Collaboration and the Geospatial Semantic Web
A Geospatial Semantic Web: For the past decade, academic and industry technologists have been
laying the groundwork for an artificially intelligent World Wide Web. Inspired by Tim Berners-Lee,
inventor of the Web and current director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), this group of
individuals has established methods for representing not just words, but the meanings of words,
in a format that machines can understand. Though one of many beneficiaries, the geospatial industry
has much to gain from this emerging framework called The Semantic Web.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, June 1, 2005)
Geospatial Knowledge Management: This column investigates a few of the tools of geospatial
knowledge management: semantic interoperability, rules-based data discovery, and object-based
generalization, areas where small research teams (such as Ordnance Survey) and nimble companies
(such as Laser-Scan) are defining the leading edge.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, November 1, 2005)
Other People's Data and Wiki Web Sites
: Wiki are collaborative web sites with minimal controls on who can
contribute and how. Two recent spatial websites use a more controlled,
but also collaborative approach to data input and dispensation: the
SFProspector (a City of San Francisco economic development application)
and Oak Mapper (a University of California, Berkeley, application for
reporting and tracking Sudden Oak Death). Their owners explain how
they managed when some of the content is other people's
data, input by private or public sources.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, June 1, 2003)
Geospatial Data Search, Analysis and Exchange
Google Sparks Search Wars: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon have all released slick new public mapping tools
within the past four months in order to draw more eyes to their sites and to generate keyword advertising revenue.
This article explains the companies' business model, the technical implementations of the tool interfaces, the public's
response to free online map tools, and the implications for traditional GIS.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, October 1, 2005)
Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis: Emerging tools and concepts:
The geospatial industry is no stranger to uncertainty; researchers
often must statistically analyze incomplete or "fuzzy" spatial datasets
to discover their hidden order, or confirm a lack thereof. This column
surveys emerging applications of Explatory Spatial Data Analysis and its
associated spatial-statistical tools and methods.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, July 1, 2003)
An Internet Safari Through the Geography Network
: The goal of most portals, like Yahoo!, is to provide a single point of organized
access to the otherwise sprawling chaos of the Internet. The Geography Network
exists to foster a sense of Net community among geospatial professionals and to
supply downloadable data, live maps, and services.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, November 1, 2000)
Uniting Finders and Keepers of Spatial Data
: As their holdings grow, data providers need metadata publishing techniques so their
users can easily become aware of new offerings. On the receiving end, users need
effective searching tools that return appropriate results. This article examines the
evolving ways our industry describes, archives, and searches for information.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, November 1, 2002)
GIS Meets The Mapster:
Global Geomatics released a product called MapFusion that shares more than 80
geospatial formats, standardized on the fly, using the scalable peer-to-peer
(P2P) approach that Napster made famous. This article reviews the P2P model
and MapFusion's key capabilities.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, February 1, 2002)
Geospatial Integration into Mainstream Information Technology
The Anatomy of Web Map Services:
ESRI's Jack Dangermond believes that web map services will become the "nervous
system for planet Earth." But what are Web Mapping Services, anyway? This article
dissects exemplary Web mapping server URLs in an attempt to reveal their inner workings.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, September 1, 2002)
Web GIS Gets Flashy: The inexpensive Web-browser plug-in known
as Macromedia Flash features such strengths as client-side processing,
instantaneous interactivity throughout the display, low bandwidth
requirements, and the feel of a desktop GIS environment -- all without the
hassle of installing a plug-in. This article reviews the spatial
functionality possible with Flash, a few options for deploying such a
system, and some organizations that have adopted this approach.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, May 1, 2005)
Geospatial Web Portals:
Today's Web portals have become more than just jazzed-up link
directories. Web portals now act as dashboards that consolidate multiple applications and data
treams served from both local and remote domains into a single Web page. This column elaborates
