With the pending launch of Map Mavin, it seems an appropriate time to focus on GIS (Geographic Information Systems) clouds. Specifically, in the March edition of the Geospatial Tip of the Month (GTM) I will try to answer the seemingly simple question, “What is a GIS Cloud?” I say try and answer as from my research on the topic, it is obvious that there is not a clear definition of what this service (perhaps product?) should be. As such, I will start with a quick survey of the academic research on the topic and then discuss what a GIS cloud means to Apollo Mapping.
Before we go too much farther, perhaps it makes sense to offer a definition of GIS in general. And while this is a topic we could spend many paragraphs discussing, as we did in this four-part series starting here, I will spare you from reading this diatribe by offering up my definition from the series:
GIS is a mapping software – and the field of science that studies it – which is used to answer questions on physical and/or human phenomena in a standardized and repeatable fashion.
At the backbone of any cloud service is cloud computing, which has been defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (for example, networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
So then, a working definition of a GIS cloud might be as follows (offered by Aly and Labib in this paper):
Cloud GIS is a next generation Web GIS (Geographic Information System) solution with advanced capability of collecting, processing, analyzing and publishing geospatial and database data. The main goal is to provide the power of desktop GIS solutions on a web based platform and in such way bring GIS closer to a wide audience.
Stated in a simpler fashion by me, a GIS cloud is a web-based mapping service that enables all users (even those without access or knowledge to use GIS) to answer questions on physical and/or human phenomena by employing spatial information. With this simple goal in mind, the Apollo Mapping team set out to build the most flexible and easy-to-use GIS cloud on the market – and we call this GIS cloud Map Mavin.
Now you might be asking yourself, what exactly is Map Mavin? Well, let me elaborate a bit. Map Mavin will be the most interactive web mapping service on the market when launched. It will let users instantly create web maps from a mashup of various spatial layers, share the URL with a team of users and then collaborate in real-time in order to make more informed and accurate decisions. Similar to any cloud service on the market, be it for mapping or Apple’s iCloud, Map Mavin has four basic components:
- Real-time collaboration
- Hosted storage
- A marketplace
- Cloud processing
And in next month’s edition of the GTM, I will elaborate on each of these four components. Until then, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to find out more about our highly anticipated GIS cloud, Map Mavin!
Do you have an idea for a future GTM? If so, let me know by email at email@example.com.
Brock Adam McCarty