Home Articles Spatial Web Services Applications in Bahrain

Spatial Web Services Applications in Bahrain

Dr Raj Mukta Sundaram
Project Manager
GEOMATEC, Bahrain Center for Studies and Research
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Email: [email protected]

Sunil Gupta
GEOMATEC, Bahrain Center for Studies and Research
Email: [email protected]

Neeraj Dixit
GEOMATEC, Bahrain Center for Studies and Research
Email: [email protected]

Abstract
Spatial Web Services is a fast developing concept in web-based GIS application development and data delivery services. The main intention is to minimize the cost and efforts associated with application development, data, hardware and GIS software. In last few years concept of web services has been gaining attention and appreciation as a powerful and efficient technology for connected & distributed computing.

The spatial web service relieves users from purchasing expensive GIS data, software, Expertise and hardware, while the service provider could develop content and applications independent to heterogeneous software or hardware environment. Spatial web services data and application providers can take benefit of seamless application integration capability of web services and offer their combined services transparently and efficiently to users.

GEOMATEC has developed spatial web services for the first time for GIS community in the Kingdom of Bahrain, to provide on demand data and application. With GEOMATEC web services one can access, up-to-date GIS data for Bahrain, perform geocoding, reverse geocoding, routing and mapping.

GEOMATEC spatial web services are hosted at GEOMATEC, and provide extremely simple methods of integrating with existing websites or standalone applications in a very cost effective manner.

Some of the major applications of GEOMATEC web services include –

1. Location based services offered to MTC-Vodafone Bahrain, which lets MTC-Vodafone subscriber to perform proximity search for any Points of Interest, or find location of Friend on map,

2. Access to Bahrain Explorer on mobile devices with Routing and turn-by-turn instructions,

3. On demand mapping and spatial information access to various government and commercial clients,

This paper describes the technology, benefits and future challenges regarding the implementation of GEOMATEC spatial web services in Bahrain.

Introduction
Web service is self-contained application components that provide specific functionality to other applications over the network (intranet or Internet). Technically it is a URL addressed software resource that executes functions or methods and provides useful results. The systems in the network interact with the Web service in a prescribed format, typically conveyed through XML request and response structure along with other web standards.

Web service is not a website as it does not have any user interface like websites. The technology behind web services removes the need for human interaction allowing different software applications to communicate and share information themselves in a well defined structured way wherein all the processing takes place as a back office activity. The applications access web service through web protocols such as HTTP and XML without concern for how each web service is implemented. Application developers integrate web services with other applications to develop a complete solution.

 
Web Service Architecture
Web service architecture has following essential components:

  1. Web service creation
  2. Web service publication
  3. Web service implementation, invocation by users.

Once the web service is created, it requires three fundamental operations viz. publish, find, and bind. Service providers publish web service to a service broker. Web service users find required services using a service broker and bind them to their application.

Publishing of web services is associated with creation of a XML based standard document describing its functionalities and mode of operations. This standard document, also known as WSDL (Web Service Definition Language), is created using XML. WSDL is made available to the rest of network by publishing it to a clearinghouse known as UDDI (Universal Discovery, Description and Integration) registry.

Spatial Web Service
Spatial web service are internet applications that use Spatial data and geospatial functionalities to perform basic geo processing tasks such as address geo coding, routing and mapping etc. For example geocoding can be offered through a web service with simple XML request and response in following table. . Users can write the code to send request with address and receive response with latitude and longitude of address.

Table 1: XML Request and Response Structure

Limitations of Conventional Approach
Currently there are certain limitations in geospatial application development, which prevents the developers to create interactive GIS applications and keep it beyond the reaches of large number of potential users. Two main are listed as follows:

1. Lack of Cross Software Environment
At present more than 80 percent of all geospatial applications even web applications are developed like a traditional desktop or closely coupled server applications. Lack of ‘cross software’ environment, wherein data and application can be accessed without any hassles in geospatial world is a major constraint. Vendors create their own data format and programming language to work, thereby creating a closed coupling between data and applications. This leads end users dependency on one or two GIS software vendors depending on their budgets & requirements. Usage of different software also has an impact on data integration and migration.

2. GIS Data Production and Updates
Intelligent and GIS ready data is the core of any geospatial application. It needs dedicated resources, concentrated efforts and lots of money. After making data intelligent and GIS ready, these organizations license the GIS data to other end user companies or organizations. Also as per the license agreement, data producing organizations update the database at regular time interval and provide the same to end users. This data transfer process needs special attention means extra overheads to both data providers and data users.

The Solution
In the new era of distributed computing lies the foundation for multi-tier applications development. Multi-tier geospatial applications are simple to create using web services. This will enable the development of geospatial applications independent of proprietary data formats, and also enables the just-in-time integration of business applications with geospatial web services. Data producing organizations will use web services to publish their data on a network, while end users simply identify and use various data web service offered for geospatial application development with in their business model framework.

The use of web services would eliminate the need for continuous data procurement and maintenance from different agencies and huge expenses incurred. The companies using web services will have to pay very minimal charges on subscription basis for the use of web services.

The Benefits
Isolation of Spatial data from presentation tier and business logic is a big evolution in how one designs its GIS application to target wide range of users.

