Now, Anyone Can Create Web Mapping Applications – Announcing GeoMoose!
Reprinted from Dakota County GIS Newsletter, Summer 2007 Issue
Web mapping applications have been around for over 10 years and are becoming commonplace for major metropolitan areas. Citizens expect that they can see maps online with links to information about property, parks, lakes, and road construction.. However, providing this capability has required a significant investment in software and time making it rather exclusive to larger cities and counties. GeoMoose is changing that by making open-source web mapping software available to everyone at no cost. Any city, county, or other governmental unit can create interactive mapping applications for their website or simply put basic GIS capabilities on the desktop of anyone in their organization.
Dakota County GeoMoose application showing multiple layers with optional transparency and common interactive tools including zoom in / out, pan, zoom previous / next, zoom to full extents, measure distance / area, and identify.
GeoMoose was created by the City of St. Paul and enhanced by the OpenMNND Project, a collaborative effort involving agencies in Minnesota and North Dakota funded by an FGDC grant. OpenMNND focused GeoMoose on local government needs and packaged it so it can be easily downloaded, configured, and deployed using basic web publishing skills. No programming is required. Based on open standards and open-source software, entire applications can be built without having to purchase any software.
GeoMoose is designed around a services-oriented architecture, which means it can use other web servers on the Internet and distributed application components on your own servers. Map layers can come directly from web mapping services published by a variety of government agencies or by accessing your own data using MapServer. This minimizes the need to copy and process large volumes of data. Other web-based information services can be accessed to integrate associated systems dynamically based on user interaction with the application. As a result, GIS applications can be provided on most servers or workstations without requiring special performance capabilities, disk space, or database software.
MapServer is a stable, open-source web mapping server engine originally developed over 10 years ago at the University of Minnesota and in use worldwide today. MapServer has rich cartographic capabilities and understands all the common GIS data formats. With GeoMoose you can use MapServer to group data as you wish into single layers that can be turned on and off interactively or automatically using display scale thresholds.
Metro Mosquito Control District application that accesses aerial photography WMS from LMIC, wetland data and a shapefile containing all 900,000 parcels in the 7 county Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Applications can be created without any programming by simply changing options in three configuration files. They can be configured to link directly to other websites based on identified features, locations, or graphics drawn in the map display. Tools can be defined to capture the coordinates of the cursor in the map and send them to a URL. This allows external services to be integrated with GeoMoose, like accessing data associated with a feature on the map or displaying bird’s eye imagery from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. In this way, existing web-based applications and databases can be accessed directly without the need to copy data or duplicate their capabilities in a mapping application.
Integrating existing information services. A tool requests the user to click in the map and then pops up another browser window to another website providing the location information to access property information, bird’s eye imagery, or features in the neighborhood.
Now, anyone can create web mapping applications. They don’t require sophisticated hardware or software. This makes them practical for smaller cities and counties that may find it difficult to justify the expense required by other options. It means that other government agencies can easily justify providing interactive mapping applications to their constituents in support of their business. It also means that any governmental unit can use the same techniques for creating internal applications, putting interactive GIS in the hands of anyone in their organization. With barriers removed, these applications will become more prevalent. As that happens, users of those applications will experience greater consistency between applications deployed by multiple agencies and all will benefit by creating a thriving community to continue the collaborative model of working together to add even more capabilities and share application components.
Go to the OpenMNND project website at http://www.openmnnd.org to try the demonstration applications and learn more about how to build your own web mapping applications.