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.

ESRI Sends Geography Network to Pasture

I know there are two groups of people out there right now. Those who can’t believe the Geography Network is still running and those who forgot it existed. Well now both sets of you can now know that it is going to be retired at the end of this year.

With lots of changes over time to online GIS and geographic information and the technologies used to serve them, the?Geography Network has been replaced by better alternatives to publish and find data (like ArcGIS Online). Much of the same exact content, and much more content that has been updated,?can now be found and used in easier and better ways. So ESRI is planning to retire the Geography Network in late December 2009.

Can you believe it has been almost 10 years?

Google Maps Pushes Dagger into Bing Maps and Pictometry

When people always asked me, what did I like about Bing Maps, it was always the Bird’s Eye View. It was something that Google didn’t have in their map API and it really was useful since a top down view doesn’t always tell the full story. Well today Google announced that they too are going to have what they call Aerial Imagery in their API. Yep, that is the same perspective view that Bing Maps has with their Bird’s Eye View.

Hard Rock Hotel - San Diego, CA

Now of course how could one really get that excited about Google adding oblique imagery. Well unlike Pictometry, you can zoom out much further on the data so you can see how one might get from the Hard Rock Hotel to the San Diego Convention Center (Bing Maps is of course out of date).

Gain better perspective on where things are

Isn’t that so much more valuable than the top down version I just can’t see how any current Bird’s Eye View user can continue to use Bing Maps over this (Shall we count the days until Zillow changes?). What I’m interested in seeing which company can build out their “new service” first. Google with their oblique aerial view, or Microsoft with their street level view. I think we all know who will be throwing more resources at getting this done, don’t we?

The one weird part is this appears to be in the v2 API only. I suppose this is because launch customers Orbitz, Redfin and Trulia are all using that version of the API on their websites. v3 can’t be far along.

Dave Brubeck Quartet flying over Google’s Oblique Aerial Imagery

Geo-Tee — GIS T-Shirts

Scott Gregory wanted me to share something he is working on. From the website:

Here at? we strive to serve up the funny. We dive deep to dig up the humor buried in the world of GIS. We supply apparel for the seasoned old-school GIS’r that was doing GIS with punch cards, to the newbie who just figured out the difference between a datum and a projection. We have a wide range of threads that will be sure to not disappoint. So whether you have been in the game for a while, or just now getting your map on, we have got the goods for you. Enjoy!

So if you’ve been looking for some geo-shirts and stickers you’ve got another resource.

Tempe Responds to GIS Data Request

I got a response back from the City of Tempe.

Hello Mr. Fee,

Here’s some information that I hope assists with your specific request and also clarifies the city’s policy and state law with regard to production of this information. Tempe’s policy is guided by state law (available at this link) which allows for the purpose of a commercial request to be asked.


You mentioned that your request is for a presentation to a Tempe elementary school, which sounds non-commercial. Please contact Wendy Springborn in our Engineering Division (480-350-8250) in order to discuss exactly what you’d like to request. The city does not charge for non-commercial requests, except for the production of CDs to deliver the records. Some records might be deliverable via an emailed PDF, but that depends on whether the requester wants to be able to manipulate the record. If they do, that cannot be delivered via PDF because of the limitations of that format. Wendy is ready to assist with your request if you’ll let her know what you need.


Tempe bases its commercial rates in part on a fair approximation of market value. As described in the state law above, municipalities and other entities are able to ask the purpose of commercial requests and to deny improper requests upon the approval of the governor. The statute also establishes the ability to seek damages if records obtained for a non-commercial purpose are then used for a commercial purpose. You noted a few cities’ elected representatives have chosen to make all of this information searchable online; that would be a policy decision rather than staff action. It seems that some of your concerns with the city’s GIS records policy are grounded in the state law requirements rather than independent city policies.

Tempe places a high priority on transparency and customer service. We make every effort to fulfill records requests of all types across the many city functions and departments. Please let me know if I can assist in answering any other questions.


Nikki Ripley City of Tempe Communication and Media Relations Director

So there you go, at least they are going to let you have it for personal use. Good, at a minimum that is good news. I’ll be making my request ASAP. The part that causes me to pause is this, “Tempe bases its commercial rates in part on a fair approximation of market value”. I couldn’t disagree more with this statement and it is nuts that they think that this data is worth $100,000. Nothing in the state law says Tempe should charge $100,000 for their data. Fair market value for public data shouldn’t be 6 figures. This is why people don’t go to the source to get data but third party providers who don’t have the accuracy of Tempe’s data. I’m disappointed in this response so it shows how much more work we have with local governments.

Update: I submitted a public records request, so we’ll see how this goes.