Increasing support for web services in GIS is not only changing how analysts access and view the data and maps but also facilitates the integration of GIS functions into a wide range of applications. It opens the benefits of GIS to non-traditional GIS decision makers. It has made GIS based decision making faster by making GIS capabilities directly available to decision makers. In the past, these GIS capabilities were available only to skilled GIS community. Web services put relevant geospatial applications at the end user’s desktop by embedding them with in familiar applications. Users don’t have to understand proprietary data format or application to use it. End users will have options to switch to better web services at any time, as there will be no further tie-ups with particular vendors. As a matter of fact, the client system and the vendor system will interact only at runtime for a while!

To see the benefits let us look at a real world scenario of a Customer Support Services (CSS) section of a telecom company. CSS needs to locate a customer address whenever any customer makes a call. To achieve this objective traditionally, company has to do the following:

  1. Purchase hardware
  2. Purchase software
  3. Hire GIS professionals
  4. Procure base maps and address data
  5. Procure suitable geocoding engine and map rendering applications
  6. Continuous update & maintenance of above infrastructure

All the possible six items will demand handsome amount of money for a company.

On the other hand an easy, efficient and cost effective solution is to subscribe to a web service that offers geocoding and mapping functionality and easily integratable with existing CSS application. This will not only save the time and money but will also guarantee updated information all the time and it provides liberty to a company to switch to another web service in case present web service provider is not providing desired results.
 
GEOMATEC Web Service
Realizing the traditional approach limitations of use of GIS technology in Bahrain and evolution of latest concept of web services, company decided to open its Bahrain Explorer services to users through the means of web service. The GEOMATEC web service provides all the major geospatial functionalities – address geocoding, reverse geocoding, mapping and driving direction. All these functionalities are bundled in a web service as APIs and the resulting web service can be integrated with different applications on any platform as per clients need. In the following paragraphs, characteristics of Bahrain Explorer web service are explained in brief.

Features
GEOMATEC web services offers:

Data Access: Access to vast repository of most updated spatial data for Bahrain. This data includes multi temporal high resolution images, continuously updated address information, 3D Buildings, intelligent roads, digital terrain models and variety of other data sets.

Map creation: The mapping component allows user to create maps of desired size for the area of interest with choice of spatial data layers.

Geocoding: The geocoding services provides user to integrate address search functionality to the application.

Reverse geocoding: The reverse geocoding is a process by which its possible to determine addresses or other spatial features around a specified geographic coordinates.

Driving Directions: The GEOMATEC web service also offers the most crucial routing service, whereby a user can make route between two or more points.

Place Finder: The place finder service offers capability to search through the most update data of points of interest, such as hotels, restaurants, clubs, famous buildings, rent-a-car, etc. Map zoom in/out/pan: These functionalities let advanced application developer to integrate map panning, zooming functionalities to develop a complete GIS application over any system.

Requirements
The current implementation of GEOMATEC web services does not have any major prerequisites.

  1. For simple application, it requires web developer to write simple HTTP request and display the response from the web service.
  2. For advanced application, a developer could develop a full fledge GIS application using .NET, asp and other technologies by sending and receiving XML format.

Figure 1: Bahrain Explorer web service accessibility
Applications
Some of the major applications being developed using GEOMATEC web services are-

  1. MTC-Vodafone Friend finder application for WAP and Web: MTC-Vodafone has integrated GEOMATEC web services to their LBS (Location based services) application to allow subscribers to view friend’s current position, on the map of Bahrain.
  2. MTC-Vodafone Place finder for WAP and Web: MTC-Vodafone LBS application also allows subscribers to perform proximity search, around current location or address and determine nearest points of interest within specified distance.
  3. Mobile / PDA based mapping website: Bahrain Explorer mapping website is now available on mobile devices accessible via same URL ((www.bahrainexplorer.com).
  4. Mobile / PDA based Routing: The web service allows mobile / PDA users to create route between two or more points using Bahrain Explorer.
  5. Web-based Vehicle Tracking (GeoTrack): Various clients using Vehicle tracking solution from GEOMATEC are using the web-based application (GeoTrack) to track their vehicles on the web or handheld devices.

Conclusion
GEOMATEC web services are being used in Kingdom of Bahrain by variety of clients with high priority accordance to e-government initiatives and emphasis on improving service quality and competence.. Web services are going to play important role at every level to enable the smooth sharing of spatial information between different user organizations.

In short, geospatial web services are capable of delivering cost effective & simple solution for complex applications using proprietary GIS data and software, thus attracting non-traditional users from vertical market segments in to GIS mainstream.

References

  1. Powerful Combination: GIS and Web Services, Adam Stone IEEE Distributed Systems ONLINE, February 2004
  2. Web Services Architecture Overview, IBM Web Services Architecture Team, IBM, September 2000
  3. The Role of Web Services for Spatial Data Delivery, Ed Parsons, GITA’s Annual Conference, March 2003
  4. Web Map Service Implementation Specification, Open GIS Consortium Inc., June 2001
  5. XML Web Services, GIS, and Location Technologies, Steve Lombardi, Directions Magazine, March 2003
  6. https://msdn.microsoft.com/net
  7. https://www.gartner.com
  8. https://www.uddi.org