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It may seem like ages ago, but back in December 2019, Chinese scientists scrambled to find answers to a then-mysterious disease that caused severe pneumonia. When scientists from Shanghai finally identified the genome sequence of the virus responsible for the rising hospitalizations and deaths, they didn’t waste time. They immediately shared their findings to the global scientific community for further study.
Meanwhile, with the help of geographic information, Johns Hopkins created a dashboard that tracked the pandemic . Although this dashboard is no longer updated today, it had been an essential tool in monitoring the spread of the virus.
These efforts paved the way to formulating vaccines in the shortest time possible—a crucial advantage in the battle against COVID-19. This use of technology best exemplifies how WebGIS can be a key component in effective decision-making.
What is WebGIS?
WebGIS is Geographic Information System (GIS) that uses the World Wide Web as the primary location for storing, analyzing, visualizing, and sharing spatial data. Because data is stored on the internet, information is readily accessible on any device, anywhere, anytime. It’s like using maps connected to the internet, similar to how we use Google Maps or Waze, but with specific features based on pre-determined information.
What are the benefits of WebGIS technology?
There are numerous perks to using web-based GIS as opposed to traditional, desktop-operated GIS.
For one, WebGIS is available in flexible pricing options suitable for varying needs and budgets. This makes it a practical option for those who are interested in exploring GIS for the first time.
It also allows for seamless collaboration because all required data are stored on the internet. This means anyone involved in a project has access to it. There’s little barrier, if at all, to knowledge-sharing. Since information are readily shared and distributed in real time with everyone involved (as with the case of identifying SARS-CoV-2), it’s now relatively quicker to make critical decisions.
It’s also easier to scale since WebGIS can accommodate more user demands, like additional features or functionalities. And because you have easy access, you can add or manipulate data anytime. This interactivity makes WebGIS suitable for when you need real-time input and analysis.
How does WebGIS work?
Several industries now employ this technology to address various issues, find and manage solutions, and streamline systems and processes. Here are some applications.
In environmental management
WebGIS is an exceptional tool that can help address climate change and many other environmental issues. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses web-based geospatial technology to monitor air and water quality. The agency also created an interactive map that tracks excess food in an effort to curb waste.
In business intelligence
WebGIS makes it more seamless to visualize and analyze data on market trends, competitor information, customer behavior, and sales performance. These sets of data can be made available in real time and shared among team members. Your team can then identify potential store locations, add comments, or highlight areas of interest directly on the web-based map. Because information is synchronized, everyone can see these updates at the same time.
In public health
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a COVID-19 dashboard that anyone can access. The agency also created story maps on various health-related issues, like snake bite prevention. (A story map is a web-based, interactive platform tackling a specific topic. It uses multimedia elements to convey information that’s visually engaging).
In urban planning
WebGIS can be integrated with other tools for more effective urban planning. Creating a digital twin, or a virtual replica, of a city allows local governments and urban planners to enhance their decision-making capabilities based on available data. Take, for instance, this digital twin of New South Wales, Australia. Information on transportation networks, land use, urban heat index, real estate properties, major hazardous incidents, and many others are accessible.
What platforms and tools are available?
There are several WebGIS services you can use to create, share, and analyze geographic data. These platforms offer solutions to a wide range of users, whether you’re a GIS professional, a business owner, a marketer, or an urban planner. Here are a few popular options.
This web-based platform is known for its wide array of maps, data, and applications used by both individuals and organizations. ArcGIS Online is developed by Esri, a leading mapping software provider. Using this platform gives you access to Esri’s vast collection of geographic data and services.
Mapbox is known for its customizability. This allows you to create unique maps and location-based applications, with complete control over visual elements like font style, camera angles, map styles, and 3D features, among others.
Carto is a cloud-based location intelligence service that boasts a user-friendly interface. This makes it easier for you to create dashboards and interactive maps, analyze spatial data, and gain insights from these data.
This is an open-source platform for creating interactive web maps. OpenLayers allows you to display various map layers with customizations. Developers and organizations who prefer feature-rich web maps use this WebGIS tool.
Another open-source service, Leaflet is best for developing no-frills, dynamic maps best suited for web and mobile use. It supports various data formats so you can display and interact with different kinds of spatial data on the web. Consider this if you want basic mapping capabilities.
Geoserver allows you to publish and manage geospatial data on the World Wide Web using established protocols, letting you effectively create maps and analyze location data. Geoserver also connects to multiple data sources for more flexibility.
With its numerous advantages and wide range of applications, WebGIS is a practical tool if you want to explore what GIS can do for your business or organization. Its accessibility, relative affordability, collaboration features, scalability, and ease of use make this technology an essential platform in enhancing systems and making data-informed decisions.
Message us if you want to know more about how you can leverage WebGIS.