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Archive for December, 2018

Finding data via ArcGIS Hubs around the world

December 24, 2018 Leave a comment

To date, over 10,000 open data sites have been published by governments all over the world using ArcGIS Hub technology, as described here.  I recently wrote about how to use the ArcGIS Hub open data portal to search for and find geospatial data.  This story map is another way to find data, because it lists and provides access to some of these hubs.  The story map shows 1,500 sites created in 2017, so while only a fraction of the total, the map provides an excellent way to browse and find spatial data.  I used it recently to easily find transportation spatial data in Victoria, Australia, for example, for the purpose of constructing a GIS lesson around.

Equally important as accessing the data is that the story map raises the important point that the open spatial data movement is more than just about sharing data.  As we have written about extensively in this blog, the open spatial data movement is a reflection of the transformation that GIS is bringing in the way government, private, and nonprofit organizations work.  This increased collaboration between departments and engagement with citizens is a long-term and oft-difficult effort, but is resulting in increased efficiency, and yes, in data access for all.

Try this story map as a way to discover spatial data, particularly by region, and I think you will find it to be a useful tool.  For more information and background on ArcGIS Hub, see this essay by my colleague Andrew Turner.

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Hubs around the world story map.  This map provides a description and access to dozens of data sets served via ArcGIS Hub portal technology.

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Quality Matters…

December 17, 2018 Leave a comment

When Apple Maps was launched six years ago it was not a resounding success, by any measure. Although much of the criticism levelled at Apple focussed on the application interface and the lack of some keys features Google Maps users took for granted, for many the main issue was the quality of the map data. Apple Maps was originally delivered on a platform of third party map data, including TomTom and OpenStreetMap, with the majority of the satellite imagery sourced from DigitalGlobe. In response to the criticism, Apple vowed to do better and set off on a mission to improve the application and challenge the dominance of Google Maps.

Many application upgrades later, the map data is still not considered to be of the same quality as Google Maps. For example, zoom into a location in Queens, New York and compare the quality and range of information reported for local transport services in Google Maps compared to the same site and services reported in Apple Maps. Both Apple and Google Maps provide the number of the bus service using a particular stop but Google Maps provides more … street view data to visualise (and confirm) the location of the bus stop and better integration of supplementary traffic and transport service information. 

Queens, New York – Google Maps

The same bus stop in Apple Maps is shown at a slightly different location (further to the east along 48th Ave) and lacks the integrated street view. 

Queens, New York – Apple Maps

All that is set to change with an ambitious plan from Apple to rebuild their map data platform (see reports in TechCrunch and Medium). Taking a leaf out of the Google handbook on data collection, Apple have invested in specially equipped vans and drones, decked out with GPS, LiDAR, high resolution cameras and other data capture tools. In addition, Apple is also generating map information from anonymised iOS device data, adopting a strict ‘privacy-by-design’ methodology, to improve road network and pedestrian traffic information. 

The new in-house Apple Maps service has been available on a limited basis in California, USA for a few months now and there are plans to roll the service out to the whole USA over the next year. No word yet on when it will be available further afield.

Finding Data on ArcGIS Hub Open Data Portal

December 10, 2018 Leave a comment

The ArcGIS Hub Open Data Portal  has in a short period of time become a very useful means by which geospatial data can be searched, found, and used.   I believe that there are two main reasons why:  The ArcGIS Hub (1) allows organizations to easily host their own data, and (2) provides an easy to use but powerful set of tools for users to find data.  At the time of this writing, nearly 111,000 data sets were linked to the ArcGIS Hub Open Data Portal from nearly 6,000 organizations worldwide.

In keeping with the theme of our book and this blog, pay close attention to each of the data sets listed here that you are interested in using, and make sure you understand the usage restrictions, if any.  Not all data sets listed are necessarily “open” for any conceivable use, so again, understand the licensing and usage for your desired data set.

One advantage to using the ArcGIS Hub Open Data Portal from the user’s perspective is its simple layout (Figure 1):  The user is presented with a search category box along with a location box; i.e. “near <location x>.”  This surprisingly straightforward interface reminds me of how simple I found Google search to be nearly 20 years ago after years of using WebCrawler, AltaVista, and other search engines.

My education outreach team recently used the ArcGIS Hub in an educational context, in our Esri MOOC entitled “Do It Yourself Geo-Apps”.  In the MOOC, we had participants leverage open data to build web apps using Washington D.C.’s Vision Zero Safety data to help people learn more about pedestrian and bicyclist safety within the community. Specifically, students in the course searched and found data on commuting in Washington DC, downloaded the data as a shapefile, and uploaded it to their ArcGIS Online account (Figure 2) and began analyzing it.

An alternative workflow becoming rapidly adopted, as we have documented in this blog, rather than download and upload, is to obtain the link for the data as a REST endpoint and add it directly into a working session in ArcGIS Online, from which analysis tools can be run.  To do this using the ArcGIS Hub, use the APIs link on the right side after you find your desired data set, with one modification:  The GeoService full dataset are often tagged with a query statement.  For example, the Michigan hydrography polygons are listed as:  https://gisago.mcgi.state.mi.us/arcgis/rest/services/OpenData/hydro/MapServer/17/query?outFields=*&where=1%3D1.  To view the data in ArcGIS Online, remove everything after MapServer/, as shown in Figure 3.

Another fascinating feature in that same right-hand zone on the metadata results page is “create story map”, which, as the name implies gets you started right away creating and displaying the data in a story map (Figure 4) – in my case, a map series story map.  From this point, you could add additional layers, audio, video, photographs, and narrative to this same story map.

It is understandable with any open portal such as this, with contributions from a wide variety of organizations, that some challenges will exist.  From the perspective of the data user, one of those current challenges is finding results to searches on medium sized polygon areas, such as “Colorado” or “Platte River drainage”.   However, in the above Washington DC example, even if you did not know the term “Vision Zero”, a search on bicycle safety near Washington DC would provide you the result you are seeking.  The data extent for the Washington DC Vision Zero covered the entire North Atlantic Ocean, but that’s no doubt the result of an improperly encoded data point.

There is much more to ArcGIS Hub than this open data portal.  ArcGIS Hub includes community engagement tools such as event management, comment management, engagement dashboards, and initiatives.  One of the most appealing things about the ArcGIS Hub is that if you have an ArcGIS Online subscription, you can share your own authoritative open data with ArcGIS Hub.  By using your existing ArcGIS Online groups to identify data to share, you can set up public-facing websites for people to easily find and download your data in a variety of open formats. Your open datasets are connected to the source and are automatically updated.   I highly recommend spending time with the ArcGIS Hub, beginning with the open data portal.

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Figure 1.  ArcGIS Hub Open Data interface, a very useful tool for finding geospatial data. 

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Figure 2.  Vision Zero safety data for Washington DC from the ArcGIS Hub streamed into ArcGIS Online. hub2

Figure 3.  Michigan hydrography data from the ArcGIS Hub streamed into ArcGIS Online.

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Figure 4.  Story map from Michigan hydrography polygons.