Open Data continues to make progress as manifested in data portals, organizations adopting it, and associated literature. Are private companies also involved in Open Data? Yes. As early as two years ago, we wrote about Esri’s initiatives in ArcGIS Open Data. Imagery and geospatial data company DigitalGlobe have created DigitalGlobe’s open data portal, as part of their efforts to provide “accurate high-resolution satellite imagery to support disaster recovery in the wake of large-scale natural disasters”. This includes pre-event imagery, post-event imagery and a crowdsourced damage assessment. Associated imagery and crowdsourcing layers are released into the public domain under a Creative Commons 4.0 license, allowing for rapid use and easy integration with existing humanitarian response technologies. For example, their imagery for areas affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 is available here.
On a related note, I have worked with DigitalGlobe staff for years on educational initiatives. They provided me with high resolution imagery for an area in Africa I was conducting a workshop in, and more recently with imagery in Southeast Asia that I needed in conjunction with helping Penn State prepare exercises for their GEOINT MOOC (Massive Open Online Course in Geointelligence). They have always been generous and wonderful to work with and I salute their Open Data Portal initiative. In the MOOC we also used their Tomnod crowdsourcing platform with great success and interest from the course participants.
In this blog and in our book, we have reviewed many geospatial data portals. One of the oldest and yet most useful of all regional or state portals is that of the Texas Natural Resources Information System, or TNRIS. Indeed, TNRIS predated digital spatial data, for it was founded in 1968, housing paper topographic and geologic maps and aerial photographs for years before hosting digital spatial data. TNRIS allows searches by county or by data theme. If one zooms in on a the statewide map with county boundaries, the familiar USGS 7.5-minute grid is displayed, from which one can download such data as digital raster graphics, elevation, wetlands, geology, and historical and current satellite imagery. Statewide themes include bathymetry, land cover, soils, census data, transportation, and many others. Metadata is not only available but it is conveniently packaged, and the site doesn’t burden the data user with needless frills and fancy ways to download–it is, in my view, what a data portal should be–with the ability to quickly go in and get what one needs, in a variety of formats.
As GIS technologies have evolved, the TNRIS portal has evolved as well. One of the most innovative and useful sections of their site is its online mapping services. Here, high resolution imagery (30 cm in many places), land cover, and other themes are hosted as ArcGIS services and OGC WMS services. The site conveniently enables the data user to preview the services on their website or to copy the URL for the service so that it may be used in ArcGIS Online. Therefore, not everything from TNRIS needs to be downloaded–a growing amount can be streamed.
Texas is an excellent location for other useful data portals as well: The General Land Office hosts data on habitat, minerals, oil and gas, and other themes. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality hosts data on air and water quality, toxic hazards, and other layers. Texas Parks and Wildlife hosts data on bays, ecosystems, trails, and wildlife management areas. And other gems exist, such as the railroads and other data hosted by Entergy on the Texas Site Selection Center.
A section of the Texas Natural Resources Information Systems geospatial data portal.