Spatial Portals Book Review

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! Spatial portals are often the spatial data infrastructure (SDI) front end to a network of information, and although SDI has been used by organizations and governments since the 90s to organize, access and search information, today spatial portals allow faster access to information than ever before. Read about a new book that outlines this quickly evolving technology in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Agreements/Alliances, Announcements, Competitions, Training Programs, New Products, Moves, Letters to the Editor, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Spatial Portals Book Review
By Susan Smith

A new book out from ESRI Press called Spatial Portals: Gateways to Geographic Information by Winnie Tang , founder and CEO of ESRI China (Hong Kong) and Japan-based independent consultant Jan Selwood, offers a comprehensive look at spatial portals from an ESRI point of view, using as examples spatial portals developed with ArcExplorer Web Services, Geography Network software, ArcIMS for internet mapping, and ArcSDE for data management.

Spatial portals are described in this book as Web sites that either “assemble many online resources and links into a single location to form easy-to-use products or provide search tools that help users find information on the Web.” Of course, portals such as America Online and CompuServe have provided this type of single source for resources for a long time; Google and Yahoo! and MSN have provided search tools that are now in direct competition with ESRI in some areas.

Three types of spatial portals are currently in use: application portals, catalog portals and enterprise portals.

Catalog portals maintain indexes or catalogs of available information services. Generally service providers can add metadata to the portal and it is then organized into a catalog that allows users to access information.

Application portals are for the well-defined audience or those with specific requirements and generally combine information services into a Web-based mapping package that is task-specific. They usually include dedicated application and data servers and provide services that are more complex than catalog servers.

The enterprise spatial portal is designed to integrate spatial data with business enterprise solutions. Initially they were originated by Oracle and SAP, and their focus was on enterprise wide resource planning, office automation and document management. Now they also encompass spatial information.

Spatial portals are often the spatial data infrastructure (SDI) front end to a network of information, and although SDI has been used by organizations and governments since the 90s to organize, access and search information, spatial portals allow faster access to information than ever before.

What we've seen repeatedly in the past couple of years has been the proliferation of spatial portals after a natural or other type of disaster, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami or Hurricane Katrina. An example is the Pacific Disaster Center's portal launched within hours of the news of the tsunami, providing news, data and links to mapping services related to the disaster. Also the PDC launched a Map Viewer and an underlying map service.

Besides this portal, the PDC hosts a number of permanent portals to help improve coordination of efforts and access to information. Disaster and resource managers and others can register services such as online or downloadable datasets with the Asia Pacific Natural Hazards Information Network (APNHIN) so that governments, planners and non-governmental organizations can search for and access information pertinent to hazard evaluation and response planning.

Hurricane Katrina occurred after this book's publication so the myriad of spatial portals developed to aid in response and recovery for that disaster are not covered here.

Some time is spent on Geospatial One-Stop, whose mantra is “two clicks to content.” The One Stop program, launched in December 2002, is an intergovernmental project managed by the Department of the Interior in support of the President's Initiative for E-government. Geospatial One Stop builds upon its partnership with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) to provide easy to use geospatial information access to the public and government, drawing from databases and directories across the nation.

In 2003, the Norwegian government endorsed Norway Digital, a plan to develop a spatial data infrastructure with spatial portals at its heart. Norway is a land of contrasts - 11 percent of the total population live in Oslo, the nation's capital, while 45 percent live in provinces located in 100 kilometers of the city, concentrating population in the southeast. There are fewer than six people per square kilometer in some municipalities.

While national mapping programs all have their own challenges, Norway has addressed its problem of mapping remote regions by building partnerships between public agencies and private industry. Although it is focused on government agencies, Norway Digital embodies the building of a national geospatial framework that is composed of multiple spatial portals that can be used by participating members to build their own sites and services. A new NMA portal is geoNorge, which adds search functionality and indexing as well as hosts topographic map services across the whole framework.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control (DHEC) has developed a portal called the South Carolina Community Assessment Network (SCAN) South Carolina Community Assessment Network (SCAN) that provides a real -time, interactive gateway to DHEC's databases. Users can use it to integrate and analyze health data with other data from state, local and federal agencies and provides efficient access to public health information.

Each of the case studies found in the book are interesting examples of what has been accomplished using spatial portals. The book is described by one reader as a “true portal on spatial portals.” Whether or not this is the case, the book is a valuable resource showing just what spatial portals are capable of and how they are changing the way we view, manage, sort, find, share and use geographic information. Spatial Portals: Gateways to Geographic Information, by Winnie Tang and Jan Selwood, 176 pages ESRI Press ISBN 1-58948-131-3.

For pricing information or to order a copy of this book, visit Amazon Book Store .

Acquisitions/Agreements/Alliances DigitalGlobe and Canada-based Valtus Imagery Services (Valtus), a division of NorthWest Geomatics Ltd., have entered into an initial three year data distribution partnership to bring high-resolution commercial satellite imagery to Valtus customers via the Valtus Website.

Leica Geosystems Geospatial Imaging has entered into a strategic partnership with Acquis to facilitate the processing and delivery of geospatial data within the Oracle Spatial 10g environment. Leica Geosystems will integrate the geospatial imaging capabilities of ERDAS IMAGINE with the unique Acquis suite of tools for manipulating Oracle Spatial 10g data. The result will augment Leica Geosystems' world class raster data handling with the vector handling capabilities of Acquis to facilitate topological editing of data within the Oracle 10g enterprise infrastructure.

Intergraph Corporation announced an OEM agreement with Skyline Software Systems to integrate Skyline's 3D visualization technology within Intergraph's GeoMedia product line. Under the agreement, GeoMedia users will have 3D visualization for an entire range of geospatial information from digital elevation models to high-resolution imagery and geospatial features such as road networks, infrastructure and other points of interest.

Intergraph Corporation and TerraGo Technologies announced that versions of MAP2PDF have been jointly developed for Intergraph product lines, GeoMedia and Digital Cartographic Studio (DCS). In addition, the two companies have entered into a worldwide distribution agreement that allows Intergraph and its partners to resell MAP2PDF for Intergraph products.

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