on the implications of Portals for GIS.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, July 1, 2004)
A Date with Replication: Distributed Database Systems
: Replication solves the problem of synchronizing copies of common
data across an enterprise, but, especially with spatial databases,
is easier said than done. Is it possible (or even desirable) to
integrate spatial databases? Investigating the integration strategy
of spatial database systems is the topic of this month's column.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, April 1, 2003)
Spatial Decoupled Architectures: Holding Back the Tiers:
Spatial expertise alone is increasingly becoming insufficient. For today's business-oriented projects in
particular, geospatial professionals need to understand multitier system architectures. This column explains
multitier architectures, shows where spatial functionality has infiltrated each tier, and explains the
consequences of this trend on the design of business-oriented enterprise spatial applications and on
the CV's of geospatial industry professionals.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, October 1, 2003)
3D Flythroughs: It's Child's Play:
The advances in capabilities of graphics cards, fueled by the demand for
ever-more-realistic video entertainment, is making real-time 3D visualization
of geographic data available to desktop GIS users. With an Nvidia or 3DLabs
chipset shipped automatically with most desktop PCs, the same stunningly real,
user-directed flythroughs are available economically even on laptop computers.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, April 1, 2001)
Geospatial Data Formats and Models
Ordnance Survey's Master Map: Lessons learned from the development of Great Britain's massive spatio-temporal dataset --
the Ordnance Survey MasterMap -- will benefit other nations or organizations with expanding
data collections or plans to increase their data's detail in future.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, March 1, 2005)
Merging National Street-Network Datasets: With the acquisition of GDT by Tele Atlas, the
companies are blending their MultiNet and Dynamap products and business models.
Though aware of the challenges in undertaking the largest US spatial data merge ever,
the firms paint a convincing picture of the acquisition's benefits to both originally
separate customer bases.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, November 1, 2004)
Basemapping's Big Three: It's Not Your Father's TIGER:
Because most geospatial and LBS projects start with basemap data, this article
explains trends in commercial spatial datasets of road networks. Specifically,
it assesses the offerings from the three largest vendors in this market space:
GDT, Navtech, and Tele Atlas.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, January 1, 2002)
JPEG 2000: Good Things in Smaller Packages: The emerging international standard for image compression
and decompression that is commonly known as JPEG 2000 (JP2) can be tuned to match a specific workflow
improving rendering performance even when the image file is very large. This article reviews the standard,
its application to geospatial problems, and its key proponents.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, April 1, 2005)
Reveling in Raster Data: Recent advances in ESRI's raster-oriented technology
supporting terabytes of data are enabling application developers to serve large raster
datasets (managed in spatial databases) to a public Internet audience and still maintain
fast performance. This article describes some technical advances enabling these large performant collections.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, October 1, 2004)
The Image-Conscious Internet:
Realizing that the graphic elements of their pages are the main attraction, spatial
Web site designers carefully watch image size, color palettes, and image-server
software performance. This article reviews the tools available
to help spatial Web site designers address these image problems.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, October 1, 2000)
Flexible Data Models Strut the Runway:
You're only as good as your data," the saying goes. That might have to be revised
to "You're only as good as your data model." This column covers the purpose of data
models and steps through some examples of applying them to real-world problems.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, February 1, 2003)
The Real-Time Continuum: Bit by bit, real-time spatial data is pervading our traditional static spatial
applications. This column summarizes the challenges of real-time data processing
and surveys the key players offering solutions.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, November 1, 2001)
Geospatial Data Modeling Sailing into Port:
Geospatial data modeling with commercial databases is a new step for our
industry resulting from several converging trends which favor the migration from
standard file-based spatial data storage to intelligent spatial data models.
This article covers the trends and benefits of geospatial data models.
Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, January 1, 2001)
What the XML are Scalable Vector Graphics?
