But I have paper maps that work just fine...

Anyone who's following this blog has some awareness of GIS and what a powerful tool it can be. Throughout my various demonstrations or presentations, I am asked, "I have paper maps and CAD data, so why do I need GIS?" I usually respond with a standard set of answers: a GIS lets you edit information in real time, CAD is not to scale so your features aren't where you think they are, and so on. But what I'd really like to do is show them this...

The Duryea Motor Trap was manufactured in present day Peoria Heights, IL in the late 1890's, when paper maps were still the standard.

The Duryea Motor Trap was manufactured in present day Peoria Heights, IL in the late 1890's, when paper maps were still the standard.

The Volvo DL was one of the most purchased vehicles of 1982, the same year AutoCAD was introduced.

The Volvo DL was one of the most purchased vehicles of 1982, the same year AutoCAD was introduced.

Much like how the auto industry has advanced in numerous ways since the 1890's and 1982, the same has happened to mapping technology, and the results are drastically different from before. With GIS you have a program that was specifically designed for mapping out our world with accuracy and precision the likes of which have never been seen or realized. By incorporating out dated paper maps, and AutoCAD data into a GIS, you are able to create a foundation to build upon and really start to rev the engine of your organization's mapping ability.

You're able to run analytics based on a variety of features including pipes, parcels, and points on a map. This allows you to look for trends of problem areas, plan for upcoming work, and document completed projects much faster than before. GIS gives also gives you the ability to communicate location seamlessly between office and field staff. Furthermore, it is dynamic, meaning that it has the ability to be edited at any moment to reflect current conditions of a project your organization is undertaking. 

Ultimately, the point of this article is to get you to realize that yes, your old paper maps and AutoCAD data can serve a purpose for your organization. But much like both of the cars mentioned above can get you to your destination, wouldn't it make sense to drive in a vehicle that is faster, more comfortable, and safer? Like this...

Note: Although this would be fun, we do not complete field work in a Cloudpoint Mustang

Note: Although this would be fun, we do not complete field work in a Cloudpoint Mustang

5 Ways to Add a Finishing Touch to Your WAB App

5 Ways to Add a Finishing Touch to Your WAB App

The Web Map and Widgets are the foundation of creating apps in Web AppBuilder (WAB), but there are customizations you can make to add a finishing touch to your app and make it unique.

OpenFields ArcMap Add-on.

OpenFields ArcMap Add-on.

Farmland Assessment Tool for GIS users. 
We have developed a simple ArcMap (soon to be for ArcGIS Online & Pro) add on that will assist parcel managers with Farmland Assessment specifically in Illinois. And we're giving it away for free. 
Removing Roadblocks
The State requires and overlay of three separate layers for proper valuation and assessment: Parcels, Soils and Land Use.  It's a rather simple geoprocessing function of these layers that results in the required acreage calculation of each parcel polygon to be properly assessed

A Few Reasons for Pro

A fresh calendar year is upon us, and one of my goals this round is to give ArcGIS Pro a legitimate shot at being the go-to desktop GIS application. (TBD...)

As increasingly more development goes into ArcGIS Pro, we as GIS professionals are beginning to actually consider the gradual shift away from ArcMap. Many of us have dabbled with Pro by now, and many of us have been more or less disappointed by either our machines’ lack of drawing performance or the program's lack of familiar places or functions.

In an effort to help ease the transition, or maybe increase your interest in doing so, I wanted to share a few of the bright spots I've found within Pro. 

Schema management

We all know that no schema is a catch-all, and often we’re going to make modifications depending on our workflows, systems or vernacular. Typically, this has been done from ArcCatalog or the ArcCatalog window - both which work fine but are limited as far as real-estate goes.

In Pro you can work directly within the map (project) to update or modify schema. Simply right-click the layer or table you wish to work with and choose the schema type under Design. New pane(s) open, and you can select an item from you wish to modify and work while your project is open in front of you. And you can resize the panes you are working within – you’re not limited to viewing only a small handful of rows:

Editing schema in ArcGIS Pro

Editing schema in ArcGIS Pro

 

Editing Feature Services

In ArcMap, you could accomplish this through creating a “disconnected copy for editing” and then synchronizing upon completion, or through python scripting workflows. An advantage in Pro is that you can edit services directly in desktop without just adding the data from your location of choice, Portal or ArcGIS Online, and get started. And one of the most useful things I’ve found is that you can copy and paste data from an outside source into your live service - a very nice tool, especially if you are working with ArcGIS Online-hosted data.

