Advancing Web GIS "Beyond Mapping"

This nominated topic is now part of the UCGIS Short-Term Research Priority entitled
Pervasive Computing (pdf file)

See all the new UCGIS Research Priorities

Explicit Summary Statement

With the incredibly rapid proliferation of web technology and Internet commerce, it will be important to investigate how to further improve the integration of spatial analytic GIS functionality with web technology.

General Description/Justification

It has been predicted that the web may eventually become the dominant form for accessing GIS. Web GIS currently has the highter potential user base and the lowest cost per user (Longley et al., 2001), and we have witnessed the emergence of g-commerce, a new multi-million dollar industry focused on a range of "location-based services" (e.g., maps, routing, and service directories for cell phones, pagers, personal desktop assistants, etc.). Indeed, web GIS is within the realm of "telegeoprocessing", a term coined by Xue et al., (2002) to encompass real-time update of spatial databases, analysis, and decision making via the integration of remote sensing, GIS, GPS, and telecommunications.

While GIS has existed for over three decades, the development of web GIS is a recent phenomenon. The huge popularity of the Internet around 1995, spurred the development of new resources for networking GIS data. The variety and types of distributed geographic information applications have grown since then, consisting of formats ranging from static and dynamic map images to more advanced web GISs that offer greater functionality (Xue et al., 2002). With the development of web GIS, the Internet is now becoming a portal for GIS functionality as well as data distribution. This development is following a natural progression of increased efficiency in GIS (Chueng, 2001), but is also subject to some of the same challenges. Versions of web GIS are slowly improving in functionality, but for application of GIS beyond finding one's way to an airport, hotel, or store, research and leadership are needed to improve the performance of current web GIS and in how best to progress from simple web mapping to more complex spatial analysis, real-time scientific collaboration, and the incorporation of environmental models and decision support.

While the infrastructure is desired and needed for ready access to data and the resulting maps via web GIS, (i.e., linking data to data), it is argued that data must also be linked to models for better exploration of new relations between observables, refinement of numerical simulations, and the quantitative evaluation of scientific hypotheses. For widespread data access, current web GIS is therefore only a preliminary step rather than a final solution. Better support for analysis, modeling and decision support within or connected to web GIS, should move users beyond the "data-to-data" mode towards "data-to-models" and "data-to-interpretation".

The emergence of web GIS has greatly changed the way in which we produce and view the map, on the continuum from static to interactive, to dynamic. For example, web mapping is often coupled with now with spatialization, the process in whereby a spatial, map-like structure is applied to data where no inherent or obvious one previously existed (e.g., the mapping of email conversations or chat rooms; Dodge and Kitch, 2001). UCGIS should be at the forefront of what should be next along this continuum, to identify and/or develop the technology needed to move to the "next generation." As such, we offer some ideas for research questions and topics below, which may complement or extend existing research challenges, such as distributed computing, data mining and knowledge discovery, and visualization.

Research Questions/Topics

Web GIS Research in Progress at OrSt

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest
Integrated Plant Protection Center including:

Weather and climate enhanced weather driven models for phenological, population, and disease risk modeling
Real-time multiresolution climate mapping expert system
Ecoregion GIS/modeling w/EPA

Mt. St. Helens
Paleozoic Fossils, SE Alaska
Virtual Research Vessel
Yolo County Sediment Total Daily Maxima and Soil Maps
Oregon State University Campus Facilities Corvallis Color

Ming-Hsiang Tsou's Internet GIS Site at SDSU


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Bedard, Y., Merrett, T., and Han, J., 2001. Fundamentals of spatial data warehousing for geographic knowledge discovery, in Miller, H.J. and Han, J., Geographic Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery, London: Taylor & Francis, 53-73.

Cheung, R. L., and S. C. Brown. 2001. Designing a distributed geographic information System for environmental education, Proceedings of the 21st Annual ESRI International User Conference, San Diego, CA.

Ding, J., Gravano, L., Shivakumar, N., 2000. Computing geographical scopes of web resources, Proceedings of the 26th VLDB Conference, Cairo, Egypt, 2000.

Dodge, M. and Kitchin, R., 2001. Atlas of Cyberspace, Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Ltd., 286 pp.

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Xue, Y., Cracknell, A.P., Guo, H.D., 2002. Telegeoprocessing: The integration of remote sensing, geographic information system (GIS), global positioning system (GPS) and telecommunication, Int. J. Remote Sensing, 23(9): 1851-1893.

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Last updated on February 26, 2003.

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