The complementary data modeling strategies of XML and SVG will become indispensable
standards in the near future.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geo Info Systems Magazine, May 1, 2000)
Browser-based Interactive Mapping
Advanced Internet Map Server Techniques:
Designing Intutitive Websites for a Non-technical User Base<\A>:
By analyzing existing websites, this paper describes design and
programming techniques for serving interactive maps to a nontechnical
user base. Issues addressed include: Simultaneous display of 50 or more
themes on the same page without losing map readability, Assurance of
cartographic quality of maps displayed despite users' ability to add
or remove themes from the display, and Use of C++ and Win32 API to extend
ESRI MapObjects' functionality.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, ESRI International User Conference, July, 1999)
Building a Spatial Web Site? Know Your Options:
This article summarize the developer tools, cartographic control, scalability,
interoperability, and cost associated with Autodesk, ESRI, Intergraph, and MapInfo
Internet map publishing software offerings.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geo Info Systems Magazine, April 1, 2000)
Safe Spatial Surfing: Proceed with Caution:
Companies that serve spatial information from the Web risk damage to their
reputations, data, and operations. Web users who download spatial data or
programs risk damage to their computers and loss of privacy. Establishing a
safe spatial Website begins with understanding both the risks and the defenses.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geo Info Systems Magazine, February 1, 2000)
Untangling the Web: An Internet Primer:
Few people understand every detail of the complex chain that makes interactive
maps available on the Internet, but a basic theoretical understanding of its
inner workings will shield you from misleading sales pitches, attacks by hackers,
or embarrassing uncertainty when your colleagues use Internet jargon. Such
knowledge can also give you valuable information about where your customers are
and how they use your services.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geo Info Systems Magazine, January 1, 2000)
Looking Good Online: Designing an Effective GIS Web Site:
What is the difference between traditional desktop GIS and the more recent
arrival, Internet GIS? If you look long enough you can find a few GIS Web sites
that are designed for a nontechnical public audience--in other words, a Web
audience. These rare sites succeed with a Web audience by virtue of their
intuitive interfaces, information-efficient layouts, fast response times, and
cartographic clarity. This article investigates strategies used in existing
Internet GIS sties, successful or otherwise, for serving maps to a World Wide Web audience.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geo Info Systems Magazine, October 1, 1999)
Sensors and Servers, Hardware and Networks
Sizing Up the Mighty Mote: Carefully deployed at known locations,
tiny sensors called motes become a wireless, networked field observatory.
This column examines techniques for visualizing the data these networked
motes collect and considers the business plan that brought them into existence.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, May 1, 2004)
GIS Through the Looking-Glass: Terminal Services and Thin Client GIS:
Inexpensive, extremely lightweight application
delivery technologies such as Terminal Services are increasingly popular with
even low-bandwidth dial-up users to simulate the ArcGIS desktop experience
on any Internet-connected computer. The terminal services client software
captures mouse clicks and keystrokes on the local computer, sends them to
the remote server for processing, and returns only the display images of
the application to the local client screen.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, March 1, 2004)
Inside Spatial Server Hardware:
There are two increasingly good reasons for developers of interactive mapping Web sites to
become more confident about hardware: the decreasing costs of both servers and colocation.
This column considers the benefits of owning and colocating a Web server, then describes
how each hardware component of a server contributes to a spatial processing task.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, September 1, 2004)
Optimal Performance Art of Spatial Mechanics:
No matter how the technology improves, performance tuning skills will remain
valuable when managing large geospatial datasets, especially when the delivery
mechanism is the Internet. This column explains some of the issues involved in
tuning a spatial system for optimal performance.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, September 1, 2001)
Mobile, Wireless and Location Based Services
Mobile Enterprise Act One: The Players:
This installment of "Net Results" overviews the mobile data exchange strategies
of several GIS vendors and lays the groundwork for future columns focused on the
hardware and software required for mobile enterprise solutions.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, March 1, 2002)
Mobile Enterprise Act Two: The Props:
Last month, we began a series exploring mobile enterprises. Part two of this
three-part series caters to the toy-lovers in our industry, and PDAs may be the
most intriguing spatial toys. Any industry with field workers stands to increase
efficiency and reduce costs by introducing PDA technology -- don't they? Maybe.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, April 1, 2002)
Mobile Enterprise Act Three: The Backstage Crew:
In part one of this three-part series on the mobile enterprise, we explored the
software players and their attempts to support handheld devices for mobile spatial
applications. Part two revealed some limitations of PDAs. Now, part three will
consider the influence of displays and wireless modems on successful deployment
of the mobile enterprise.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, May 1, 2002)
Which Where Will Win? Dueling Wireless Location Solutions:
The FCC has required that by October, 2001, emergency-911 call from cell phones
must include their location as part of the transmission. Which locator solution
will be the best? This article attemps to fortify brave readers with a basic
technical understanding of wireless network infrastructure and location-finding
strategies before they enter the FCC and network carrier battleground.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, March 1, 2001)
The Power of Babble: Congregating around LBS:
The world's entire population are all potential customers of the wireless
industry. Realizing this, a sobering collection of corporate giants are
tumbling over themselves to corner a piece of the burgeoning wireless market
and address such specific niches as Location Based Services. This article covers
the revenue streams and markets of the LBS industry.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, February 1, 2001)
Maps in Motion: Spatial Data on Mobile Devices:
How does spatial data exchange between mobile devices and a central system differ
from spatial exchange using a traditional desktop Internet browser? The main
differences are in the hardware, data transmission, and the user's expectations.
