Geospatial data has become an increasingly important subject in the modern world and what is where has become a driving force both in tradition realms as well as the rapidly growing digital one.
Geospatial data usually refers to data with Latitude/Longitude or other reference points to geographic locations along with attributes that describe features like images, points, lines or polygons. In truth all data is geospatial and includes anything with an address, city, region, state or country. Working with this kind of data requires some foundational information so this will cover the basics of geospatial data, then we will explore the file types, tools and programs.
Map Projections are how mathematically 3D surfaces are transformed to a 2D plane. Every approach has some distortion but depending on the needs certain projections may fit better than others (see http://projectionwizard.org as a great way to determine the best fit).
xkcd: Map Projections
Datums defines the surface and the position of the surface relative to the center of the earth. It provide a frame of reference for any map files and even the printed maps you are used to.
Example of Ellipsoid and Geoid models for Vertical DatumsHorizontal Datums provide a reference of a fixed point and an reference ellipsoid model which better represents the non-spherical shape of the Earth.
North American Datum of 1927 (NAD 27)
North American Datum of 1983(NAD 83)
Vertical Datums are used to describe the elevation or orthometric height of a point either from Mean Sea Level, Tidal data, or from a geoid.
North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88) is a geoid model
Global Datums In an increasingly connected world, the need for a universal perspective led to a global datum.
Geodetic System Reference 1980 (GSR 80)
Geodetic System of 1984 (WGS84)
Used for Global Positioning System (GPS)
A coordinate transformation (EPSG, OGC) or geographic transformation (ESRI) between Datums. The margin of error between different datums can be quite small to hundreds of feet
The Future of Datums
NAD 83 and NAVD 88 will be replaced in 2022 with a newer version. This will correct for continental drift and adjust for several other factors.
Geospatial Data — A Datum Primer
When I was a kid I was watching Star Wars with my Dad and he asked me if the dogfighting spaceship were going up or…
Geographic Information Systems
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present spatial and geographic data to allow the understanding of relationship, patterns and trends.
Roads and Rivers
Census Data by Town
Vector vs Raster
Data recorded as a pixel/grid units with image or information
Resolution is the pixel size
Can display satellite and other photographic information
Example of IR Raster ImagesVector
Scalable data geometrically represented lines, shapes, or points
Smaller file sizes
Better for depicting boundaries, roads and regional area
Can be styled as points, polygon color, line weights
Example of vector file showing regions in Burlington
MapBox https://www.mapbox.com/ Mapbox is the location data platform for mobile and web applications. Free as well as a paid product set.
Geojson.IO http://geojson.io geojson.io is a quick, simple tool for creating, viewing, and sharing maps.
ArcGIS Online Map Viewer https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html
Google Earth https://www.google.com/earth/ Google mapping software, built to natively take KLM/KLZ files.
PowerBI https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/ beta tool for Google, can take in Lat/Long for geopositioning.
Google Data Studios https://datastudio.google.com Google dashboard tool with limited geospatial functionality, can interpret latitude and longitude.
APIS, SDK’S, PLATFORMS, LIBRARIES, ETC
ArcGIS Runtime SDK for iOS
ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Android
ArcGIS Runtime SDK for .NET
ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Java
ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Qt
ArcGIS API for Python
https://www.arcgis.com ArcGIS offers a unique set of capabilities for applying location-based analysis to your business practices. Gain greater insights using contextual tools to analyze and visualize your data. Then share these insights and collaborate with others via apps, maps, and reports.
ArcExplore (requires account creation)
http://www.qgis.org QGIS is an Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities.
Large Selection of Plugins
Strong Support Community
QGIS : A Free and Open Source Geographic Information System (documentation for QGIS can be found here)
Python is an open source general programming language which can be used for data analysis with a robust selection of geospatial libraries:
GeoPandas extends the datatypes used by pandas to allow spatial operations on geometric type and include some of the libraries below for manipulation/plotting
PySal PySAL is an open source cross-platform library of spatial analysis function
Fiona Importing and exporting vector data from various formats like shapefile
Rasterio Importing and exporting raster data from various formats
PyProj Defining and transforming the datum and projections of spatial data
Shapely Spatial analytics
CartoPy Descartes Cartography tools for making maps.
ArcPy Python site package for ArcGIS that provides a useful and productive way to perform geographic data analysis, data conversion, data management, and map automation with Python.
R is an open source programming language and software environment for statistical computing and has a huge number of spatial data packages. Here are some of the common ones:
Ggmap extends the plotting package ggplot2 for maps
Rgdal R’s interface to the popular C/C++ spatial data processing library gdal
Rgeos R’s interface to the powerful vector processing library geos
Maptools provides various mapping functions
Dplyr and tidyr are a fast and concise data manipulation packages
Tmap is a new packages for rapidly creating beautiful maps
Cran.r-project Spatial provides a general list of spatial libraries
R-ArcGIS The R — ArcGIS Community is a community driven collection of free, open source projects making it easier and faster for R users to work with ArcGIS data, and ArcGIS users to leverage the analysis capabilities of R.
The Spatial Community is a Slack-based community of over 1600 geospatial enthusiasts: developers, GIS professionals, students, and hobbyists. http://thespatialcommunity.org
OSGeo was created to support the collaborative development of open source geospatial software, and promote its widespread use. http://www.osgeo.org
OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) is an international not for profit organization committed to making quality open standards for the global geospatial community. http://www.opengeospatial.org
NEARC North East ArcGIS User Group is an independent, volunteer organization dedicated to helping users of Esri GIS software and hosts two conference annually. http://www.northeastarc.org
VGIS-L Vermont GIS Community Listserve: https://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=VGIS-L
Conclusion There are many more files, APIs, programs and tools beyond this short list. While it can be intimidating to approach geospatial problems, the power of layering is well worth the effort and there are many quick tools that allow you to get started with a basic map in minutes.
TRAINING MATERIALS FROM THE VERMONT CENTER FOR GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
2017 QGIS Training Manual
Chapter 1: Mapping and Digital Data Fundamentals (PDF, 343 KB)
Chapter 2: Planning a GIS Project (PDF, 162 KB)
Chapter 3: Online Mapping Tools (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Chapter 4: Introduction to GPS (PDF, 653 KB)
Chapter 5: Introduction to QGIS Projects, Data Layers and The Map View (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Chapter 6: Data Acquisition Methods, Procedures, and Issues (PDF, 1.8 MB)
Chapter 7: Layer Properties (PDF, 1.8 MB)
Chapter 8: Understanding and Using Attribute Data, Queries, and Analysis (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Chapter 9: Creating Map Layouts, Printing and Exporting (PDF, 1.3 MB )
Powerpoints in PDF format:
Digital Mapping Fundamentalss
Intro to GPS
VT Open Geodata Portal Videos