Home Articles Web GIS in Practice: Creating Interactive Maps in Taiwan

Web GIS in Practice: Creating Interactive Maps in Taiwan

Tien-Yin Chou
Director, Professor
Geographic Information Systems Research Center
Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan
Email: [email protected]

Mei-Ling Yeh, Division Manager Email: [email protected]
Yu-Chen Lai, Project Manager, Email: [email protected]
GIS Research Center, Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan

Based on Web2.0 trend and the concepts of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS), the paper will describe the use of GIS not only as tools for professional spatial analyses, but also as friendly interfaces for public query and analysis. The map industry is currently favoring increased collaboration with its customers. Especially, the paper will explore the integration of electronic maps with live information for offering state-of-the-art connectivity for the community. The series of interactive and value-added map services will be introduced.

1. Introduction
The map has always remained an extremely useful tool to describe the spatial data of the earth. In the past, people used paper maps to locate places. Today, the rapid developments in the field of spatial analysis and advanced data acquisition techniques have revolutionized the concepts of spatial data representation. E-Map is one such powerful technique that incorporates geographic databases to display spatial data and to provide interactive search services for users.

The GIS Research Center at Feng Chia University, Taiwan has designed and implemented a wide range of map-based services through its EasyMap portal.(https://gis.globtierlabs.com/www.easymap.com.tw)The objective here is not only to use maps as tools for searching locations, but also to use them to look for various other types of information. Along lines of the Web 2.0 technologies, web users can create POI (Point of Interest) on an electronic map, add corresponding description, and even include photos sharing personal experiences. Thus EasyMap aids generating a map platform wherein users can identify the points of interest and add personal content. That way people can a create variety of theme maps by adding pictures, experiences, memories, and comments.

Based on Web2.0 trend and the concepts of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS), the paper will describe the use of GIS not only as tools for professional spatial analyses, but also as friendly interfaces for public query and analysis. Especially, the paper will explore the integration of electronic maps with live information for offering state-of-the-art connectivity for the community.

2. The Trend of Geo Web 2.0 and PPGIS

2.1 The concept of Public Participation GIS
The electronic map with interaction capabilities demonstrates the ultimate objective of Public Participation GIS. The concept of PPGIS is to incorporate the notion of “participation” in geographic information systems and then develop the interactive platform for people to deliver information. Using advanced techniques, all necessary spatial information can be clearly displayed on an electronic map. (Tsai, 2004)

The core of PPGIS emphasizes communication and visualization by means of geographic information systems. In the context of this study, PPGIS is defined as a system to create an electronic map based on GIS for public use. The map platform enables people to write comments, upload pictures, and share data with others. As the map platform receives continual contribution from the public, the information on the platform has a high probability to remain up-to-date. More importantly, public participation and the ultimate contribution to the platform result in high interactivity of the map (Figure 1). Thus, the platform based on the concept of PPGIS serves as an effective community platform as well as a communication tool, hence changing the way location have hitherto been searched (Liao, 2006).

Figure 1 the Concept of Public Participation GIS

2.2 The concept of Web 2.0
In the era of Web 1.0, when web producers offered web contents, the nature of the process was passive as users can just get what is offered. However, in the era of Web 2.0, all of web contents and services are user-oriented. Web 2.0 emphasizes the essence of interaction, participation, and sharing. Hence, the ultimate goal of PPGIS can be realized completely using Web 2.0 techniques. The features of Web 2.0 include mashup, social media, and social network services. Mashup indicates a variety of web services which may incorporate different original resources from various websites. Social media refers to the contribution from the society. This includes the uploading of pictures and the writing of personal experiences on the web for sharing. Those contents will become part of web contents. Social network services signify the provision of virtual spaces where all users can get together for sharing information and posting comments.

2.3 Web 1.0 Map V.S. Web 2.0 Map

Web 2.0 maps are not intended for replacing Web 1.0 maps. Web 2.0 maps stand for the new application model of the map development and emphasize mashup services which incorporate other functions like uploading videos from YouTube or photos from Yahoo. Web 2.0 maps are intended to serve as a spatial service platform based on an electronic map meeting different needs from the public.

Form 1 the comparison of Web1.0 Maps V.S. Web 2.0 Maps

Web 1.0 Maps Web 2.0 Maps
Centralization Decentralization?Open
Professional (professional analysis functions) Public (Basic Map functions)
Professional Web GIS Public Map Website
Integrated Information Systems Mashup and Value-Added Services
Complicated Decision-Making Systems Easy Use, Participation and Interaction

The paper explores the development of Web 2.0 and PPGIS, and then describes EasyMap architecture and the functions established by GIS Research Center, FCU. Using Geo Web2.0 techniques, geo-tagging can be performed on an electronic map and articles as well as photos can be published. In addition, a series of map services can be incorporated on EasyMap website.

3. The Architecture and Functions of EasyMap

GIS is a very effective tool for handling spatial data. The development of Internet has led to the evolution of Web-GIS techniques. However, when numerous log online to perform search operations on a map, the load on the server becomes heavy. Vast amount of spatial data can not be quickly displayed on a map because of computational load on the server. To solve this problem, GIS Research Center, FCU set up a research group to explore Internet map techniques and create an internet map named by EasyMap. EasyMap provides various map services and adopts advanced Web 2.0 techniques.