This column describes some of the existing systems that support mobile networking
and discusses how to cope with mobile mapping limitations.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, June 1, 2000)
Geospatial Industry Trends and Research
Tools Rush In: What are our geospatial tools, how and why has our technology changed over time, and what might
surface next? This column explores innovative advances in data, hardware, and "plumbing," or how we exchange the
results of our work interoperably.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, July 1, 2005)
Spatial Technical Trends for 2005
:Interviewed independently and representing the diverse
interests of software, data, infrastructure, and academia, the experts polled in this
column offer a common theme of predictions for the year ahead.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, January 1, 2005)
Technical Trends in the Geospatial Industry
: Care to speculate on where the spatial industry is heading in 2003, or how
the trends you observe will change our spatial datasets, software applications, and
business practices? Experts featured in this column drew from their many years of
hands-on experience using and building geospatial tools. Though diverse in spatial
sub-specialty, many predicted the same common themes for the year ahead.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, January 1, 2003)
Emerging Spatio-Temporal Database Research: Fresh Ideas on Santorini Island
: The Eighth International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases
drew spatio-temporal thinkers from academia and the private sector,
delving into a complex, highly technical realm.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, September 1, 2003)
Web-Mapping Hacks: This article reviews two new geospatial "how-to" books by tech publications leader, O'Reilly.
Both "Web Mapping Illustrated" and "Mapping Hacks" educate readers about general geospatial concepts and step
through tutorials using freely available open-source mapping tools. Recommended!
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, September 1, 2005)
Geospatial Business Practices and Initiatives
Pricing Emerging Web Services:
Pricing models in the Web services market are still in their
infancy as vendors and customers come to understand how Web services differ from traditional
licensing. This column surveys spatial data providers, Web-centric software manufacturers,
and industry analysts about pricing Web services to match the expectations of diverse consumers.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, January 1, 2004)
Bottom Line in the Land of Oz -- Pricing Spatial Website Architectures:
This column explains the basic requirements for putting interactive
spatial Web pages online, and compares the costs and services of
several Web hosting companies that cater to spatial customers. The
(wide) range of annual costs, depending on the architecture you choose,
is between $300 and $30,000 -- choose wisely...
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, May 1, 2003)
Spatial on a Shoestring: Leveraging Free Open-source Software:
In the spatial industry, open-source freeware has a barely measurable market
share compared with the proprietary products. I decided to test the latest spatial
database and Internet map server freeware on my own system, firsthand. I learned
about several strong spatial software alternatives, interviewed their champions,
and saw my own conceptions about freeware transformed.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, June 1, 2002)
ASPs and Third World Labor:
The advent of fast, reliable networks are decentralizing the locations of
digitizing laborers and physical computing infrastructure. This article lays out
the inner workings of ASPs and third world labor markets so you can decide
for yourself whether geospatial businesses can benefit from these emerging opportunities.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, June 1, 2001)
One-World Web Map:
Can shared geography unite otherwise disconnected inhabitants of a single region?
