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Internet is daily becoming a more important channel of communication and offers greater possibilities for transmitting and receiving all kinds of information. Thus, geographical information systems (GIS) are being complemented with this development, and consequently, replacing interactive means of communication through the network.

For further information contact: GIS Communications

In a very few years, the World Wide Web (WWW) has evolved from a hypermedia system to a complete information platform. For users of geographical information this means that a lot of the work that is done on a local computer can be obtained through Internet. This third step in the development of the Client-Server technology has made it possible to implement applications that have allowed us to move forward from prepared and static documents to an interactive and dynamic platform. In virtual form, any computer connected to the Internet can offer a service and, using a navigator such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, we can access it.

The key factor that has permitted this achievement has been the use of the technology Internet Map Server (IMS). Starting from this technology, various systems have been developed that are described in the section on IMS Technology, such as MapObjects IMS, ArcView IMS, ArcIMS, or MapGuide. They allow us to create GIS applications on Internet / Intranet to visualize, consult, and analyze geographical information through the Net.

Internet Map Server (IMS) Technology

With IMS technology, the spatial information published on the Net is dynamic. The distribution of geographical information via Internet allows the integration in real time of data originating in any part of the world. The user has access to WWW resources, moves freely through all the information with functional tools, changes graphic representation online, links graphic elements with information from databases, and works in real time with analysis functions.

The options of exchanging, integrating, or analyzing data in a new form through the network facilitate, expedite, and favor the process of decision taking. Users can combine data and information accessible via Internet with local data, see them, and make consultations and the pertinent analysis.

This distributive system of information, compared with tools that are "stand-alone" or installed in a personal computer, offers the following advantages, among others:

  • Sharing and exchange of data.
  • Access to applications and tools for analysis and decision taking for a much more extensive public.
  • Facilitates continued updating of information, helping to reduce redundancies (duplications) and improving access to databases.
  • Facilitates the updating of applications and disclosed information.

The IMS architecture comprises three levels:

Client Applications: Work environment of the user. Any navigator that supports standard HTML can act as client. It will also need to support Applet (Plugin) of Java or ActiveX technology if the services being accessed contain these components. Through Internet, and with the navigator as interface, the Client sends requests to the Server Application to obtain the information that the Client wants to see, consult, or analyze.

Server Applications: These are responsible for channeling and attending the operations that the user requests on the data: ArcView IMS, MapObjects IMS, ArcIMS, MapGuide, Geomedia, MMS, etc.

Databases: The server applications access the data that can be stored in files or in spatial databases (spatial data engine, SDE).

The Land Use Project has researched the advantages and disadvantages of the most important map server systems available on the market: ArcView IMS (Environmental Systems Research Institute, ESRI), ArcIMS (ESRI), MapObjects IMS (ESRI), and MapGuide (AUTODESK). Other available systems for the spatial distribution of data on Internet are GeoMedia Web (INTERGRAPH), MapXTreme (MapInfo), MMS (Mapserver), Multiviewer (OpenGIS Consortium) and GIS Viewer (University of California, Berkeley).

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