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Map Whiteboard for Collaborative map making and data capture

Runar Bergheim (AVINET), František Zadražil (CCSS)

In 2020, despite being more than 20 years into the era of web mapping, surprisingly many meeting rooms in government institutions over the world are still littered with large-format paper maps over which serious looking men and women stand hoodled, pointing with their fingers and drawing with markers — before handing the manuscript back to the resident GIS expert who puts them back into the data.

The Map Whiteboard technology aims at taking this experience online and improving the accuracy and quality of the data and, albeit in a very small way, aiding the environment by reducing the amount of paper consumed.

We have set out to build a concept that is to map-making what Google Docs is to word processing; a shared user interface that enables people to collaboratively build maps and edit spatial data where each is able to see the changes contributed by other users - as they are made.

The prerequisite for this is a format that allows the representation, storage and transfer of maps and map data. Since the Web Map Context service was conceived, little has changed in terms of standardization of interchange formats for maps. Map Whiteboard builds on top of a JSON based format called “Map Compositions” that draws on the early work of Web Map Context documents, but extends them with 20 years worth of added features.

Much effort has been put into the sharing of data, the publishing of maps and the decentralized capture of data through field mapping applications and applications dedicated to user generated content allowing individual users to contribute to ever-growing centralized yet shared information resources. Web mapping protocols are largely RESTful with some tweaks added to support features like authentication. With the mainstream availability of technologies like Web Sockets that enable persistent connections between clients, there is a potential for real-time collaboration in map and spatial data creation and Map Whiteboard is being built on top of it.

The Map Whiteboard technology will support a number of common use cases for “maps” that have shown themselves exceptionally resilient despite the many and significant improvements that have been made to map technology. Thus far Map Whiteboard supports OpenLayers based clients for real-time map editing as well as visualization of Map Compositions in OpenLayers based clients and desktop clients like QGIS.

Relevant links:
Screen recording showing collaborative feature editing (https://youtu.be/EkDxQDyyeFU)
Map composition schema (Map Composition schema)


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The overall ambition is to design, develop and introduce a platform that which will be modified on the base of real experiences during the project and prepare complex solutions, transferable to pilots and other regions. In addition to that, Polirural DIH aims to offer a solution for the global promotion of pilots. This DIH integrated technology, datasets and libraries in one infrastructure with a complex user-oriented portal in the Web environment. The DIH can connect end-users with developers or researchers to improve the impact of the demo applications or case studies by short-chain feedback from end-users. End users can join larger communities around the DIH to get advice, cooperation potential and access to modern technologies utilisation.


Polirural DIH AIMS TO

Provide a social space for a community of practices

Promote pilots work and support access to their analysis

Promote existing best practices

Offer new tools and technologies for testing

Provide access to digital technologies and competencies

Provide access to infrastructure and tests digital innovations (“test before invest”)

Support effective data management

Provide development playground for map-based projects

Offer training and skills development

Help in networking and connecting users and suppliers of digital innovations