Follow-up to the Tempe GIS Data Request

You might recall the issue where I wanted some GIS data from the City of Tempe Well they finally told me to make a public information request and they’d evaluate my request. Well I got back a response this week:

Dear Mr. Fee:

I have reviewed your public records request for the “complete city of Tempe landbase and utilities in digital DGN format,” and discussed it with our City Attorney, Andrew Ching. He has advised me that, under the state public records law and cases construing the law, cities are permitted to weigh the competing interests of the public’s right to receive records versus the countervailing concerns of privacy, confidentiality, and the best interests of the city. Under federal law, city utilities such as water and sewer lines are considered critical infrastructure, which means that cities may restrict access to such data for homeland security reasons. As such, we generally limit access to utility mapping except for very limited parcels or sections, and not for the entire city. Therefore, your request is denied in part; we will release the complete landbase, but not the utilities.

As an alternative, we would be willing to discuss with you further your proposed educational use of the information. It is my understanding you intend to use this for a class presentation to school children on the power of GIS. If that is still the case, we would be willing to discuss options for how you can present to the class while at the same time we can ensure that sensitive data is not disseminated. Please let me know if you would like to meet and discuss these options.

Wendy Springborn, MBA Engineering Services Administrator City of Tempe

So as you can imagine I took them up on their offer of the Landbase data and I now have the city landbase in Microstation DGN v7. I’d of course love to have unrestricted use of this data, but at this moment I’m in the process of preparing it to be loaded into PostGIS via FME 2010 so that I can start using it. There was no metadata with the CD they gave me, but it was easy enough to figure out the layering system. The quicker I get it unlocked from DGN and into open PostGIS, the easier it will be to work with. Now I just have to make sure I remembered to get my wife a Christmas present.

Twitter Acquires GeoAPI — The New GeoLocation Platform of Choice?

Given what we’ve witnessed since October, 2009 is sure going out with a bang. Google dumps Tele Atlas for their own mapping dataset and then gives away navigation, Microsoft adds street level imagery, Google adds oblique imagery and then gives away a spatial query server and Mapquest adds street level imagery as well. But today Twitter did something that just seems to fit perfectly with just about any mobile application. They went ahead and picked up GeoAPI.

Twitter clearly sees location as important as anything they do (I guess microblogging is something they do as well). Tagging tweets with location is something fairly new to the Twitter API, but with smartphones probably being the primary method of tweeting, location becomes natural with tweeting. We’ve been speculating that we could analyze tweets during “events” and see locations of tweets with information about what is being observed (flooding/fire/babes). Having a richer geo-api will only facilitate this further and could be the real killer crowdsourcing app.

The only pushback I’ve seen on twitter is the location API can be very accurate. I’d love to see them enable something like Fire Eagle where you can have it return a city level geocode rather than a hyperaccurate one. I mean I’m glad everyone knows how often I visit the Apple store, but I’d like @pbissett to wonder just a little.

So I’m sitting here just fantasizing what can be done with the data provided by Twitter and GeoAPI.

Enjoy the Holiday Road

It seems everyone I know is either heading out for the holiday week or getting ready to welcome people into their house. Me? I’ll be here all week blogging, but if you’ll be off the grid I’d like to make sure you have a wonderful holiday and see you in the new year. And those back east I hope shoveling that snow keeps the pounds off. Take it away Lyndsay…

The Google Maps Data API and Google Fusion API News

It seems like not a week goes by (heck sometimes an hour) without Google just dropping a bombshell. Well this time it is a combination of things.

First we’ve got new functionality in the Google Maps Data API. First off you can now perform geospatial and attribution queries on data stored on Google’s MyMap. Now of course this isn’t paleo-type spatial queries, just simple stuff that solve 80% of all queries you’d need to complete. Simple web apps need not fancy complicated APIs and clearly Google is the master of this. So upload your data into Google’s My Maps and then query it to display on a Google Maps application. Simple and sweet.

Second is an update to the Google Fusion Tables API. As the GeoChalkboard blog rightly points out:

Now, obviously Google Docs has been around awhile so uploading your spreadsheet data to this type of application is nothing new, but the compelling thing about Fusion Tables is its integration with the Google Maps API and Google Visualization API. Visualizations are also real time as Fusion Tables automatically updates data as it is updated or corrected. With the Fusion Tables API you can also update or query the database programmatically. Data can also be imported from various data sources including text files and relational database management systems.