This column showcases some multijurisdictional Web sites built with the
intent of merging, sharing, and distributing spatial data.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, July 1, 2000)
Spinning Straw into Gold: Data Warehouses and Spatial Web Sites:
This article describes data warehousing, spatial data warehousing, click-stream
analysis, and the benefits of these technologies to organizations serving spatial Web content.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, September 1, 2000)
From Consultant-generated to City-owned -- Technology Transfer in the City of Oakland:
Accurate and current datasets are the cornerstone of any successful
information system. How can a city with high staff turnover establish
a staff-maintained enterprise-wide up-to-date GIS data structure
without the ongoing need for consultants? This paper covers ESRI Arcview
customization efforts to bring editing skills to Arcview users with minimal desktop GIS training.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, ESRI International User Conference, July, 1998)
Applications of Geospatial Technology
Special Handling of Spatio-Temporal Data:
This column describes the challenges that industry pioneers
must overcome in their management of high-volume, real-time, spatio-temporal data. Three
companies share their progress: @Road, Gearworks, and Profilium.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, November 1, 2003)
Geospatial Disaster Relief:
How does geospatial technology alleviate some of the suffering that results
from humanitarian disasters? And what long-term organizational efforts address
integration and delivery of that technology to those who need it? This article
investigates humanitarian disasters in Sudan and Indonesia and their support
from an international organization called RESPOND.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, February 1, 2005)
Spatial Trends and Drivers in Insurance Loss Modeling:
Insurance companies are increasingly relying
on geospatial technology and analysis for mitigating risk, offering policies,
and deciding what to charge. Their due diligence includes spatial modeling and
analysis using an ever-finer grain of underlying data.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, February 1, 2004)
Bone Rooms, Bird Bodies, and Biodiversity Informatics:
Many museums are digitizing spatio-temporal
data about their collections and making them available online, providing a valuable research
tool for increasing knowledge about our world.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, April 1, 2004)
Speaking of Weather for Spatial Decision Support :
Though detailed meteorlogical data have been available for many years, only recently are they
readily compatible with commercial spatial desktop software systems. A weather services
provider, Meteorlogix, converts data feeds from satellite and radar sensors, such as NEXRAD,
into shapefile or Web service format for integration with traditional GIS desktop applications.
This column covers the collection of weather data, its processing by Meteorlogix, and the
use of weather feeds by the spatial community in a variety of fields.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, March 1, 2003)
Homeland Homework: Reconfiguring for Wider Spatial Integration:
Once Congress approves the various proposed multibillion-dollar budgets, government
agencies throughout the country will be seeking ways to turn their allowances into
better homeland security.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, July 1, 2002)
Map Me a Reason: Purposeful Geospatial Work:
For those doubting whether the spatial industry still supports meaningful careers,
Andy Jarvis and Drew Sayles have some inspiration to offer in the form of their
integrated spatial careers.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geospatial Solutions Magazine, October 1, 2002)
Utilities Databases Internet:
Several converging trends in utilities and computing are encouraging a promising
new marriage of spatial data, object RDBMSs, and the Internet. Meeting regulatory
requirements involves linking financial and business data to spatial data, for example.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, Geo Info Systems Magazine, March 1, 2000)
What is an Emergency Management Information System (EMIS)?
The EMIS is a computer database system designed to support responders
during emergencies by giving them detailed, real-time information, allowing
them to graphically integrate it and then transmit their decisions through
the chain of incident command. An illustrated scenario explains the concepts.
(Jonathan W. Lowe, City of Oakland, California, Emergency Operations Center, September 12, 1995)
Why publish technology reviews?
"There is only one thing for it then -- to learn.
Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which
the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never
fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.
Look at what a lot of things there are to learn -- pure science, the only
purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in
three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes
in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and
economics -- why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate
wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary
at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time
to learn to plough."
(T. H. White, 1938,
The Sword in the Stone)