flexible parameters, users can pre-select the composition of their results by choosing a “Quick Search” option. If one is selected, related themes are promoted on the results page, putting the specifics they are looking for front and center.

Construction Activity Quick Search at NWMaps.net

Quick searches allow users to focus their results

While the information accessible to the user is voluminous, we did not want to overwhelm them with pages and pages of results, so each result topic is contained in a results panel, collapsed by default. While the information is initially hidden, feedback on the number of results is given (where relevant) on the results bar.

Results grouped by theme

While the name of the site is NWMaps, the map doesn’t dominate the experience… unless the user wants it to. In the normal site flow, the user enters a search on the home page and once taken to the results page is presented with a set of “map snapshots” that give the user map-based visualizations of information within the immediate vicinity of their search result. If the user wants to have a “traditional” web map experience, they can go directly to the map view which incorporates both the unified search and a set of map tools that support a variety of specialized tasks.

The Map View page and specialized tools

This post is already getting long, but there is a lot more to share about the NWMaps.net which I’ll include in a follow up post. In the meantime, Check out the new NWMaps.net, we think it’s pretty cool.

African Ecosystems:Clip, Zip & Ship

November 11th, 2010 admin No comments

When we first started work on the Ecosystems application we had just a few goals in mind
a) Highlight the new Ecosystems data recently made available from the USGS.
b) Make the data as simple as possible to download.
c) Kick the tires of ArcGIS Server for serving very large raster data sets from the central office in Kenya.

We started with the core Ecosystems data but quickly expanded to include additional agricultural and infrastructure data such as Google Map Maker Roads and Open Street Map roads for sub-Saharan Africa. We ended up with over thirty gigabtyes of spatial data (both raster and vector) stored across multiple file and SDE geodatabases.
The site uses a combination of custom python scripts in conjunction with the ESRI ArcGIS Server 9.3.1 javascript API. Downloading data is as simple as selecting one or multiple layers, entering an e-mail address and defining an area on the map. Because of the large file sizes the defined areas are limited to about the size of Mali.  The system sends the user an e-mail with a download link to the server at RCMRD (Regional Center for Mapping Resources for Development) in Kenya. The downloads include an ArcGIS MXD,  the basic metadata and in some cases a data license.

The biggest challenge during the development process was probably physically moving the data, in the form of file geodatabases, to Africa. The ten hour time difference between Seattle and Nairobi didn’t help either. Another on-going problem is the frequent power outages in Nairobi which routinely break the connection between the application server and database server. A new uninterruptible power supply should be on-line soon.

In the near future we hope to support additional non-ESRI download formats. We will also be increasing the number of data sources from RCMRDs vast catalog of African spatial data. A huge thanks to the data providers including as the USGS, Open Street Map, Google for all the content. And a huge thanks the local team at RCMRD and the SERVIR program for making this all come together.

Categories: SpatialDev Tags: , , , ,

SpatialDev & ECityGov.Net

September 15th, 2010 admin No comments

We are pleased to announce that SpatialDev has been selected to parter with the eCityGov Alliance to develop the next generation NWMaps.net GIS Internet Mapping Platform and Portal. The current site – in service to 10 communities now for over eight years – needs some repairs, data updates and a technology overhaul. The primary goal of the project is to create citizen-facing information services and assembling a new and improved base map.

The SpatialDev team is doubly excited because this announcement comes as we mark one year as a company.

In the coming months we will be working closely with the eCityGov Alliance to define new and innovative approaches to serving location-based municipal information. The new NWMaps.net will also integrate more seamlessly with other eCityGov services such as property and permit information. Ultimately, the project will provide an intuitive and user-friendly website for all seeking information about their community to make decisions affecting their families and business.

Categories: SpatialDev Tags: , , , ,

Our work with AGCommons.org

June 30th, 2010 admin No comments

Today SpatialDev wrapped up its work with the AGCommons program. For those who aren’t familiar with the program it is an initiative to accelerate farmer productivity in sub-Saharan Africa by delivering more locationally relevant, accurate and timely information to small holder farmers. Essentially delivering location based agricultural information to some of the hardest to reach people on the planet.

Several members of our team has been working on this in conjunction with the CGIAR for over two years. From helping to forming the original concept with the Gates Foundation and ITC to delivering GIS and mapping technology to sub-Saharan Africa. The program direction ended as something completely different from what we started with but our team was still able to deliver a hybrid GeoServer & ArcGIS Server both sitting on PostGIS and hosted in the Amazon cloud. Along the way used Maps-On-A-Stick from the DevelopmentSeed, a GeoNetwork portal and DotGo & FrontlineSMS to build SMS interfaces to the spatial data.  We we’re also able to directly meet hundreds of stakeholders including farmers, agricultural extension agents, NGOs and researchers across both East and West Africa.  We hosted the first ever WhereCamp outside of the United States and had a great time.

The team decided mid way through the project that hosting and running everything from the United States and Europe made little sense and was ultimately not sustainable. Eventually we decided to set up a Kenyan based company to maintain the technology and build the program going forward. I’m happy to say that company is now in place and open for business in Africa as AGCommons.org.