Welcome to the Spatial Reserves blog.
The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data was written to provide GIS practitioners and instructors with the essential skills to find, acquire, format, and analyze public domain spatial data. Some of the themes discussed in the book include open data access and spatial law, the importance of metadata, the fee vs. free debate, data and national security, the efficacy of spatial data infrastructures, the impact of cloud computing and the emergence of the GIS-as-a-Service (GaaS) business model. Recent technological innovations have radically altered how both data users and data providers work with spatial information to help address a diverse range of social, economic and environmental issues.
This blog was established to follow up on some of these themes, promote a discussion of the issues raised, and host a copy of the exercises that accompany the book. This story board provides a brief description of the exercises.
One of the exercises in our book involves accessing Boulder County Colorado’s GIS site to make decisions about flood hazards. We chose Boulder County for this activity in large part because their data covers a wide variety of themes, is quite detailed, and is easy to download and use. Recently, Boulder County went even further, with the launch of their new geospatial open data platform. This development follows other essays we have written about in this blog about open data, such as the ENERGIC OD, ArcGIS Open Data, EPA flood risk, Australian national map initiative, and open data institute nodes. Other open data nodes are linked to a live web map on the ArcGIS Open Data site.
Accessible here, Boulder County’s open data platform expands the usability of the data, such as providing previews of the data in mapped form and in tabular form. The new platform allows for additional data themes to be accessed; such as the lakes and reservoirs, 2013 flood channel, floodplain, and streams and ditches, all accessible as a result from a search on “hydrography” below. Subsets of large data sets can also be accessed. In addition, the services for each data set are now provided, such as in GeoJSON and GeoService formats, which allows for the data to be streamed directly to such portals such as ArcGIS Online, and thus avoid downloading the data sets altogether.
Why did the county do this? Boulder County says they are “committed to ensuring that geospatial data is as open, discoverable and usable as possible in order to promote community engagement, stimulate innovation and increase productivity.” The county is providing an incredibly useful service to the community through their newest innovative efforts, and I congratulate them. I also hope that more government agencies follow their lead.
The DataPortals.org site, hosted by the Open Knowledge International organisation in conjunction with the LOD2 project, provides a comprehensive repository of over 500 open data portals. The registered portals, published by local, regional and national governments, international organisations and a number of Non Government Organisations (NGOs), provide access to a variety of spatial data sources including administrative boundaries, land use, economic activity and environmental indicators.
All data sets referenced by the DataPortals catalogue, including those that form part of a database collection, are published under the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication & Licence. The data sets are available to download in a variety of formats including .xls, JSON/GEOJSON and shapefile.
Did you know that the US Congress is increasing its use of web mapping tools in GIS? In one of these map collections from the US Congress, you can discover organizations who host maps and data. The themes of these maps include business locations, wildfires, hurricanes and current weather, public transportation, education, and many others. For education, these maps could be useful for discussions in political science, geography, biology, business, and in other disciplines, as well as access to data for courses that use GIS. To find out why the US Congress finds value in web mapping and GIS, read the excellent article that my colleague Lauren Lipovic recently wrote about how GIS is increasingly being used to inform and disseminate public policy. Also, see the government policy page from Esri for more case studies, maps, and data.
The Mapping for Congress Featured Set contains some maps on the above themes; the most compelling one in my opinion is the set for Senator Risch from Idaho, on wildland fire potential, brownfields development success stories, and other themes of interest to citizens of that state and to those living elsewhere. Another notable example from the Featured Set collection is this new map of Virginia state parks.
The Federal Agency Map Collection assembled by my colleague provides another excellent way of accessing more of these maps and data sets. This collection includes the Mapping for Congress Expanded Gallery. While some of the maps are applications that do not allow for streaming or downloading the data, GIS users with a bit of digging will find plenty of layers that they can use for analysis. And equally importantly, these data sets represent a trend that we noted in our book–with increasing use of web mapping tools such as Esri story maps and the ability to assemble these map galleries, decision makers are increasing their use of GIS and spatial analysis in their decision making, which is good news for all of us.
The Census Business Builder app and the Opportunity Project are two new tools from the US Census Bureau that make accessing and using data, and, we hope, making decisions from it, easier for the data analyst. Both of these applications are good representatives of the trend we noted in our book and in this blog— the effort by government agencies to make their data more user-friendly. While I would still like to see the Census Bureau address what I consider to be the still-cumbersome process of downloading and merging data from the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census with the TIGER GIS files, these two efforts represent a significant step in the right direction. While GIS users may still not be fully satisfied by these tools, the tools should expand the use of demographic, community, and business data by non-GIS users, which seems to be sites’ goal.
The Opportunity Project uses open data from the Census Bureau and from communities along with a Software Development Kit (SDK) to place information in the hands of decision makers. Because these decision makers are not likely to be familiar with how to conduct spatial analysis within a GIS, the appeal of this effort is for wiser decision making with the geographic perspective. A variety of projects are already on the site to spark ideas, including Streetwyze, GreatSchools, and Transit Analyst.
The Census Business Builder is a set of web based mapping services that provides selected demographic and economic data from the Census Bureau. You can use it to create customized maps and county and city level reports and charts. A small business edition presents data for a single type of business and geography at a time, while the regional analyst edition presents data for all sectors of the economy and for one or more counties at a time. These tools are based on Esri’s online mapping capabilities and offer some of the functionality of Esri’s Business Analyst Online. Give them a try and we look forward to your comments below.
Bruce Schneier, CTO of Resilient Systems and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, as well as the long time author of a blog and numerous books on security issues, wrote about a privacy concern from a source that may be unexpected to many of our readers–Samsung Television. The article points out that one of the company’s Internet-connected smart TVs offers a voice command that saves the viewer the work of finding the remote, pushing buttons, and scrolling through menus. However, enabling this feature requires the TV to listen to everything the viewer says. Yes, apparently “everything.”
The UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently announced the release of a LIDAR point cloud, the raw data used to generate a number of digital terrain models (DTMs) that were released last year. In addition to providing terrain models for flood modelling and coastline management, the LIDAR data have also been revealing much about long-buried Roman roads and buildings, such as the Vindolanda fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.
Environment Agency/Defra LIDAR data
The point cloud data have been released as part of the #OpenDefra project, which aims to make 8,000 datasets publicly available by mid 2016. The first release of point cloud data contains over 16,000 km 2 of survey data and is available to download from:
The data are licensed under version 3.0 of the Open Government Licence.
Understanding the legal aspects of GIS has always been important, going back to its inclusion in the GIS&T Body of Knowledge and earlier, but with cloud-based data and services, UAVs, and other trends and tools, it is more important than ever. A series of essays on spatial law and its relevance to geospatial professionals from the folks at the GIS Lounge provides an excellent resource to supplement our book and this blog.
In these three essays, Sangeeta Deogawanka defines spatial law and some areas that spatial law governs. She goes on to focus on remote sensing policies, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAVs and UASs), GPS, and touches on the implications of GIS in the cloud. She finishes by discussing how the purpose for gathering data can determine policies and regulations, including data capture, storage, use sharing, intellectual property rights, and privacy policies.
One of the resources provided at the end of the series is the site for the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy, of which we have high regard, and to which we referred recently when we wrote about photograph location privacy. Sangeeta also providees a useful link to 10 spatial laws and policies around the world.
What are your reactions to the relevance of spatial law to the geospatial profession and decision making?