Building Web-Based Spatial Information Solutions around Open Specifications and Open Source Software

Geoffrey Anderson, Rafael Moreno-Sanchez


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are moving from isolated, standalone, monolithic, proprietary systems working in a client-server architecture to smaller web-based applications and components offering specific geo-processing functionality and transparently exchanging data among them. Interoperability is at the core of this new web services model. Compliance with Open Specifications (OS) enables interoperability. Web-GIS software's high costs, complexity and special requirements have prevented many organizations from deploying their data and geo-processing capabilities over the World Wide Web. There are no-cost Open Source Software (OSS) alternatives to proprietary software for operating systems, web servers, and Relational Database Management Systems. We tested the potential of the combined use of OS and OSS to create web-based spatial information solutions. We present in detail the steps taken in creating a prototype system to support land use planning in Mexico with web-based geo-processing capabilities currently not present in commercial web-GIS products. We show that the process is straightforward and accessible to a broad audience of geographic information scientists and developers. We conclude that OS and OSS allow the development of web-based spatial information solutions that are low-cost, simple to implement, compatible with existing information technology infrastructure, and have the potential of interoperating with other systems and applications in the future.


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