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Report: Seminar on Web Mapping Services

Submitted by Haritha Gorijavolu (805055) KIIT University

People have used maps for centuries to represent their environment. Maps are used to show locations, distances, directions and the size of areas. Maps also display geographic relationships, differences, clusters and patterns. Maps are used for navigation, exploration, illustration and communication in the public and private sectors. Nearly every area of scientific enquiry uses maps in some form or another. Maps, in short, are an indispensable tool for many aspects of professional and academic work. Manually analyzing data and creating the resulting maps was slow and labor intensive. Digital maps, thanks to the ever-falling cost of processing power and storage, have opened up a whole new range of possibilities.

This seminar focuses on the fundamentals of digital mapping of geographic locations and how the digital maps are created, stored, processed and shared over the World Wide Web (WWW) through the web mapping services.

Table of contents
Page No.

1. Introduction1 2. Definitions and Terminology.2 3. Fundamentals of Digital Mapping.3 4. Storage and retrieval of maps5 4.1 Storage of Spatial data.5 4.2 Processing maps from Geospatial data....6 4.3 Accessing digital maps over WWW....8 5. Software used in web mapping services9 6. Conclusion.10 7. References..10

1. Introduction
Web Mapping Services are online mapping tools designed to allow users to view maps, edit maps, find routes, design printable maps and provide a lot of other map related analytic services. Web maps can easily deliver up to date information. Web maps can be edited collaboratively, a process called collaborative mapping. Web maps can be interactive and are rich with information. Web maps support zooming and can render the map features according to the zoom level. Web mapping services are web services that serve maps to thin clients like browsers and manage the software and data that goes into making web maps. Now a days there are a number of open source softwares that are used to set up web mapping services. A lot of web mapping services provide maps that are dynamically created maps based on client requests and provide online tools for interacting with the maps and editing the maps.

Popular web mapping services include: Google Maps MapQuest OpenStreetMap WikiMapia Yahoo! Maps Bing Maps MapmyIndia Maps

Popular Collaborative Mapping websites: Google Map Maker OpenStreetMap WikiMapia

Web maps support hyper linking to other information on the web. Just like any other web page, web maps can act like an index to other information on the web. Any sensitive area in a map, a label, text, etc. can provide hyperlinks to additional information.

2. Definitions and Terminology

Digital geologic mapping: It is the process by which geologic features are observed, analyzed, and recorded in the field and displayed in real-time on a computer. The primary function of this emerging technology is to produce spatially referenced geologic maps that can provide accurate information about various features of the earth surface. Geographic coordinate system: A Geographic Coordinate System is a method of describing locations using a longitude and latitude degree measurement. These describe a specific distance from the equator (0 north/south) and the Greenwich Meridian (0 east/west). Map projection: The Geographic Coordinate System is designed to describe precise locations on a sphere-like shape. Hardcopy maps and onscreen displays aren't at all sphere-like; hence they present a problem for making useful depictions of the real world. This is where map projections come in. It is the process of projecting locations in a Geographic Coordinate System on to a flat plane. The resulting projection of the spherical surface is said to be in planar coordinate system. A planar coordinate system is just like a Cartesian coordinate system which assigns numerical values called coordinates to specify the location of a point. A lot of projection techniques and software which implement them are available. Georeference: To georeference something means to define its existence in physical space. That is, establishing its location in terms of map projections or coordinate systems. Web Mapping: It is the process of designing, implementing, generating and delivering maps on the World Wide Web (definition from Wikipedia). GIS: A Geographic Information System (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS Application: With a GIS application we can open digital maps on our computer, create new spatial information to add to the map, create printed maps customized to needs and perform spatial analysis.

