ArcGIS Online: 6 Things to Like About the New Mapping Platform
After a year of working with ArcGIS Online (AGOL), we had a round table last week among our GIS developers and asked the question “what are the 6 things you most like about ArcGIS Online”. The results of our informal poll are below:
1) Web Maps – we all agreed the use of a single web map to express all map layers was a big deal. In the past too much work was needed by the developer to reach out to different sources for layers, and to deal individually with each layer (projection etc) before it was displayed. The web map has simplified that process, they form form the base for Web and mobile maps and development. They can also be embedded in a web page, rather like a youtube video, see our contact page for an example. Now that is cool.
2) Authentication and Groups – being able to control who has access to your data was often a request our clients had when it came to ArcGIS Server development. It meant we had to develop custom authentication services. The ArcGIS Online Portal has authentication built in. Marvellous. Our code is simpler, and our clients have a greater level of control over data access.
3) Data publishing – simplicity and empowerment when it comes to data publishing we agreed were key advantages of AGOL. It is now easy for users with limited or no GIS training to publish shapefiles, csv and other data sources to ArcGIS as layers. Combining these layers into a single web map is also easily done. Esri have made working with a complex GIS server like ArcGIS now very easy. That empowers WebMapSolutions clients, and simplifies the work of GIS developers.
4) Hosted Feature Services – these are the equivalent of WFS in the open source world. They are editable layers, and are one of the options presented to users when publishing data to AGOL. For those who wish to view and edit shapefiles on a mobile device – a common request and one which demanded extra developer work and time – publishing data as a hosted feature service is pure simplicity.
5) Free Data – Esri have been very smart in providing free base maps with AGOL. This steps us past the days when developers/clients needed to hunt around for appropriate base map data for their area of interest. Users still have the option to publish their own base imagery, or purchase high resolution imagery through AGOL. But the mere fact that so much base map data is available for free in AGOL is a huge benefit.
6) Desktop Integration – the ability to centralise geodata in one cloud based location is huge. This has made it possible for companies such as ours to provide applications fo field workers; online/offline editing for example. For non GIS users the are apps such as our Parks Finder, executive dashboards to improve managements data access and decision making. But what about the GIS analysts; those who remain at the core of processing and analyzing GIS data? Esri’s decision to integrate the 10.1 desktop products such as ArcMap with AGOL has allowed analysts to access to all AGOL web maps and services. We like the fact that AGOL serves all GIS users including those using desktop products, and increasingly an ever wider non GIS audience.