Copy & Paste into feature service using ArcGIS Pro

Copy & Paste into feature service using ArcGIS Pro

 

Working in 3D

Many of us are still searching for that perfect (and feasible) workflow or use for 3D. While I may not have that answer for you, I will say you can convert 2D to 3D very easily in Pro. Here is one way to quickly test the water; maybe it will spark some ideas for further exploration:

1. From Map Properties add an elevation surface (DEM for example)
2. From the View tab choose Convert. A new 3D map will be added to your project.
3. Choose Link Views and adjust your panes as desired to keep both maps in the same space:

Linked views in ArcGIS Pro

Linked views in ArcGIS Pro

While your PC (or habits) may not be completely there yet, there are perks to using ArcGIS Pro. I hope these examples will give you some ideas for your own use!

Using Mobile GIS to Get Big Bucks

Using Mobile GIS to Get Big Bucks

It's no secret to anyone who knows me, that when the temperature drops and the leaves start to change color, it's time to get into the woods.  Chasing whitetail deer through various counties of Illinois is something that I long for and a passion that helps me rest and recharge the batteries of life.  There is nothing that equals being able to silently enter the woods and have the wild slowly wake up around you. Hearing the first birds chirp in the soft morning light, followed by the crunching of leaves as two .....

Your first Drone flight: Secrets to success

Your first Drone flight: Secrets to success

Cloudpoint Aerial Services is a division of Cloudpoint Geographics, providing professional GIS and mapping services in the fields of surveying, engineering, transportation, utilities, and remote sensing.  We are sharing some of our secrets of success to achieving professional, high-resolution aerial imagery using drones that will help you get up and running with your first drone (UAV) flight.  This list is not all inclusive but gives you some key points that you will want to accomplish for providing quality aerial services with professional results.

Prairie State Playlist: A Story Map Music Tour Through the Land of Lincoln

Our travels here at Cloudpoint take us to many places throughout the state of Illinois (as well as many other states). In the spirit of our connections to the Prairie State, as well as our varied tastes in music, here is a Story Map that focuses on a selected set of songs that contain Illinois place names in their titles-The Prairie State Playlist.

The Prairie State Playlist is constructed using Esri's Story Map Journal template. Maps of each location comprise the "Main Stage", while information and a link to the song are in the "Side Panel." The maps for the Prairie State Playlist were created in ArcGIS Online as webmaps, and then converted to apps using Web AppBuilder, which allows for a better interface and the inclusion of widgets such as a Legend, Basemap Gallery, etc. The webmaps alone can also be included as content in the Story Map, as well as videos, images, and web pages.

Please browse the Prairie State Playlist and enjoy the music tour through the Land of Lincoln. Along the way, you might pick up some information about Bob Dylan, Tornadoes, and an EPA Superfund site.

 

Mapping the Best Places to Work.

Mapping the Best Places to Work.

Sometime ago I read an article on the Forbes Magazine website about a yearly index they create that was screaming for a map. Every year demographers at Forbes comb through US Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the rate 'Best' small, medium and large US cities for job growth.  As I read the article I kept wondering, "Where are these in relation to one another?" and "Is there a certain concentration geographically as a whole?" So I got my hands on the dataset...

Flow Direction

Flow Direction

After a few years now of ArcGIS Online, there is still no support for non-simple line symbols. This means for utilities, or streams, routes or whatever line features you may be managing, you cannot easily display them with flow direction arrows as in Desktop. Please Note: Those with access to ArcGIS for Server can certainly publish map services that will support this type of symbology and can be displayed through ArcGIS Online. However there are probably many that do not have that option, so in this post I'll discuss a one method as a work-around to solve this...

Top 5 Geospatial Tips For your next vacation

Route with natural wonders and points of interest layers

Route with natural wonders and points of interest layers

This is a great website for planning your route and your stops.  It has an excellent interactive map that allows the user to turn on and off layers including, hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, points of interest, natural wonders, parks, gardens, and more.  It tallies your total mileage, travel time and includes an estimate for fuel expenses that updates as you alter your route.  Depending on what your interests are, just turn on the layers and you'll be sure not to miss anything along the way.

 

2. Prep for Disconnected Navigation

National Parks and Forests are generally very remote.  That's what makes them so beautiful and receive a "National" designation by our federal government.  However along with that comes a serious lack of cellular service which most of us have become so accustomed to with our smartphones navigating us everywhere from coffee shops to baseball games.  Plan ahead and maybe pickup a hard copy map or find an app that allows you to download the base layers ahead of time so you are not stuck with a blue dot on a white screen while Siri is out to lunch.