Web mapping Vs. Web GIS: Often the terms web GIS and web mapping are used synonymously, even if they don't mean exactly the same. In fact, the border between web maps and web GIS is blurry. Web maps are often a presentation media in web GIS and web maps are increasingly gaining analytical capabilities. Spatial Data: Data that describes objects in space in terms of a coordinate system. Web Mapping Server: The web mapping server is the engine behind the maps we see on a web page. The mapping server or web mapping program needs to be configured to communicate between the web server and assemble data layers into an appropriate image. OGC: The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), an international voluntary consensus standards organization, originated in 1994. In the OGC, more than 400 commercial, governmental, nonprofit and research organizations worldwide collaborate in a consensus process encouraging development and implementation of open standards for geospatial content and services, GIS data processing and data sharing.

3. Fundamentals of Digital Mapping

Geographic referencing tools such as GPS receivers link on-the-earth locations to common mapping coordinate systems such as latitude and longitude. They calculate the receiver's location using satellite-based signals that help the GPS receiver calculate its location relative to satellites whose positions are well known. They act as a type of digital benchmark rather than using traditional survey or map referencing (best guess) methods. Traditional astronomical measurements or ground-based surveying techniques were useful but we now have common, consistent, and unbiased methods for calculating location. There are different ways of projecting data from spherical coordinates to planar coordinates. One needs to know what projection the data is in if one wants to use it with other data. If the projections between different data don't match, one may need to reproject them into a common projection. Locating a position on a projected map requires the use of a planar coordinate system.

In case of web mapping services, the queries for a location are transformed into coordinates and the area corresponding to those coordinates is returned in the form of a map. Both planar and projected are terms that describe the coordinate system designed for a flat surface. As in a Cartesian system, these coordinate systems also have X and Y axes which are perpendicular to each other. The origin of this coordinate system is the intersection of the X and Y axes. The origin of this planar system is defined by its spherical coordinates; that is in terms of latitude and longitude. Once the origin is defined to be a valid location on earth, the rest of the points on earth are defined relative to origin in terms of planar coordinates. The axes use common units and can vary from one map projection to another. For example, the units can be in meters: coordinate (100, 5) is 100 meters east and 5 meters north if the origin. Coordinate (-100,-5) is 100 meters west and 5 meters south of the origin. The origin can be any location on earth as chosen by that particular projection.

Fig: 3.1 Geographic Coordinate System There are a lot of projection methods like Simple Cylindrical Projection, Orthographic Projection, Mercator Projection, Transverse Mercator Projection, Albers Equal Area Projection, Stereographic Projection, Universal Transverse Mercator Projection (most popular projection method) and Lambert conformal conic projection.

Fig: 3.2 A Global map using simple cylindrical projection

4. Storage and retrieval of maps

4.1. Storage of spatial data

Spatial data is can be mainly of two types: Vector data: Vector data is represented as coordinates that define points or points that are strung together to make lines and polygons. This data often has an associated table of information, one for every feature (point, line, or polygon) in the dataset. Eg: Point (100 100) Line (100 100, 100 102, 100 104) Polygon ((10 10, 10 20, 20 20, 20 15, 10 10))

Each of the three types of vector data (point, line, and polygon) can be used to show certain types of information on a map. Points can show the location of towns or the position of a radio tower. Lines can show travel routes or boundaries. Polygons can be shaded to show a lake or highlight a country on a world map. Each piece of vector data can have other information associated with it that could, for example, be used to label a feature on the map.

Raster data: Raster data is organized as a matrix or grid that has rows and columns; each row/column intersection is a cell or pixel. Each cell has a value, for example, an elevation. Images and digital elevation models are rasters. They are a specific number of pixels high and wide, with each pixel representing a certain size on the ground. There are various formats for storing vector and raster data. The popular format for storing vector data is ESRI shapefile or simply a shapefile. The popular format for storing raster data is GeoTIFF. Raster data mainly includes images that have been captured by satellite which are georeferenced. Spatial databases are usually object relational databases enhanced with geographic data types, methods and properties. They are necessary whenever a web mapping application has to deal with dynamic data (that changes frequently) or with huge amount of geographic data. Spatial databases allow spatial queries, sub selects, reprojections, geometry manipulations and offer various import and export formats. A popular example for an open source spatial database is PostGIS.

