The importance of data

Hi everyone – I thought for my first blog I would share a lesson I learnt recently whilst on a project.

When companies are embarking on utilising location intelligence, what will underpin everything is data. It is all well and good to have a snazzy web application with great buttons and tools but without good quality data to build with, the application it is not going to be of much use.

This idea was  really highlighted to me through a project I was working on. My client wanted to develop their geospatial capability to allow internal users to locate infrastructure through a web mapping application. They had seen some of the Web APIs (JavaScript, Flex or Silverlight)  live user sites that take advantage of great looking apps that can easily be created, and I was asked  “So can we just get one of those?”… It got me to thinking that it’s not as straight forward as that….Getting our hands on all the data we were going to need was going to involve a little bit of research and investigation.

Starting at the beginning i.e. creating the basemap to underpin the operational infrastructure information. The client wasn’t quite sure of the look and feel they were after in terms of the map so I thought a great place to start was to have a look at what is available through the Map Templates centre. Rather than actually looking through the map documents though,  a more effective and fun way to show the client was by using ArcGIS Explorer online.

This worked really well as I could quickly change which map we were looking at, as well as zoom in to various scales to see different levels of detail.

From exploring the wide variety of basemaps in ArcGIS Explorer the client decided that a street map and a topographical basemap would be necessary for their web app and users.

Next we downloaded the Topographical map template and opened it up to see that we needed. If we were going to closely replicate the map for the clients are of interest we were going to need over 20 different datasets – features like contours, roads, parks, hydro, summit points.. all the usual bits and pieces that you would expect from a topographic map. As the client was just developing their geospatial capability they didn’t have a lot of this base map data – to rectify this we went to a couple of third party software providers to source what was needed.  I found a great place for this kind of data being Geoscience Australia. I didn’t know but can get all the 250K vector data on DVD from the sales centre at GA or you can go online and select your area of interest and which layers you would like to download (free of charge). Most of the data that we required was in this series.

Through a bit of trial and error we took the new data – and kind of ‘plugged’ it into the Topographical template. Obviously it wasn’t as easy as just that, there was quite a bit of tinkering to get all the data layers in, and we didn’t use everything that was in the topo template, however by using this process we were 80% of the way there without too much effort!

This process has really highlighted for me that you can have all the software, tools, web capabilities, maps – however getting this all off the ground really relies on having good underlying data.


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