The pieces are really coming together here. Not only can you load and work with data, but you can freely visualize it. And not only do it freely, but do it freely in a scalable environment. Let that all sink in for a moment. Google is enabling tools that we pay big money for with APIs that are so simple anyone can use them. Check and mate for some geospatial companies I think. Database + Visualization = GIS eh?

Information running through my brain…

Git Yer ArcGIS 9.3.1 Service Pack 1

Yep, the service pack to the .1 release is here:

UPDATE: Yikes, I left off ArcGIS Military Analyst 9.3.1 Service Pack 1

You can learn more on the “Issues addressed with Service Pack 1” page. I can’t think of any other way to celebrate than dear old Rocky Top…

ArcGIS, you’ll always be home to me…

MapQuest Does Street Level Imagery

So yea, not a surprise.

As the name implies, 360 view provides fantastic panoramic views (360 horizontally and 160 vertically) of any given image within the 360 View coverage area (initially 30 cities and 15 suburbs across the United States with more to come). We have studied our industry, gleaning tidbits here and there, and polled our customer base in creating a simple, easy-to-use interface that fits seamlessly into the MapQuest mapping experience you have come to know and understand. Best of all, MapQuest 360 View “just works” without requiring any 3rd party player downloads.

Take that Bing Maps and your 3rd party player download. MapQuest works without any Silverlight player to get in your way… except of course it uses a 3rd party player called Flash. I suppose this plays into Adobe’s assertion that their 3rd party player download is included by default in many browsers by default. Still it looks good and appears to have been taken sometime last year (the light rail line isn’t running yet in Phoenix and most stations haven’t been built yet.

A view of University of Phoenix Stadium where youll be seeing the true national championship; TCU vs BSU.

A view of University of Phoenix Stadium where you’ll be seeing the true national championship; TCU vs BSU.

Now before you start going off an claiming this doesn’t matter, remember the real traffic numbers for the four main mapping sites:

Yep, Bing and Yahoo don’t add up to MapQuest’s reach. I think it is critical to get this functionality into their API before more companies abandon it for Google While traffic numbers trend down over the last 6 months, I’m not sure it is losing to Bing or Yahoo.

OpenScales — An Open Source Mapping Framework Based on ActionScript 3 and Flex

I’m sure everyone reading this blog knows my opinions about Flash and Silverlight. I’m of the mindset that I’d prefer HTML Javascript over either, but clearly like my opinion that 3D Globes would too hard for “ordinary people” to use; I’m in the minority. Given the huge adoption for both for mapping, an open source?mapping framework usingActionScript 3 and Flex has appeared.

OpenScales, which has a LGPL license will allow those who want to build “rich” (rich is the keyword for any Flash or Silverlight app, if it ain’t rich, it ain’t a plugin) web mapping applications without need to license proprietary development frameworks. You can see from the demos that this ends up being very similar to other Flex based APIs.

On top of that, it supports WMS/WFS, OpenStreetMap, IGN, KML and direct image reading. You can also deploy on mobile using ActionScript 3 (Palm Pre support), web using wlex or on the desktop using Adobe Air.

OpenScales 1.1 was just released last week so the community seems strong and working toward increasing its functionality quickly. If you are working on Adobe web technology and want an open source mapping framework, you might want to check out OpenScales.

The Use of Game Engines in GIS

Autodesk has been heavily investing in their 3D technology which includes bringing on 3D game developers to help with visualization. I imagine their pitch, “Do you want to make millions programming games or change the world with 3D Studio Max?”.

Anyway I received this link to a company called Clover Point which is doing impressive things with 3D gaming engines and enterprise management with their Asset Tracking Anywhere. Yea I know what you are thinking, how could I possibly get excited about something as boring as enterprise management Well in my pervious life (before da cloud) I was heavily involved with asset management and CAFM. Now if you’ve ever been involved with this, you know how ugly the tools and how non-technical people have a great difficulty visualizing the data presented to them.

ESRI users take note:

Asset Tracking Anywhere also utilizes ESRI’s ArcGIS Server. This suite of products offers advantages over standard map engines in the ease of data layering, data creation, data visualization, data capture, raster-to-vector translation and the manipulation of projection and coordinate systems.

Detailed 3D models and immersive views are a great way to showcase your resources to managers and help them visualize their assets around the world. Tabular reporting just doesn’t help people understand the impacts of planning and future changes to their business like a great 3D model. Of course 3D modeling in GIS has been very basic, so I’m happy to see companies pushing the envelope on this.

Check out some of Clover Point’s work in these YouTube videos. As I said, very impressive stuff. What I see here is BIM and GIS coming together to help people make informed decisions.