Big digital doors to GIS
November 7th, 2005 by JTJ

Susan Smith, editor of GISWeekly Review, reviews a new book from ESRI Press on GIS portals.  See review below or check out Spatial Portals: Gateways to Geographic Information


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

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

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
Spatial Portals: Gateways to Geographic Information, by Winnie Tang and
Jan Selwood, 176 pages
ESRI Press
ISBN 1-58948-131-3

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa