Tag Archives: ESRI

Leveraging Open Data: International perspectives presented at URISA’s GIS-Pro 2016 conference

This is a cross-post from Geothink co-applicant Dr. Claus Rinner‘s website, written by Geothink student Sarah Greene, Ryerson University. Sarah is Candidate for the Master’s of Spatial Analysis at Ryerson University. Her research focusses on open data.

By Sarah Greene

This past week, URISA held its 54th annual GIS-Pro conference in Toronto, bringing together GIS professionals and businesses from around the world. The conference provided many interesting sessions including one focused entirely on open data. This session, titled “Leveraging Open Data”, included government as well as private sector perspectives.

The session began with a presentation from the Government of North Carolina, discussing the importance of metadata. They are currently collaborating with a number of agencies to create and share a metadata profile to help others open up their data and understand how to implement the standards suggested. They have produced a living document which can be accessed through their webpage.

The next speaker at the session represented Pitkin County in Colorado. They represent an open data success story with a number of great resources available for download on their website including high quality aerial imagery. An important aspect to their open data project was their engagement with their local community to understand what data should be opened, and then marketing those datasets which were released.

The Government of Ontario was also present as this session, presenting on the current status of open data for the province. The Ontario Government promotes an Open by Default approach and currently has over 500 datasets from 49 agencies available to download through their portal. They are working towards continuing to increase their open datasets available.

A presentation by MapYourProperty provided an interesting perspective from the private sector using open data to successfully run their business. They heavily depend on visualizing open data to provide a web-based mapping application for the planning and real estate community to search properties, map zoning information and create a due diligence report based on the information found. This is one example of many that exist in the private sector of open data helping build new companies, or help existing companies thrive.

Lastly, a representative from Esri Canada’s BC office wrapped up the session reminding us all of the importance of opening data. This included highlighting the seemingly endless benefits to open data, including providing information to help make decisions, supporting innovation, creating smart cities and building connections. Of course, open data is big business for Esri too, with the addition of ArcGIS Open Data as a hosted open data catalog to the ArcGIS Online platform.

This session showcased some great initiatives taking place in Canada and the United States that are proving the importance of opening up data and how this can be done successfully. It is exciting to see what has been taking place locally and internationally and it will be even more exciting to see what happens in the future, as both geospatial and a-spatial data products continue to become more openly available.

A talk at the GIS Pro 2016 conference. Photo credit: Claus Rinner

A talk at the GIS Pro 2016 conference. Photo credit: Claus Rinner

See the original post here

A First Hand Account of McGill University’s Team-CODE’s Experiences in the 1st Annual ECCE App Challenge hosted by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)

By Jin Xing

I was one of three Geothink students who competed in the Environmental Systems Research Institute’s (ESRI) ECCE 1st Annual App Challenge hosted by the institute’s Canada Centre of Excellence. Team CODE-McGill, which consisted of McGill University students Matthew Tenney, Carl Hughes, and myself placed second in the competition that concluded on March 20 with the announcement of a winning group from the University of Waterloo.

Although our three team members each has a different research interest, each of us studies topics related to open data. Our Community Open Data Engage (CODE) application was sparked by an exchange I had with Hughes when we discovered we both call Toronto, Ontario home after the competition had already begun. In fact, it was only after Hughes told me that my neighbourhood was “a better” place to live that we began to interrogate the question of how to evaluate a community using open data.

As we worked on our submission, we noticed that community-level open data attracts more attention than data on the whole city. In particular, we found citizens were more concerned with data on traffic, education, and recreation resources in their own neighbourhoods compared to other types of data. Our creation: A new approach for exploring a community using an open data platform that connects people and communities.

However, the application that we designed required a number of trade-offs to be decided in the span of only one week. First, we struggled to choose whether to include more data or to favour an easy-to-use interface. In particular, we wanted to develop functionality to integrate a greater variety of community data but didn’t want the application to become too hard to use. After several hours of discussion, we decided to favour an approach that centered on making open data “easy and ready to use.”

The second trade-off involved the selection of ESRI JavaScript APIs. In particular, we had to choose ESRI ArcGIS API or ESRI Leaflet for open data integration and visualization. At the beginning, I preferred the ArcGIS API due to its rich functions. But Tenney pointed out it was actually over-qualified and may delay the page loading which caused the team to decide to use Leaflet.

Finally, we had to decide how to integrate social media. In particular, we needed to decide whether the Twitter content should be loaded from data streaming or just retrieved from the back-end. All of us felt it was cool to have a real-time Twitter widget on our application’s page, but we didn’t know how to get it to choose the right tweets. For example, a user named Edmonton might say nothing about the City of Edmonton city, and our code would have needed to filter it out in real-time. Considering the difficulty of developing such a data filtering AI in one week, we decided to include it only on the back-end. To accomplish this, we used Python to develop a way to harvest and process data, while the ESRI Leaflet handled all the front-end data integration and visualization.

Our application included data on school locations, health facility locations, grocery store locations, gas station locations, green space, cultural facilities, emergency services, census dissemination areas and Twitter data, all of which were presented as different map layers. We employed the Agile developing method for CODE, meaning we quickly built the prototype for CODE and tested it, then repeated this process with additional functions or by re-developing bad code.

In actuality, though, we built three prototypes in the first two days and spent another two days for testing, selecting and re-developing. The Agile method helped us keep CODE always functional and easy to extend. The only drawback of using Agile was the local code synchronization become necessary before we pushed it to GitHub. If two of us pushed at the same time with different code, our GitHub would be massed up. By late Thursday night, we had nearly finished all the planned coding and had even begun to improve the user experience. The search widget and navigation buttons were added in the last day to make open data easy and ready for use in our CODE application.

We felt that by putting information in the hands of concerned citizens and community leaders, CODE is a proof-of-concept for data-driven approaches to building a strong sense of communityacross cities. CODE also connects people and governments by allowing them to create forums for conversation in specific communities across a city or search social media sites to find other people in their area.

Furthermore, by integrating and visualizing open data at a community scale, CODE demonstrates a new approach for community exploration. In fact, users can search and select different open data for certain communities on one map, and corresponding statistics are shown as pop-ups. In the initial phase, we provided this community exploration service for citizens in Edmonton and Vancouver.

Overall, I felt attending this ECCE App challenge was a great experience to integrate ESRI web technologies with open data research. It proves open data can act as the bridge between citizen and cities, and that ESRI products significantly simplify the building of just such a bridge. We believe more applications will continue to be inspired by the ECCE App challenge and that open data will become closely used in everyday life. Thanks to ESRI, we got a chance to help shape the next-generation of community exploration.

If you have thoughts or questions about this article, get in touch with Jin Xing, Geothink’s Information Technology Specialist, at jin.xing@mail.mcgill.ca.