Home > Public Domain Data > Using GeoSeer to find geospatial data

Using GeoSeer to find geospatial data

GeoSeer (https://www.geoseer.net) is a search engine for spatial data covering (at the time of this writing) over 1.2 million distinct spatial datasets from over 180,000 public OGC services (Web Map Services (WMS), Web Feature Services (WFS), Web Coverage Services (WCS), and Web Map Tile Services (WMTS)).

There are a huge number of OGC services online but they’re largely invisible. GeoSeer is designed to solve this “discoverability problem”, similar to how regular search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo find web pages, but GeoSeer is focused on OGC services.  In fact, I was originally drawn to GeoSeer because of their statement, “We created GeoSeer to solve a problem: it’s an absolute pain to find spatial data.”  Indeed, this was one driving force for our book and this blog!  Another thing that attracted me was its simple interface (see below), which reminded me, after years of using 37.com, Webcrawler, AltaVista, and other web search tools over the 1990s, the first time I saw the simple but powerful Google search interface.

The GeoSeer bot scrapes over 350 Open Data portals looking for OGC services to add to the index, including the ArcGIS Hub Open Data Portal [1], the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) Portal [2], and many others. By scraping all of these portals and combining all of the discovered services into a single search engine, GeoSeer makes it easy to find open and public spatial data.  One can search by bounding box, lat-long, and service type, as explained here.

For end users, the benefits are a much easier data discovery process, while for the data providers it improves uptake of services and data that would otherwise be invisible and unused.   GeoSeer also includes an API to allow organisations to use the search functionality in their own WebGIS or application, allowing non-expert users to easily find and use these services.  I also liked working with the map-based interface to find data (see below).

How do you obtain data once you have found it?   GeoSeer is designed to demonstrate how the API can be integrated into a webGIS. Rather than trying to be a full webGIS, it was created to demonstrate how smooth the entire search-add process can be for end-users with the API.  It is a search engine to data, but unlike some of the other resources we have reviewed here, itself does not contain data.  Data can be downloaded via WFS or WCS.  WFS are raw vector/Feature data, while WCS are raw raster/Coverage data. If data is WMS/WMTS, then what the user sees is a pre-rendered map only.  Some datasets are available via multiple services, which is why GeoSeer says “distinct” in its “1.2 million distinct spatial layers” statements.  A statistics page shows how many of each data type GeoSeer has in its index: https://www.geoseer.net/stats/

To properly interact with the resulting data, the user will need to load the data into a proper (web) GIS.  The simplest way to do that is to use the regular search, which for me was to search for trails along the Front Range of Colorado, which netted me this link to the Denver Regional Council of Governments page: https://www.geoseer.net/rl.php?ql=7aa26a5ae9fe3e4c.    Not all services findable on GeoSeer are available via WFS or WCS. For example, if my trails data service was only a WMS, I could not download the data.  At the top of my search results, I had two URLs: “WMS GetCapabilities URL” and “WFS GetCapabilities URL”. The WMS version gets me to the pre-rendered map, which is what I saw displayed on the GeoSeer map screen; and the WFS allowed me to download the raw vector data.

I invite you to give GeoSeer a try!

[1] – https://spatialreserves.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/finding-data-on-arcgis-hub-open-data-portal/

[2] – https://spatialreserves.wordpress.com/?s=geoss

geoseer_mapping_interface0

Search screen for GeoSeer. 

geoseer_mapping_interface

GeoSeer Mapping Interface.

With thanks to the GeoSeer team for technical assistance with this post.

–Joseph Kerski

 

 

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