Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Share Open Datasets Using theMapCloud
January 26th, 2018 by Susan Smith
Recently, Scottish Geographic Information Systems (GIS) company thinkWhere announced the launch of a new cloud-based platform for GIS and geographic data, theMapCloud. theMapCloud allows maps, open data and business records to be accessed anytime, and anywhere, through a web-connected computer or mobile device. Using standard web browsers, users can view, retrieve and share maps, geographic data and other open datasets and, as well as providing a platform for GIS and other web applications, theMapCloud can be used for a host of data services and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.
According to company materials, theMapCloud is initially offered with fully managed datasets from publishers such as Ordnance Survey and OpenStreetMap along with a selection of other open datasets. Designed using the latest cloud and open source technologies, the platform provides a truly flexible, secure, scalable, resilient and high performance solution for serving geographic data and applications.
In an interview with thinkWhere CEO Alan Moore, we discussed features of the innovative thinkWhere the MapCloud.
AECCafe Voice: How are digital maps and geographic data made readily available and “released,” as it were, from their formats and structures with theMapCloud Platform?
GIS data files (e.g. shapefiles) are loaded and styled on theMapCloud and published out as OGC compliant web services for wider sharing and consumption. Customers have a URL and unique token to then use their online data services. We also provide the underlying managed data services for Ordnance Survey or OpenStreetMap digital mapping as well as a rich catalogue of open datasets covering the natural and built environment that a customer can use to enrich their own data services.
AECCafe Voice: As part of theMapCloud Platform, can users use it to interact with the data if they have other web applications, i.e. markup, make comments, changes, etc. on the maps?
Typically, customers will then consume their data service in a web/desktop GIS or another business system. The capabilities to then redline, markup or annotate will be provided by the application. We also design and build web applications for our clients, which will consume and use their data services from theMapCloud and will provide a richer set of functionality. We are looking at commoditising these common value added services as future service components on theMapCloud.
AECCafe Voice: What kinds of mapping applications can be built on theMapCloud’s Platform?
Wide and varied. Although we have only just launched theMapCloud, we have built a geospatial data viewer, with split screen capabilities, for the British Library; a Disaster Management Information System for People in Need in Cambodia, our own eCommerce portal to purchase digital map data (mapTrunk), and we built the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Tasking Manager in theMapCloud. The core principle is that we have a cloud-native, service-oriented technical architecture, which provides the flexibility to develop a range of mapping applications.
AECCafe Voice: Who are the primary users of theMapCloud Platform?
At present, we have users in local and central government across Scotland, users in Legal Deposit Libraries across the UK and we also stream data services from theMapCloud into our other business applications (Location Centre and groundMapper) which are used by thousands of local and central government users across the UK as well as commercially by land, property and estate managers.
theMapCloud has been developed over the last two years in association with a number of key users in the UK and the USA. Besides the Scottish government, other adopters include the British Library, US-based Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and the humanitarian NGO, People In Need.
AECCafe Voice: As theMapCloud has been adopted successfully by the Scottish government, what types of implementations have they and others done with it?
Scottish Government are the lead organisation for the One Scotland Mapping Agreement (OSMA), which provides access to all Ordnance Survey (OS) open and commercial mapping products for c.130 different public sector bodies across the whole of Scotland. We provide online data services for all these OS products and make these available to all 130 public bodies. The services are then typically used on public facing websites e.g. the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency http://map.sepa.org.uk/floodmap/map.htm or internally to feed their corporate GIS systems etc.
AECCafe Voice: What kinds of software applications and services does thinkWhere offer for the organizations to migrate to hosted solutions using theMapCloud?
We provide a range of professional consultancy services to advise on migrating to theMapCloud including business analysis to determine the cloud GIS strategy and migration plan that covers the technical, data, process and people elements involved in a successful and sustainable migration. We use a range of open source geoprocessing and productivity tools to assist clients migrating their data. We also provide training, technical support plans and a service desk to ensure clients have the optimal support for their use of theMapCloud.
AECCafe Voice: What are some examples of workflows users may implement using theMapCloud?
Further to the use of theMapCloud mapping on public facing websites such as the SEPA Flood Map and The Scottish Government Heat Map (http://heatmap.scotland.gov.uk/), Scottish public bodies are also using theMapCloud’s web feature services for Voluntary Land Registration to accurately capture land title boundaries for submission to the Land Register of Scotland.
The British Library use theMapCloud for the preservation and dissemination of UK published spatial data. This workflow includes a bespoke strategic data ingest into their internal preservation system; taking raw data from theMapCloud and transforming this into specific preservation formats for secure delivery over the web. The workflow continues with the creation and storage of bibliographic metadata records upon theMapCloud and finally delivery of the mapping data to library users via the bespoke application viewer sitting upon theMapCloud platform.
AECCafe Voice: Tell me more about thinkWhere’s mapTrunk and how that is built upon theMapCloud.
mapTrunk is one of thinkWhere’s own applications running from theMapCloud, offering an intuitive, easy to use, online e-commerce data store for purchasing Ordnance Survey MasterMap data – see www.maptrunk.com
theMapCloud has been developed for organisations that require better access to, and easier sharing of, geographic datasets. At the moment, digital maps and geographic data are held in a wide range of formats and structures across different stakeholders making it difficult to share the information easily. It is therefore an ideal solution for government, local government, infrastructure companies, map publishers and utilities. thinkWhere also offers a range of software applications and services to help organisations successfully migrate to hosted solutions using theMapCloud.
thinkWhere has also utilised theMapCloud for their own ecommerce data store. Called mapTrunk, it is an intuitive web service for purchasing OS MasterMap and is an example of the type of mapping application which can be built upon theMapCloud. The company now also provides the data services for their web GIS products, Location Centre and groundMapper, directly from theMapCloud platform. Looking ahead, the company will continue to enrich the range of geographic and digital map data available on theMapCloud as well as provide an extending range of data, analytics and software services.