 

3. Get a Benchmark

Replica benchmark from Grand Teton

Replica benchmark from Grand Teton

You don't have to steal them to have a great looking souvenir from the top of the rock.  Even though I did not summit Grand Teton (it is on my bucket list now), I was able to pick up this awesome monument created by Geo Situ that provides geographic information as well as some great memories.  They have these available for almost any geographic point of interest in the world.  I have a feeling this could be the beginning of a prized collection some day.

 

 

 

4. Backroads.com

During our recent trip out to Yellowstone, we saw these guys all over the place.  They offer active travel trip packages where they provide everything along the way and you just enjoy your favorite activity along the way.  Biking, Walking, Hiking, Rafting, Kayaking, or Snowshoe are just a few of the many travel methods you can pick from.  Each itinerary includes several points of interest to keep things interesting along the way.  I'm not much for sitting around on my vacations so if you want to get off of the beaten path and actually see things, this might be the way to go.

 

5. Geotag your Photos

If you want to remember where that picture was taken or you need to put together a map of all the stops you made, geotagging your photos is a great way to make it easy.  Most smartphones have this capability already enable for you if location services are turned on.  A few consumer cameras have this capability but not very many.  Visit this wiki page for more information on how to geotag photos that were not tagged when they were taken.  Here is a sample of what you can do with them with geotags.

Extend your Apps with Custom Widgets in Web AppBuilder

Extend your Apps with Custom Widgets in Web AppBuilder

Cloudpoint has successfully upgraded a number of Flex mapping applications to Javascript applications in the past year using Web AppBuilder (WAB). Some of the components that make these apps stand out are widgets that improve the user experience with the app. . Esri packages a number of basic widgets in WAB, but some developers have designed custom widgets that extend the functionality of these applications. A number of these custom widgets were available in the Flex apps and we wanted to honor our client's wishes to provide the same tools and functionality. Here we highlight a few of the custom widgets we configured for our clients.

Leaving a legacy: Preventing the loss of Tribal Data.

Leaving a legacy: Preventing the loss of Tribal Data.

As employees accumulate years on the job, they begin to build up an internal database of information.  A common term for this is Tribal Knowledge. Tribal knowledge is used to describe the wealth of data that a long time employee has developed, obsorbed, and retained over time. This is a fantastic resource for your organization which can....

The more things change, the more they stay the same

The more things change, the more they stay the same

I have installed production ArcGIS Server systems over a dozen times (rough estimate not counting upgrades) at different locations and under different IT environments. It is a world of change from the old ArcIMS days and so much easier. No Apache Server, no Tomcat, no enabling user permissions to make changes to the environmental variables or setting the %JAVA_HOME variable (How many times did a Java update break our sites? Ugh!). That being said each install has its own idiosyncrasies and challenges...

10 ways to use GIS for Sidewalk and ADA Compliance

10 ways to use GIS for Sidewalk and ADA Compliance

Sidewalk inventories and ADA compliance are currently a hot topic among local agencies.  This post will provide you with some tips and ideas on how to use GIS to create and update your sidewalk inventory with the ArcGIS platform via the web and mobile devices.  

All of Illinois Geocaches in One Map*

All of Illinois Geocaches in One Map*

I work for a living, but in the off times I still play with this technology, so I have a Premium Geocaching subscription. This allows me to query their data in circular buffers and return a GPX file. After about 27 of these queries, I was confident that I had all of the cache locations I wanted. Running a few geoprocessing functions, I dropped any duplicates and union-ed these points to county polygons to get the number within each county. This data are reflected in the Classified inset map. What am I talking about? Geocaching of course. If you're reading this tech blog there's a pretty good chance you already know what geocaching is... 

Contours

Contours are a great way to quickly view an area and get the feel for the lay of the land. And the better the source data, the more you can do with them, from reference to planning. Recently we used data derived from LiDAR to build a county-wide contour layer. The reason we went with LiDAR data is that the accuracy is usually much tighter (and more recent) than existing elevation information.

Contours created from LiDAR derived data

Contours created from LiDAR derived data

There are obviously different methods  and tools to do this but here in Illinois we are fortunate; ISGS has done a fantastic job of working with counties and vendors to acquire LiDAR data, then process it and share it with the public through the Illinois Height Modernization Program. For GIS users the available data even includes prepared ArcMap documents with layers derived from classified LiDAR. Very nice. So with this information and some help from ESRI’s Contour raster function and Spatial Analyst, as long as processing power and disk space are available, you can build and fine-tune contours for fairly large areas.

It should be noted that LiDAR and elevation data can get pretty large in terms of storage space needed, not to mention any downloading or transferring of files. And you may find if working with larger areas, that processing data in parts or sections at time is necessary due to software limitations or time constraints. These things may pose challenges, to find the right fit for your needs and workflow(s). Overall however, this has been a great example of where open data meets ever-improving technology.