Tag: ArcGIS

Maryland GIS Training Program a Success

As we approach the two year anniversary of delivering training for DoIT’s Statewide GIS Training Program, the Center for GIS at Towson University is proud to have trained over 600 Maryland State employees from 32 different agencies! In collaboration with WBCM and Salisbury University, the Center for GIS developed curriculum and are currently delivering three GIS courses. These courses feature lectures, demos, and guided exercises using data and resources from MD iMAP and Maryland’s Open Data Portal. For more information about the specifics of the training program, check here, or my previous blog post. Courses include: Thinking Spatially, Half Day (Also available online!) Intermediate ArcGIS...

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MD iMAP and Maryland GIS Training Program

Over the past decade, the State of Maryland has continued to expand available GIS data and spatial resources through the MD iMAP program. More recently, a statewide licensing agreement with GIS software leader Esri has allowed state employees to access traditional ArcGIS Desktop software as well as browser-based ArcGIS Online software. Along with the continued growth of cloud computing technology, these factors put Maryland in a great position to offer effective GIS training to its employees. As GIS professionals, we recognize the strategic value of tapping into the spatial dimension of data, and are excited to collaborate with the...

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Teaching GIS to Business Students

Location. Location. Location. From deciding where to locate a new store to analyzing how well marketing campaigns are working in various markets, maps help business leaders make better decisions. Recently, I taught two classes to Towson University business students, which focused on how businesses can use geospatial technology to enhance decision-making. Introducing GIS to Business Students Associate Professor Tobin Porterfield teaches Project Management and Business Analysis, among other courses, at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland. Professor Porterfield invited me to his class to expose his undergraduate business students to the potential for enhancing business decision-making using GIS technology. The...

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Esri’s 34th Annual User Conference

Esri holds many national and local user conferences throughout the year. Their leading conference happens right about this time each year in San Diego California, with this year’s 34th User Conference landing on July 14-18. Formally known as the International User’s Conference (now just User Conference or UC), it is the premier world GIS event, with participants from 130 countries among the 16 thousand people in attendance. To put that in perspective, by most accounts there are 196 countries in the world. This year the Esri UC drew participants from about two thirds of countries in the world. With...

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Locating the Humanities with Open Source Mapping Tools

Towson University’s Center for GIS (CGIS) recently assisted the Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) in their promotional needs by developing a web mapping application that helps MHC audiences and donors quickly identify MHC events that occur near them. Phil Reese, a GIS Programmer for CGIS, was the primary programmer that developed the MHC web mapping application.  Recently I caught up with Phil to discuss his involvement with the project along with the reasons behind utilizing Mapbox (an open source mapping platform) to complete the project. Q:  What options, other than Mapbox, were considered for the development of the web mapping application? A:  We briefly discussed using the ArcGIS JavaScript API, but decided against going that route because we weren’t planning on creating or using any ArcGIS Server map services for this project.  We also discussed using Leaflet, which is a very popular light-weight JavaScript mapping library that is well documented with a very active community of developers. Q:  Why did CGIS ultimately decide on using Mapbox for this project? A:  Mapbox.js was ultimately chosen because of the extensive documentation and examples that exists.  We actually found several examples on the Mapbox.js developer site that almost exactly fit our needs, so we were able to closely follow these examples to jumpstart development of the application.  Another reason we chose Mapbox.js is because it is a plugin for the Leaflet JavaScript mapping...

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Visualizing the Unknown: Simplifying the Update Process for the Broadband CAI Database

For the past several years, Towson University’s Center for GIS (CGIS) has worked with several partners to create a Community Anchor Institution (CAI) database. The CAI database contains broadband-related data about schools, libraries, public safety facilities, government facilities, higher-education institutions, and some non-governmental facilities. CGIS relies on local jurisdictions to provide the broadband-related data for the CAI database. Currently, CGIS provided a representative of each local jurisdiction with an Excel spreadsheet that contains a list of all the jurisdiction’s CAIs. The representative is responsible for verifying or updating the broadband data associated with each CAI. Once the data is updated, the representative provides CGIS with the updated Excel spreadsheet and CGIS incorporates the update into the authoritative CAI database. Recognizing that this workflow can be improved, CGIS has published thematic map services using ArcGIS Online to display the data spatially. These maps are displayed in an interactive ESRI story map that is customized for each jurisdiction. Instead of providing each local jurisdiction representative with an Excel spreadsheet, CGIS will provide a unique URL for the jurisdiction’s story map. The story map displays the known and unknown high-speed Internet status of the jurisdiction’s CAI data. The maps displayed in the application will help the representative quickly identify the CAIs for which broadband access is unknown. The data can be edited by accessing a verification tool directly from the web mapping...

