Category: Google Earth

GIS without a GIS ?

Interesting challenge, Can you do simple spatial analysis without access to a GIS or raw data ?

I received this email today, what do you think ?

“Hope you are well – I am now 18 months into a career in renewable energy and am the “expert” in GIS in this company.  We work with Imass (my old employers) with a GIS-based system for working out how much connections of wind-farms, biomass plants etc. are to the electricity grid.  I am going through a data checking exercise and want to compare substation locations digitised by Imass with air photos and maps.  

It is easy for us to create a KML file and display on Google Earth but do any of your readers know of a clever way of comparing with OS mapping – without the need of a GIS or ownership of the OS maps?  Obviously one by one we can compare on Multimap but how do I quickly move around 800 points? 

I wondered if  Where’s the Path was along the right lines on this.  Not sure where I can find the right forum to discuss.”

My guess is that for largely organisational / licensing issues this would not be possible, even if technically it may be, but it’s an interesting thought…

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.

History in Google Earth – Did you miss it ?

With last months launch of Google Earth 5.0 much “mainstream” interest was focused on the capability to view under the ocean, and of course to begin the search for the lost city of Atlantis 🙂

For many however, myself included, the most important new capability is the ability to view historic images from the Google archive of satellite and aerial imagery.


Wembley Stadium 1997-2007
Wembley Stadium 1997-2007

Early days of course, but the potential to view history in this way has massive potential as illustrated by this image of Wembley Stadium in London. As you can imagine the back office system needed to deliver this are substantial, but the limiting factor remains access to imagery from around the world. 

As to be expected by now the greatest availability is in the United States where the enlightened federal data policy means that it is possible to view Mountain View Ca. from the late 1940s — fantastic for viewing the development of the city from farmland to Silicon Valley.

Similar imagery of course was acquired at the same time in Europe, if would be wonderful to see it also made available..


Written and submitted from the Fira Exhibition Centre, Barcelona, using its public wifi network

Palm, Google Earth and storytelling..

I often talk about the use of Google Earth for storytelling, illustrating a story with its geographical context displayed interactively is very powerful, to see what I mean just watch the first few minutes of the launch event for the new Palm Pre at last weeks CES show.

BTW Its great to see Palm that seem to be getting their original mojo back, remember how cool the original Palm V was..

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.

Looking for a Google Earth Server

Then look no further than the latest release of GeoServer which has fantastic new KML serving capabilities on a par with the Google Earth Enterprise server.

The key new capability here is to stream vector  and raster data to Google Earth as the user zooms or pans  making sure that only just the minimum amount of information is transferred thereby giving the great performance you expect from Google Earth.

This release of GeoServer can also extrude KML with a height attributes allowing users to stream simple 3D model data to Google Earth.

GeoServer 1.7.1
GeoServer 1.7.1 serves 3D KML


GeoServer continues to develop into a serious enterprise application which no doubt is getting the attention of the guys in Redlands and is providing much needed competition in the market. From a KML perspective it is now possible for an organisation to self publish almost any type and size of geospatial database using an open technology stack.

And it runs nicely on my Mac !!!

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.

What Map Maker is /is not

Last week Google introduced Map Maker a set of online map making tools to very positive… but not universal acclaim.

I can understand where SteveC is coming from, but I think it’s important to clarify a few points.

Map Maker is clearly not an open source project, and as such is not in competition with openstreetmap and does not I believe represent a forking opportunity for the creation of open geodata. If you wish to help build an open geodata based global map then openstreetmap is the project for you.

What Map Maker represents is the public exposure of the tool Google has been using internally for a while to “fill in the gaps” of our global mapping coverage, specifically mapping areas not currently covered by the commercial map data providers. We are now asking the users of Google Maps to help us by providing mapping data using the same tool. The data submitted is licensed by contributors to Google to eventually become part of Google Maps/Earth following moderation by Google.

This is a key difference in approach to openstreetmap, most end users of Google Maps/Earth etc. and most developers using their api’s don’t want or need access to the raw data, for them such information is most usefully made available as pre-rendered tiles.

Although not currently an open source project, it does produce data that is free to users, the information contributed by the community becomes freely available to them via Google Maps and the Maps and Earth API’s

At the moment, I believe this is the best way to rapidly expand the availability of mapping and to provide access to detailed online maps to communities which up until now have just not had access to something most of use take for granted.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.