In the database, the shapefiles are stored in the form of tables. The databases come with tools to convert shapefiles to tables and back to shapefiles from the tables.

GIS data is usually worked on one layer at a time. In doing so, it becomes easier to work with complex spatial problems and one is able to revise and change data without having to change the entire information system. Each layer is in present in the form of shapefiles (for vector data) or raster images. A map often combines vector and raster data to create a more effective map than either could produce in isolation


Processing maps from Geospatial data

The maps are generated from spatial data by a program which accesses the data from the database, converts it into required format, renders the respective layers in graphical format and combines them to produce the final map. This map processing programs primary function is

reading data from various sources and pulling these layers (shapefiles and raster images) together into a graphic file, also known as the map image. One layer may be a satellite image, another, outline of some country or points showing a major city. Each layer is overlaid or drawn on top of the others and then printed into a web-friendly graphic for the user to see. To combine different layers, they must be in same projection system. If not, there are utilities to convert the layers from one projection to required projection.

This drawing process (a.k.a. rendering) occurs each time a request for a new map is made to the map processing program, for instance, when a user zooms into the map for a closer look. This process also occurs when a user manually requests a redraw, such as when the content of one data layer (as in the database) changes, and the user wants to see the change.

The map processing program needs to know what map layers to draw, how to draw them, and where the source data is located. The data is the fuel, and the map file also known as the mapping file or .map file serves as the delivery system.

The map file is a text configuration file that lists the settings for drawing and interacting with the map. It includes information about what data layers to draw, where the geographic focus of the map is, what projection system is being used, and which output image format to use, and it sets the way the legends and scale bars are drawn.

When a request comes to the map processing program, the request must specify what map file to use. Then this program creates the map based on the settings in the map file. This makes the map file the central piece of any map processing application. The bottom most layer of the map is called the base map layer. It is typically a georeferenced satellite image.

Understanding the size and scale of the map is very important because it will dictate the precision of data to be represented on the final map. Most data is created to be viewed at a specific scale. If we use the data at a different scale than it was intended for, it may not look right and might not align with other features properly.


Accessing digital maps over WWW

When the client requests a map from the Web mapping service site, the request is sent to a HTTP server on the front end. The HTTP server forwards the request to a map processing program which analyses the request and renders the map accordingly. After producing the map, this map is sent back to the client browser via the HTTP server. The map processing program is called a web mapping server in this case.

The web mapping server needs to have access to the data sources required for the mapping requests. The data sources can include files located on the same server or across an internal network. If web mapping standards are used, data can also come from other web mapping servers through live requests. Fig: 4.1 Schematic diagram of a web mapping server

The output of the previous diagram is directed towards the client browser. A Web Map Service (WMS) is a standard protocol for serving georeferenced map images over the Internet that are generated by a map server using data from a GIS database. WMS servers can generate maps on request, using parameters, such as map layer order, styling/symbolization, map extent, data format, projection, etc. The OGC Consortium defined the WMS standard to define the map requests and return data formats, while other systems use standards like Tile Map Service for a similar purpose. Typical image formats for the map result are PNG, JPEG, GIF or SVG. There are open source WMS Servers such as UMN Mapserver and Mapnik.

WFS: Web Feature Service is a protocol to share and request vector map data and attributes. A typical request for a map contains the following: Projection system of the map Image format of output Layers to be included (whether to include roads, rivers, boundaries, etc.) Image size of output in pixels Geographic extent in the form of planar coordinates (the rectangular part of the map needed for viewing)

Based on the information in the request, the web mapping server decides which files to use and how to merge them to produce the final output in the requested format.

5. Softwares used in web mapping services

MapServer, GeoServer Web mapping servers PostGIS Open source spatial database OpenEV Map Viewer and Editor Quantum GIS GIS software

We have discussed about how maps are created in digital format, how they are stored and served to clients over the web.


1. 2. Handbook on geographic information systems and digital mapping 3. Web mapping illustrated By Tyler Mitchell 4. 5. Geographic Information Systems: An Introduction, By Bernhardsen