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Home arrow Articles arrow Web Services arrow Nanaimo BC puts the city on the map using Google Earth & Google Map APIs     

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Nanaimo BC puts the city on the map using Google Earth & Google Map APIs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Glenn Letham (GISuser editor)   
17 August 2005
The City of Nanaimo, British Columbia recently started using FME Suite's KML support to provide residents with access to some of its geographic information via Google Earth. Using FME Suite, the City's web site is providing KML links to visitors. KMLs include a virtual tour of the downtown core, 3D building models, and links to downtown businesses as well as orthophoto data for the Nanaimo region. We're pleased to take a closer look at these cool applications taking advantage of the latest API's made available from Google.

Before we explore, The City of Nanaimo states that they have provided some of its geographic information for use in Google™ Earth on an "experimental basis" - plese keep this in mind.

Some sample work from the city:

Nanaimo Virtual Downtown - This file highlights the 3D abilities of Google™ Earth. For best viewing, it is suggested that you make sure that you turn on the Terrain group in Google Earth, and in your preferences choose to open URLs in a new window.

City of Nanaimo Virtual Earth tour

The Image above displays a  map of downtown Nanaimo with a transparency overlay of 3D buildings. Taking this even further, clicking the camera icon displayed in several key areas (i.e.. top of Beacon Tower) will enable users to launch a virtual tour - see images below. The virtual tour action makes a call to the City's website and starts a 3D panoramic movie showing a 360 degree perspective as seen from the Beacon Tower. Unfortunately when I tried to interact with the display in order to resize the display and relocate it to a more visible area on my screen, the application hung temporarily on me... this could be due to some limitations in memory or with my graphics card etc... (Note: I have a skookum new Matrox card but have yet to install it!). After about a minute the application came back to life but my PC was huffing and puffing pretty good!

Click the camera icon to access a tour

Start the tour to get a 3D perspective scene

Nanaimo Orthophotos Tour - This file will enable you to view a generalized version of the City's orthophotos in the Google™ Earth environment. Zoom-in tight and additional details will be revealed. Google™ Earth slows down when you load more than a couple large images, especially when you have Terrain turned on. For best performance don't load more than a couple at a time. Calling the file up forces a display of the Nanaimo area on the display along with a map sheet index.

Othophoto Index Map

What makes this even more valuable is the combination of additional Google KML services. For example, several info "i" icons are provided on the display (See below). Clicking on these will result in the return of a hyperlink to satellite imagery provided by DigitalGlobe which overlaps with the areas delineated in the sample above showing the orthophoto index.

Click additional info to view imagery

In addition to developing apps with Google Earth, the City is also toying with the Google Maps API. As an example see the Nanaimo Downtown Heritage Walk tour at http://citymap.nanaimo.ca/gmaps/heritagewalk.php. The application features an appealing map of the city's downtown core area along with links to interior, exterior, and rooftop views from select locations and sites. Like the Google Earth apps, clicking an icon will make a call to the City's server and will bring up a media file providing a panoramic view of the selected area.

Nanaimo Heritage Walk Tour Google Map

Click an icon on the Google Map to retrieve a panoramic display of the area of interest.

Jason Birch, Sr. Applications Analyst with the Information Technology Office, City of Nanaimo has shared some comments with me regarding their recent efforts and experiment with Google maps. He notes that both of the City's existing webmapping apps use ActiveX controls which are accessed via a JavaScript API, as a result transitioning to the Google Maps was not especially difficult. Birch points out that one thing he likes about the Google offerings is that while their API documentation is not without some minor bugs (it IS in beta after all) it is comprehensive and contains easy-to-use examples. Because their MapGuide apps already use LL84 as their native coordinate reference system, making much of the data they already have available in KML is as simple as writing a small PHP script that outputs valid KML (or TXT or KMZ) based on some input parameters.

Kudos to the City of Nanaimo for being so proactive and for allowing their IT department and GIS crew to dabble with technology. Nanaimo has been a long-time "power" user of GIS and has some of the best online webmapping sites you'll find in BC or Canada for that matter! Something you may not know is that yours truly is located right here in Nanaimo, BC and have found the City's online mapping as well as the Nanaimo Regional District's online map services (RDMAP - http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=419) to be a truly valuable tool. Nanaimo's CityMap application http://citymap.nanaimo.ca/ and the work of the developers now with the Google APIs are a fine example and role model for any local government GIS department... hats off to you!

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Last Updated ( 24 December 2005 )
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