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The Right Questions for Web Mapping: for Whom, for What?

Mapping applications become democratic and becomes accessible to everyone with solutions available online. It is far from the time of Geographic Information System (GIS) mastodons, developed specifically for a company or an administration. It is possible today to compose its own mapping solution based on internal or third-party data, and to respond rapidly to the stakes of its activity. However, the right questions still need to be asked before integrating a web mapping solution.

From mapping to data visualization

Let’s go back to basics. GIS software is usually the tool (or a set of software tools) used to represent and work with data related to geographic locations. In a broader sense, GIS in application sense, such as Google Maps, now accompany our daily life. At the same time, lighter GIS applications are being developed, and this is also known as web mapping, which offers maps and APIs for developers to locate and query events based on their locations.

By offering rich and easy-to-understand data display and visualization capabilities, there is no longer requirement for a strong Geomatics skill to understand and exploit the geo-spatial data. Using GIS complements and their analytical capabilities become the strength of data visualization.

Web mapping offers a multitude of applications

This is why web mapping applications meet a wide variety of needs, whether they are aimed at the general public in the form of mobile applications in the context of leisure (itineraries, places to be discovered …) or to companies for their analysis and understanding of their processes.

With the rise of collaborative platforms, the in-depth analysis of the geo-spatial data provided by the user of the platform makes it possible to highlight inconsistencies via data visualization. An erroneous location of the property, for example, obviously does not slip through the eyes of a database.

In the fields of transport and freight, these lightweight applications make it easier to co-ordinate carriers and, above all, to anticipate the occurrence of events whose unpredictability can cost the company a lot of money.

In short, it is not a question of equipping a global GIS, consisting of heavy material, human and organizational resources, but it is to exploit the essential technology now widely available for its business needs. In other words, know how to effectively visualize geo-spatial data with a web service.

The right questions to ask before choosing a solution

While there is a plethora of online solutions, not all respond to the same needs and even less to the same targets. Therefore, before going into technical details, it is essential to start with some important questions, in order to guide the choice in the right direction:

  • Who will use my mapping solution? Is it reserved for my employees internally or for the general public?
  • “What use case can I make of it?” Does the solution have to display my data? Should it allow me to analyze my data and cross-check it? Should it provide alerts?
  • How will my data be produced? Is it to retrieve information in real-time or asynchronously?
  • To what extent should such data be shared?

These few questions, and especially the answers that will be given, will make it possible to make a first sorting.

As web mapping solutions continue to evolve, new cases of use will emerge, and maybe then new business models or services. The only limits then are the imagination … and a good developer.

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