US National Map Corps

Last week I attended a web-based presentation by USGS on the National Map Corps. I don’t know if you are familiar with USGS’s National Map or not, but it is a great resource for finding and downloading information. I had not heard of the USGS National Map Corps before, so this was good news to me.

USGS has adopted the same editing environment for the National Map Corps that OpenStreetMap has used for a few years (Potlatch). It works well, is simple to use, and they use it to update a few features for the US Topo Map. The features you can currently edit across the US are: schools, fire, police, and EMS locations, state capitals, and cemeteries. Not a lot of features to update, but it is nice to see USGS opening up to crowd sourcing to keep features current and accurate. The updates you make on the map are reviewed by peers and then added to the new US Topo Map quads.

The URL for the USGS National Map Corps Editor is: 


Improvements at Open StreetMap

I like the changes going on at OpenStreetMap. I think they are trying to become more user friendly and are pushing themselves more into the mainstream of the mapping world.  Below is an OpenStreetMap of O’Fallon, Illinois that results from the OpenStreetMap export tool which provides a user with an embeddable map for your webpage.  It is very nice and shows that OpenStreetMap is no longer just for the application developers.

After writing this post it looks like the embedded maps are not compatible with the security rules.  To see the map I created you can go to my VerticalGeo company website (also WordPress, but hosted by VerticalGeo) and see the map in this post.  Link.


Web Mapping Architecture on an Open-Source Stack

Sanborn Map Company has a great post on why they moved to an Open Source Stack for serving up the maps they made for the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado.  It is a good read and can be found here.  Link.  The article includes lots of solid reasons why an Open Source stack of geospatial tools can help you deploy your maps quickly, inexpensively, and with more flexibility than other software suites offer.

Walking Papers

Stumbled upon a new capability that I believe is pretty impressive. Walking Papers is a system that works with OpenStreetMap so that a person can download an area in OpenStreetMap, print it, make hand annotated updates to the map, upload it back to OpenStreetMap, and have your updates be applied to the OpenStreetMap base map. There are a few people that are intimidated by technology, but want to contribute to OpenStreetMap, and there are others who live in areas where an internet connection is hard to obtain. These people can still contribute to completing the OpenStreetMap basemap by using printed maps. I think it is a very useful system. If you are interested check out the Walking Papers website.

Completed Aerial Photography Project for the City of O’Fallon, Illinois

We completed an aerial photography project for the city of O’Fallon, Illinios this week.  We flew the core of downtown O’Fallon and the Public Cemetery.  I created a web map on ArcGIS Online that includes both pieces of aerial photography overlaid on top of an ESRI Street Map basemap.  Here is the result: an interactive web map:,38.5838,-89.8908,38.6006&zoom=true
View Larger Map

Getting Started with the ArcGIS Editor for Open Street Map

ESRIs Jeff Baranyi recently posted on ESRI’s ArcGIS Resource Center a summary of the new ArcGIS Editor for Open Street Map.  It is a free tool that provides capability to update one of the most popular Open Source Maps of all time.  Jeff’s blog post can be found here:  Link.  I have replicated Jeff’s entire post below.  ESRI keeps ensuring us they want to work with Open Source programs and here is another example of ESRI following through.  Great job!

As we have written about previously in this blog after the earthquake in Haiti (here and here), OpenStreetMap is a great source of data for you to support disaster and/or humanitarian operations.  Esri has created a specific tool to empower the GIS Community to contribute and use OpenStreetMap data within ArcGIS.  The ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap is a free tool you can download for ArcGIS Desktop from CodePlex. It allows people to do two key things from a disaster management / humanitarian relief perspective:

  1. Contribute data to OpenStreetMap using familiar tools
  2. Enable the conversion of OpenStreetMap (*.osm) files to a feature dataset for editing in ArcGIS

To get started with the ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap you’ll need ArcGIS for Desktop 10 and the ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap.  Note that the ArcGIS for Home Use Program or the Esri Nonprofit Organization Program are great ways to get Esri software if you don’t have it available to you already and do not intend to use it for commercial gain.  You should also be familiar with the basics of editing in ArcGIS for Desktop and with OpenStreetMap.  There is an excellent wiki here to help you understand OpenStreetMap.  If you want to contribute edits to OpenStreetMap you’ll need OpenStreetMap login credentials.

Making your first edits

Once you have you tools loaded and your environment prepared, you’re ready to make your first edits.  The first step is to find an area that you are familiar with that needs editing.  Perhaps this is a new neighborhood near where you live.

The next step is to find some base layer information to put your edits in context.  You can use one of the Basemaps available from the ‘Add Data > Add Basemap’ button. In the image below, we’ve added Imagery upon which we will add data collected from GPS tracks.

GPS tracking is a common way of collecting data for OpenStreetMap as you are collecting the raw geometry of your movement.  In the image below, we’ve added GPS tracks to the map.

Next, use the Download and Symbolize OSM Data tool to download data to a local geodatabase for editing.  Note that the larger the area the longer it will take to download the data.  Once you have the data downloaded you can go ahead and start editing data just like any other feature.  In the image below, the downloaded data from OSM has been added to the map. The GPS tracks have been turned off; however, we will turn them back on again so we can integrate the GPS track data into the downloaded OSM dataset.

When you are done editing you can upload your changes to OpenStreetMap.  It is important that any data contributed back to OpenStreetMap is free from licensing restrictions, as data contributed becomes subject to the Open Database License (see OSM users are responsible for ensuring their edits comply with this license. Using the Upload OSM Data tool you can point to the revision table within your geodatabase where you made your edits, enter your OpenStreetMap login information, and upload your edits to OpenStreetMap.

After a few moments (or up to an hour or so) your new edits will be visible!

Loading OpenStreetMap data

Another very useful tool with the ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap is the Load OSM File tool.  Often times from a response perspective we’re working in environments that are either completely disconnected or have very little bandwidth.  During the response in Haiti it was helpful to have OSM data locally to support operations.  Having up-to-date basemap data is really important to support response and recovery activities.  OpenStreetMap data is available in Planet files or OSM XML format for the world, region, or country downloads.

Once you have an *.OSM file downloaded for a country or region of interest, you can load the data into a geodatabase using the Load OSM File tool.  Note that the larger the file the longer it will take to process.

After the data is loaded into the geodatabase you can symbolize the data using the Symbolize OSM Data tool.  Simply point the tool to the appropriate point, line, and polygon features.

After this tool completes, you’ll have a rich collection of basemap features that are available whether you’re connected to the internet or not.  This is perfect for forward deployed GIS operations where there may not be good internet connectivity.

Look for more updates on version 2.0 of the tool coming soon!  Beta 4 of the ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap 2.0 is available now –   In the upcoming version 2.0 of ArcGIS Editor for OSM, you’ll also be able to generate and consume ArcGIS Server feature services based on OSM data for use in multiple clients, including mobile devices.