One of the services unveiled by ESRI at the 2000 User Conference held in San Diego, California was the Geography Network. Debuting June 24th, the site was officially announced during the plenary session the following Monday, marking the opening of the weeklong GIS conference. Earl Nordstrand, Product Manager explains the purpose of the Geography Network as “A collaborative and multi-participant system for publishing, sharing and using digital geographic information on the Internet.” The Geography Network is intended to be a global platform for using and sharing other’s data. This web site serves as a portal to not only access and download data located worldwide, but will also serve as a forum for viewing data, creating simple maps, browse static maps. Some data providers will also make available advanced services such as geocoding, querying and other geoprocesses.
The Geography Network serves data built with ArcIMS and SDE technology on remote servers. The street map of the Netherlands you can view is actually being served from Rotterdam. The primary component of the Geography Network is an interconnected network of individual agencies hosting data and geoprocessing services. The secondary component of the Geography Network will to serve as an Internet marketplace to search for, order and download data and GeoServices. Lastly, ESRI envisions the Geography Network as a content outlet, a common place for users and providers of data and geo-solutions to come together. Currently, the Geography Network offers a discussion forum and a map exchange center.
Using the Geography Network
The main feature of the Geography Network is invoked by clicking the “Geography Network Explorer” link on the home page. This launches a second window where the user can either browse through the available datasets or search by a variety of methods. There is an interactive map to narrow to search down geographically or you can type in the place you are interested in finding data and map services for. You can then search for specific type of data or have all data source for your selected region selected. The data is then viewable through a basic mapping applet. You can pan, zoom and print out maps from this window. In some cases the data is also available for immediate downloaded and is indicated by the icon.
GeoServices are advanced processes that take the availability of data one step further. The most common GeoService most users are familiar with is the geocoding service. By inputing a street address, the user will receive a map back of the location and its general vicinity. The Geography Network has other GeoServices on offer including flood risk assessment. For a fee, the service geocodes an inputted address, creates a 300 foot buffer zone around the address and delivers back a map showing all flood zones in the designated area. The ESRI World Gazetteer GeoService enables users to input a place name and receive a ranked candidate list of place names and associated coordinates.
The Geography Network is still in its infancy. Over time and with the involvement of its users, ESRI hopes that this web site will result in an increased use of previously isolated public datasets, as well as a forum where the power of GIS analysis can be utilized online.
As the Geography Network evolves, more interconnectivity is envisioned. The release of ArcInfo 8.1 will provide a Geography Network tie-in that allows the user real-time access to selected datasets straight into ArcInfo. In addition, the advancement of wireless field technology will also allow the access of data from the Geography Network on handheld field units.
More features from the 2000 ESRI User Conference:
While initiatives like the Geography Network and the advent of mobile GIS applications will garner significant attention from the ESRI user community, the most immediate impact for users is the unification of the ESRI product line, called ArcGIS.
Realizing the Benefits of an N-Tiered Enterprise GIS
This year’s ESRI User Conference is an especially significant event in the history of the GIS industry because of several concurrent developments in technology. One of these, the advent of the N-tiered enterprise GIS, is discussed in this article.