3.1. Techniques of Map Development
EasyMap provides a simple web interface using which searching location on map becomes a facile task. The front-end interface connects to the back-end map server and obtains spatial data from databases. So the location searched for is displayed on the internet along with the map image. The map interface adopts AJAX techniques which integrate asynchronous techniques like JavaScript and XML. The features of AJAX include swift response, effective system operations, and quick loading of web pages. For example, using AJAX, a web page updates information without loading the whole page. In addition, the research team also developed GIS objects which offer more GIS functions on a map display through techniques like COM or web services.

3.2. Map Functions and Features

3.2.1 Map Control
Display map, scale, zoom in, zoom out, pan, print, and email maps.

3.2.2 Map Search
EasyMap offers key words to find specific locations, such as, address, intersections, landmarks, and shop names.

3.2.3 Advanced API Functions
The research team created advanced API functions to adjust functions.

These include:

  • Point: add a landmark on a map
  • Line: provide a route direction on a map
  • Polygon: draw a polygon on a map
  • Dialogue: add dialogue on a map. Web users can write down descriptions.
  • Upload: after posting a landmark, users can also upload pictures or videos to a map display.
  • Mashup: provide value added services and integrate videos watching from YouTube or other websites. (Figure 2)
  • Print: print a specific location on the map with attached information or photos.
  • Coordinate: double click a map and obtain X, Y coordinate.

Figure 2 Mashup Services

4. Value Added Services on EasyMap

EasyMap provides an interactive map that can be used to search locations and look up information. In addition, EasyMap adopts GeoWeb 2.0 techniques to create a series of map services, including point of interest, map blogs, wedding maps, map postcards, invitation cards, and theme maps of aerial photos etc.

4.1 Local Search

Local search operations meet users’ needs. Most users will see their homes or offices as the origin to extend their circles to look for other useful information. EasyMap thus overcomes the stereotype use of a map as a basic tool to find places. EasyMap offers abundant information such as those pertaining to places of interests including restaurants, parking lots, gas stations, hotels, etc.

4.2 Point of Interest

Following Web 2.0 trend, web users can create POI (Point of Interest) on an electronic map, and then add up some description and photos sharing personal experiences. This way people can a create variety of theme maps adding up pictures, experiences, memories, and comments. 4.3 Map Blogs
Anyone can freely apply for membership on EasyMap website. Members can create POI on their own map blogs, where they can place their favorite places such as restaurants, bookstores, shopping malls, fitness centers, and even their favorite family-tour locations. Subsequently, users can write down comments and upload photos.

EasyMap users can publish their own map blogs to specific groups or the generic public. A group of the friends can join the specific theme map blogs and also mark POI on the theme maps. For example, friends can get along to mark “Chocolate” shops or “Chinese restaurants” on a map blog. Moreover, other web users can view a map blog and compare those shops by locations, prices, etc. Another example is to generate a promotion map of a musical band that plans to perform in various locations all over Taiwan. A map of concerts with photos can be established on EasyMap, so that the fans can know the next stops and follow the action.

Figure3 an example of Map Blog

4.4 Wedding Maps

People can share their joy and happiness during occasions such as marriages with their relatives and friends. EasyMap provides sweet wedding maps for couples to design their own style of wedding invitation cards with maps. Couples can mark the wedding ceremony, upload wedding photos, and include any announcements. In addition, the wedding map can be marked with information like routes, traffic information, parking facilities, and accommodations such as hotels. Such information will be of immense help to those planning to attend the wedding ceremony.

Figure4 an example of Wedding Map

4.5 Map Postcards

A poster is way to integrate the map with a scenery. The map poster can help people to find the place and experience the beauty of the scenic location.

4.6 Invitation Cards

EasyMap designs offer a wide range of invitation cards for various purposes like lover dating, birthday party etc. Folks can also select meeting places from the shop directory and then DIY their own invitation cards. All invitation cards include the map of a selected location. Thus, it becomes very convenient for users to inform their friends about the location.

Figure5 an example of invitation card

4.7 Theme maps of Aerial Photos
EasyMap website facilitates ordering aerial photos in Taiwan area. Aerial Photos with high resolution images can help people observe the earth’s surface. Especially, aerial photos overlaying vector data can be made to be the theme maps. The theme maps of aerial photos can be used in guided tours of famous scenic sites like Sun Moon Lake, theme parks, Tamsui River, and baseball fields. In addition, aerial photos can be one of the marketing tools to attract customers. For example, EasyMap website offers the free electronic greeting card with locations of new-year eve party around Taiwan. People can send this special greeting card to their friends and then get together for the celebration party. Thus, aerial photos and maps created using the platform serve as value added services to the public.

Figure 6 the special greeting card with aerial photos

5. Conclusions

Maps need not be tools for mere location look-up, but can serve a wide range of purposes. This study proposes an interactive map platform that opens the door to those user contributions in the form of review, rating, and comments. The map industry is currently favoring increased collaboration with its customers. Following the Web 2.0 trend, web users can create POI (Point of Interest) on an electronic map, and then add description and upload photos. The more the sharing by the users, the more will be the information will be posted on their map blogs. GIS Research Center, FCU expect more users to join the process of marking places of interest and sharing information. That way, EasyMap can be become more accurate by the day. Moreover, the GIS Research Center continues to create a series of interactive and value-added map services. Based on Web2.0 trend and the concepts of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS), geographic information systems have not only been used for professional spatial analyses, but also for providing friendly map interfaces. Especially, the EasyMap can integrate with up-to-date information and enhance the connectivity among the community members.


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