New directions in GIS

The world of the geoweb is advancing apace with cloud based data storage, mobile platforms and web based applications/geoprocessing coming to the fore. Esri have boosted their presence with the release of ArcGIS 10, its updated desktop, web and mobile components and associated resources.

Esri have been working away on ArcGIS 10 for a while now and it has been released for some time including not only the desktop and server applications but radically overhauled mobile and web platforms. Taking the online first, the old Esri online services have been updated and now exist as ArcGIS.com. This web presence includes all manner of tools for working with spatial data, including sources of data, web mapping tools and even an online version of ArcGIS Explorer providing basic GIS functionality. It is also possible to upload datasets (and publish them with controllable levels of access) and consume data from any ArcGIS Servers. There’s even some archaeological data on there in the form of the archaeological record for Ireland and Northern Ireland; England are sadly lagging way behind on this front with English Heritage currently providing only text based and basic locational data via the Heritage Gateway.

Integration between the ArcGIS.com and ArcGIS Desktop v10 is tight which makes uploading/downloading data straightforward and the ability to publish datasets to the cloud to share amongst others either using the web-based maps or desktop GIS promises to make dissemination and data sharing much easier for more people. This combined with the inclusion of ArcExplorer providing basic GIS functionality is a welcome additional set of resources to the ArcGIS family. There are of course a few issues, notably the dependence on ArcGIS Server which is problematic for most archaeologists who do not have access to such technology (it’s too expensive!) so increased integration with standard OGC geoweb services such as WMS and WFS will be welcome when/if it arrives.

As a test, I have created a map using the WMS data provided by the British Geological Survey and basemaps provided by Bing. The data is available in the ArcGIS.com catalogue here and can be found by searching for BGS. Unfortunately, WMS itself does not appear to be directly supported but as the BGS use ArcGIS Server to distribute their WMS layers, I have connected directly to their server instance using their developer notes. Anyway, I’m sure Esri will build on this platform and we can look forward to support for the full range of geoweb services.


View Larger Map

Use the control provided or the + and – keys to zoom in and out. Pan around using the mouse or arrow keys. View the larger map to be able to switch between the various types of Bing maps available.

This map is also accessible on iPhones and iPods courtesy of the new ArcGIS for iOS application. Whilst not (yet) offering a fully functional GIS, this is a brilliant way of viewing maps published using ArcGIS.com including the BGS/Bing map presented above.

So, well done Esri, keep up the good work!