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Finding Data on ArcGIS Hub Open Data Portal

December 10, 2018 2 comments

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.