Mapping on the Web - This isn’t your father’s GIS

By Joe Francica

"We expect MapPoint.NET to become the primary platform for delivering location-specific technology and data to business and consumer applications..."

"Oracle has rolled most Oracle Spatial Features into Oracle Enterprise and Oracle Standard as a no-cost feature set called Oracle Locator. This means that many applications can access geospatial data directly from an Oracle database without using a geographic information system as an intermediary."

Spatial Information Management: Competitive Analysis and Trends, IDC, 2002

Where did you first see maps on the web? My guess is that it was probably using Mapquest circa 1994...way back when...when the web was exciting, new, and prosperous.Prosperous? OK, well, exciting then.And the fact that you could get driving directions...well, that was fun, too, if not useful! And then, GIS software companies, both large and small, took notice and moved much of the typical mapping functionality to the web.

The world economy may not be booming but maps on the web are, and businesses want them.Why? Because they get customers to the nearest Starbucks; they show points of interest; they find the nearest Krispy Kreme donut shop, or hotel, or Kinko's.Businesses need maps on the web.In addition, as an internal resource tool for management, businesses are using spatial technology coupled with enterprise data: sales, personnel, and competitors. They want them associated with CRM systems and other enterprise databases. It is the reason Microsoft acquired Vicinity; it is the reason Mapquest is making noise about their Enterprise Server; it is reason small companies like InterGis build their Visual Control Room software to run as a web-based system for dispatching and logistics for fleet management.

The dirty little secret is that you don't need a "hunkin' big GIS" (that's a southern term) to do it.The GIS software companies clearly understand this.Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI, is sounding the call for Web Services to be the delivery mechanism for spatial data. The OGC is seeking input for its Web Services (OWS) Initiative and Intergraph has facilitated this by providing a demonstration of Web Services on the OGC website.

Now, look at the other side of the geospatial software world...the non-GIS players such as those companies that "dabble" (plant tongue firmly in cheek) in spatial technology.Take Mapquest, for example.Serving a mere 20 million maps and 5 million routes per day, Mapquest makes more web maps than anyone.Coalesce the spatial analysis technology of current GIS software providers, the data delivery platforms of Microsoft or Oracle, and the ability to serve volumes of maps like Mapquest and you will quickly understand where spatial information is headed.Pulling data from a web map server will become as routine as importing clip art from a website into your Powerpoint.

Today's feature article is an interview with Walt Doyle, a vice president with Mapquest. His "business" customers are companies that not only want the store finder web portal that Mapquest offers, but spatial information solutions to support logistics, fleet management, and asset tracking.They want to expand Mapquest technology into enterprise systems and the delivery platform will be the familiar Mapquest interface.

The clarion call for spatial data to be integrated with customer relationship management systems, enterprise resource management systems, or supply change management systems is there, and with players such as Microsoft and Oracle providing functionality with their database and development platforms, the ability to more easily integrate spatial information with these systems is already available.I have touched on this subject before, but companies such as ClickSoftware, ILOG, Nexterna and Appian Logistics all provide data in a spatial context.It is for this reason that Directions decided to open its own Web Map Gallery as an added resource for our readers...

Directions Magazine Opens Web Map Gallery

Clearly, if the evolution of GIS is crashing headlong towards the web, it makes sense to open a forum for posting examples to give everyone a chance to see what is possible.During the past year in the Wednesday Digest, we have tried to highlight an example from either a government source, vendor, or just a useful web mapping site.We have taken the added step of developing a "gallery" of these examples and offer others the opportunity to add to our site, just as we currently do with our "Map Gallery." There are many fine sites now that have been created, especially by local and state governments to provide a community resource for communicating public services.From tax maps to little league boundary areas; from real-time traffic and airline flight tracking, to tracking whales, there are many examples of great information that is proliferating with a mapping interface. So we invite any and all of you to visit our Web Map Gallery and post away! ...

Published Wednesday, February 26th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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