Basemaps

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... 

Is your GPS taking you the wrong way?

One day as I was working in my county engineer's office at Stark County, IL, a delivery driver stopped in and said "Why are these roads labeled incorrectly on my GPS map?"  At first I blew it off thinking that's something beyond my control and I had more important things like ongoing construction projects.  After all, we as the local agency were the knowledge experts on local names and places and if these big companies wanted our data they could "come and find us" with their "incorrect" GPS navigation devices.  But then I realized what a tremendous benefit this would be to not only the local deliver driver but also emergency response, tourism, and many others.

 So how do we get these basemaps updated?  First of all, these basemap companies are BIG and there are only a few key players.  By basemaps I mean the foundation for GPS navigation on consumer-grade electronics.  

There's not exactly a 1-800 hotline that you can call as a one-stop-shop to update everyone in the universe (although that would be nice).  There are however, tools that allow you to edit or update the information on your own.  This is called crowd-sourcing, where anyone / anywhere can contribute to updating basemap information to benefit the traveling public.  Here are some ways to do this for some of the bigger basemap providers out there:

A sample of an Esri basemap

A sample of an Esri basemap


  • Open Street Map is a crowd-sourced application that allows to edit and update street map information used by consumers around the world.  All you need is to create a login and learn their simple editing tools.


  • HERE, A Nokia Company, who recently purchased acquired Navteq is also a major provider of basemaps.  With HERE you can go to their site: 

https://mapcreator.here.com/mapcreator/  Map editing tool sign up for an account

https://content.ext.here.com/    Data upload portal (Upload GIS data here)


  • Google Maps has a Base Map Partner Program that allows agencies to submit their data in vector format with specific instructions regarding format.  In addition to vector data, Google also allows users to contribute to their collection of Cities in 3D, Imagery, and parcel data.


Remember, sometimes it takes some time for it to become active.  Yes, real people typically look at the information you submit and actually take time to verify its accuracy.  


If you have more ideas, thoughts, etc. please leave them in the comments below.

Getting Back Bing Maps

ArcGIS.com is a great online GIS tool. Earlier this year, Esri had to remove the Microsoft Bing basemaps that were previously available to users. All conspiracy theories aside, this was a huge blow to online data collection. The Bing imagery is crystal clear and while second to Google in overall coverage, In a few areas the quality is actually far superior. As well, Esri does not have a good imagery-plus-streetname basemap similar to Bing's hybrid map. 

There is some attempt to explain all of this on Esri's online resource page, but it doesn't get into the "why". It's worthy to note here that you should keep your MXDs with Bing Maps already added. While you can no longer add Bing imagery to a new ArcMap document, You will be allowed to keep existing layers. Also, you will be able to use Bing Maps in the free ArcGIS Desktop Explorer, which leads me to thing it's a MS licensing issue and not a Us vs Them problem. 

At at any rate. Bing Maps are great, and we all still want them on our maps. You can still do this by using a Microsoft Bing Maps Key. The video below explains how to do this in a short 4 minute tutorial.