Real-time Collaborative GIS

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In the early 1990s, GIS began to be increasingly utilized as a decision-making platform, in particular group decision making.[1] Today, real-time collaborative GIS  (RCGIS) enables users, from domain experts to common citizens, to collaborate on given issues and share data easily through a distributed framework. Current software allow concurrent development and control mechanisms, collaborative awareness, etc. In essence, these developments are similar to collaborative coding environments or software development such as GitHub and other tools.

Client-server and browser-server configurations are typically used as the primary architecture of RCGIS systems, where a centralized system enables clients information to be serialized in a given order. The problem with this method is it can be relatively slow to update data, perhaps delaying clients from seeing relevant data. More recently, however, peer-to-peer architecture has gained popularity, as it allows collaborative sessions where data sharing can happen more quickly. Hybrid architecture is a more decomposed architecture, where the architecture is not treaded as a whole but as components. Some parts are shared, while others may not be. This, in essence, has helped to solve server bottlenecks where data are synchronized.[2] Other issues arise in RCGIS environments, where multiple views of a changing data space or concurrent requirements of data change are requested that can delay user feedback or real-time knowledge to be easily transmitted. Techniques such as data locks, multiple views of given areas, which allow a private and public view to inform what is present for given data and what could be changed or is changing, and telepointers that record user location information are among some of the methods recently developed. Many of these current technique attempt to essentially minimize data updates so that only what is necessary is shared and updated, while keeping other information static in order to preserve bandwidth requirements. For relatively recent use of RCGIS today, published examples include school boards that provide real time data on closures[3] and emergency management tools.[4]

Screenshot from The Big Board system in action which is a an open-source, web based, real time visual collaborative environment that runs on all modern web browsers and uses open-source web standards developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and WorldWideWeb Consortium (W3C). A control panel on left provides access to standard drawing tools and options to share information.

Screenshot from The Big Board system in action which is a an open-source, web based, real time visual collaborative environment that runs on all modern web browsers and uses open-source web standards developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and WorldWideWeb Consortium (W3C). A control panel on left provides access to standard drawing tools and options to share information. From: Jefferson et. al, 2014.

References

[1] For information on the use of GIS as a decision-making platform, see:  Obermeyer, N.J., 1998. “The evolution of public participation GIS“. Cartography and Geographic Information Systems 25 (2), 65–66.

[2] For more information on RCGIS architecture, see:  Sun, Yaqin, and Songnian Li. 2016. “Real-Time Collaborative GIS: A Technological Review.ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 115 (May): 143–52. doi:10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2015.09.011.

[3] For information on the school closure management tool, see:  Heard, Jefferson, Sidharth Thakur, Jessica Losego, and Ken Galluppi. 2014. “Big Board: Teleconferencing Over Maps for Shared Situational Awareness.” Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 23 (1): 51–74. doi:10.1007/s10606-013-9191-9.

[4] For an example of the emergency management tool, see:   Wu, Anna, Gregorio Convertino, Craig Ganoe, John M. Carroll, and Xiaolong (Luke) Zhang. 2013. “Supporting Collaborative Sense-Making in Emergency Management through Geo-Visualization.” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 71 (1): 4–23. doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2012.07.007.

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