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Returning from San Diego: A CGIS Employee Reflects on ESRI UC 2013

Last week two CGIS employees, Tom Earp (Project Manager) and Melanie Bruce (GIS Specialist), attended ESRI’s 2013 International User Conference in San Diego, California.  I recently sat down with Melanie Bruce to discuss her experience at the annual GIS event. Q: How many ESRI UC conferences have you attended? A:  This was my second ESRI conference, the first time CGIS sent me.   This year there were over 12,000 people from 130 countries gathered to talk and learn about GIS.  The enormity of it is still a bit confounding. Q: Many ESRI UC attendees I’ve talked to have mentioned that there are so many exhibits, presentations, and workshops they want to see but they have too little time.  Did you find that to be a challenge as well? A: Yes, I can relate.  The event is enormous and it is impossible for a single person to see it all or even get close to seeing it all.  I received some good advice from Tom Earp who suggested focusing on one concentration or track.   We both focused mainly on Technical Workshops.  We made sure we did not overlap so that we could cover the most ground, take good notes, and disseminate the information back at the office.  I think it was a good strategy. Q: Out of the presentations you attended, which did you enjoy the most? A: From the Plenary,...

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Labeling Strategies for Cached Map Services in ArcGIS Server 10

Making sure labels display properly in a cached map service is not always an easy task.  During the caching process, labels are sometimes duplicated or the labels are incomplete.  These issues tend to occur along cache tile boundaries.  While ArcGIS Server 10’s compact cache reduces how often this problem occurs by storing tiles in bundles, the problem can still arise along the bundle boundaries.  So, how can you avoid incomplete or duplicated labels in a cached map service? ESRI does a good job describing a useful workflow if you have the time to work with annotation.  The workflow involves using two tools new to ArcGIS 10: the Map Server Cache Tiling Scheme to Polygons tool and the Tiled Labels to Annotation tool.  The product of this workflow is annotation for each layer of your map service at each scale of your map service.  Once this annotation is created, you are can edit the annotation as you see fit before caching the service. If you are not interested in creating annotation, you can still label your features using the default or Maplex labeling engines while making sure your labels are not placed on top of the cache bundle boundaries.  To do this, use the workflow presented below. 1) Create a feature class that represents the cache bundle boundaries using the Map Server Cache Tiling Scheme to Polygons tool. 2) From...

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New Caching Tools to Keep In Mind When Using ArcGIS Server 10

At least half of my work week involves working with ArcGIS Server. So when my organization upgraded to ArcGIS Server 10 I was naturally curious what improvements were made to the software for map service caching purposes.  The most well-known and highly publicized caching-related improvement for ArcGIS Server 10 is the compact cache, which groups individual tiles into bundle files instead of storing each tile separately.  This modification not only helps shorten caching time, but it also shortens the time required to copy a cache from one location to another. While the introduction of the compact cache option is important to know about, there are two lesser-known improvements that caught my eye which could be useful to those who regularly create or work with cached map services. Mixed Tile Format When configuring a map cache one needs to decide what image format to use for the cache tiles and what one decides will determine whether or not portions of a tile can be transparent.  If one selects JPEG then none of the tiles, even those along the cache periphery that have large areas that should be transparent, will have transparency.  This is an issue when one wants to overlay two cached images on top of one another.  In ArcGIS Server 10 one can work around this by using the mixed tile format, which provides the needed transparency in periphery...

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(VIDEO) Introducing ESRI’s Newest Raster Data Model: the Mosaic Dataset

When asked to assist in developing an ArcGIS 10 training video pilot for a potential client, I thought a perfect topic would be the new raster data model introduced by ESRI in ArcGIS10.  In ArcGIS 9, there were two primary ESRI data model options available for storing raster data: the raster dataset and the raster mosaic. In ArcGIS 10, ESRI added a third option: the mosaic dataset.  The training video pilot provides a description of each ESRI raster data model, a clarification of some differences between the raster catalog and mosaic dataset, and a presentation of several benefits associated with storing one’s raster data as a mosaic dataset.  Watch the training video pilot...

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