One thought about the OGC Tiles API lives rent-free in my head. We’ve had working de facto standards for years. Google Maps introduced the idea of map tiles in 2005, and the Tile Map Service specification followed a year later. We’re nearing twenty years of well-established conventions for tile services, so why now? Why do we need a bloated document to describe what mostly fits in a blog post?
Of course, I didn’t read the OGC Tile API specification or any of its siblings. I read the entirety of the WMS and Styled Layer Descriptor specification for university, and reading OGC documents isn’t something I would recommend for fun.
Tim Schaub’s post doesn’t answer the Why, but it sheds light on what this new set of specs add. The OGC Tiles API allows more detailed descriptions of the services behind an API. It formalises tiling for raster, vector and rendered map tiles and it allows to advertise projections, geographic extend and limitations on tile sets on each zoom level.
You could get all of the information by reading the specs but Tim’s summary does a much better job at lowering the barrier to start developing compliant APIs. We need more readable summaries for OGC standards like this.
Radiant Earth announced two initiatives to further the development and sharing of machine-learning models and the adoption of cloud-native formats for geospatial data.
Source Cooperative aims to provide a marketplace for machine-learning models and training data:
Source Cooperative builds upon Radiant MLHub’s legacy as a neutral and trustworthy data publishing platform and will enable the publication of a wider variety of datasets in addition to machine learning training data products and machine learning models. For anyone who has any kind of data or machine learning models that they need to share, Source Cooperative will allow them to upload it, define how open they want it to be, and even charge for it if they want to.
It sounds a bit like GitHub, but for machine-learning models and training data, with integrated monetisation. The new platform will replace Radiant MLHub, which will end operations in October 2023, and all data will be migrated to Source Cooperative.
Cloud-Native Geospatial Foundation aims to advance the adoption and development of cloud-native geospatial data formats through educational materials and supporting software development efforts.
Both activities are in very early stages with very little detail. You can contribute by participating in community surveys for each initiative.
Google announced that their 3D tiles will be available through the Map Tiles API. Surprisingly, the API isn’t a proprietary design but implements the OGC 3D Tiles standard, which opens the dataset up for visualisations using open-source client libraries such as Cesium or Deck.gl.
You have to register with Google and provide an API key to use Google’s 3D Tiles. The service is free, for now, during its experimental stage.
I’m surprised there isn’t more noise about this: The STAC API Specification has reached its 1.0 milestone.
While core STAC specification defines interfaces to publish and organise data in catalogues and collections, STAC API adds dynamic interfaces to enable machines to search and crawl datasets. For example, it adds STAC search, allowing clients to find STAC items across collections, based on filter criteria like a bounding box or date ranges and more complex queries against specific data properties, like cloud cover.
STAC API 1.0 is a continuation of the 0.9 specification, its previous release. The updated specification introduces a long list of changes; few are fundamental, but some are breaking changes—hence the major-version increase. For a detailed list of changes, check the changelog.
Felt added support for raster data like GeoTIFF, XYZ tile services and images:
Today we are announcing three new features that make raster files easier to work with than ever before:
The ability to upload raster files as layers on your map.
The ability to add any XYZ URL from sources such as Planet, or other imagery providers, which will dynamically load external imagery.
A set of purpose-built OSM layers, such as streets and building footprints, to complete your map quickly.
There’s a real danger that this is becoming a Felt fan blog but they keep delivering well-designed and useful features that strip away a lot of the complexity that comes from working with geospatial data. While we have seen most Felt’s functionality before in traditional GIS, their approach to reimagining known functionality to make map making more accessible to non-GIS crowds is truly ground-breaking.
Ms. Norwood, a physicist, was the person primarily responsible for designing and championing the scanner that made the program possible.
Ms. Norwood, who was part of an advanced design group in the space and communications division at Hughes, canvassed scientists who specialized in agriculture, meteorology, pollution and geology. She concluded that a scanner that recorded multiple spectra of light and energy — like one that had been used for local agricultural observations — could be modified for the planetary project that the Geological Survey and NASA had in mind.
VersaTiles is a set of open-source applications that form a complete stack to create, host, and visualise OpenStreetMap data on the Web using vector tiles.
From the VersaTiles website:
VersaTiles lets you use OpenStreetMap based vector tiles, without any restrictions, locked-in paid services or attribution requirements beyond OpenStreetMap. You can use the freely downloadable tilesets from VersaTiles on your own infrastrure, in any way you like. Our open spec, royalty free and permissively licensed conatainer format works with virtually any webserver or CDN — with no requirement to pay unreasonable prices for “Tiles-as-a-Service”.
It includes a tile generator, based on TileMaker that produces tiles in the Shortbread schema. A converter produces tiles in the custom *.versatiles format from MBTiles. The VersaTiles format results on a smaller footprint—compared to MBTiles—and it doesn’t use SQLite under the hood. That means you can host it pretty much anywhere, either using the VersaTiles server or on a CDN; and clients can utilise HTTP range requests to access a subset of the data. The front-end is based on MapLibre, and includes map styles and a range of open-source fonts.
The Geofabrik Shapefiles have been a go-to resource ever since for OpenStreetMap data in GIS-friendly formats. Geofabrik now also offers vector-tile downloads for individual countries in Europe and states in the US.
At this time, the service is experimental, with no timeline for a stable and regularly-updated product:
This is supposed to be an experiment and we don’t yet make any promises about the structure and update frequency of this offer. We’re happy to hear your ideas though.
This year, OpenStreetMap US stepped forward to become a steward of Field Papers for the community going forward. The transition makes sense; not only is the tool used extensively by the mapping community globally and in the US, it is also used a great deal by educators through OpenStreetMap US’s TeachOSM program and other education initiatives
While it will now be under the umbrella of OpenStreetMap US, Field Papers will be maintained as a global tool available for mappers around the world. In the next year, OpenStreetMap US will be working to develop a plan for maintenance and development that pulls in the knowledge and skills of the volunteer community, as well as expanding the financial resources available to the project.
Bunting Labs’ new API to download OSM data is looking good. I’m not an OSM power user and every time I try to use Overpass to download some data from OpenStreetMap, I’d struggle for an hour and then download one of Geofabrik’s Shapefiles instead. Overpass is extremely powerful, but its syntax is just as hard to understand—which is ok; powerful software is always complex.
The new API is less powerful but more approachable for occasional users like me. It abstracts away much of OSMs complexity, providing a simpler syntax for accessing data via HTTP requests, and it returns neat GeoJSON data.
So far, Placemark, a bootstrapped one-person project, was only available for paying customers. Now Tom released a free tier, Placemark Play, which provides the same user interface and similar features as the paid tier. The main difference to the paid tier is that Placemark won’t save your data; once your browser session ends, your data is gone.
Without data storage, Placemark Play can be compared to Geojson.io, which handles data persistence similarly, although Geojson.io offers to restore data from the last session. Placemark, however, provides a slicker user interface and more advanced geometry operations (buffers, simplification, convex hulls), imports and exports from and to various geospatial data formats, and design and export map styles for MapboxGL and Leaflet.
Placemark Play is a great option for quick data visualisation and advanced editing, when you need a little more capabilities than Geojson.io.