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Nomination for: MassGIS Web Mapping services developed by: MassGIS, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Table of Contents


1. System Name
2. Executive Letter
3. System Accomplishments
4. User Testimonials


1. Name
2. Population
3. Annual Budget
4. Chief Official
5. Contact Person


1. System Motivation
2. Service Improvements
3. Unexpected Benefits
4. Design Problems
5. What Differentiates This System


1. Development Phases
2. Design Modifications


1. User Community
2. Operations Affected
3. Quantitative and Qualitative Impacts
4. System Productivity
5. Other Impacts
6. Changes to Business Processes


1. Hardware Components
2. Software Components
3. Database System
4. Staff Resources

A. System

A1. Name of system and ESIG category for which you are applying (Enterprise System or Single Process System)

Name of System: MassGIS Web Mapping Services

URISA ESIG Category: Enterprise Systems

A2. A letter from the executive administrator authorizing submission of the system application (on following page)

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900 Boston, MA 02114-2524

June 2, 2005

Urban and Regional Information Systems Association ESIG Application 1460 Renaissance Drive, Suite 305 Park Ridge, IL 60068

Dear URISA ESIG Committee:

With this letter, I am authorizing submission to the 2005 Exemplary Systems in Government Competition (Enterprise Systems Category), of the Office of Geographic and Environmental Information's (aka MassGIS) Web Mapping Services project. MassGIS is part of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) where it fulfills a dual role as both the lead GIS office for EOEA and the state GIS office for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

MassGIS has been in the forefront of the move towards providing map information via the Internet. More importantly, as part of the Mass.Gov portal project directed by the Massachusetts Information Technology division, MassGIS has been in the forefront of providing Internet mapping services based on the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) standards. As you will see in this application, the MassGIS Web Mapping Services fulfill the promise of web services, which is to provide Internet capabilities without each consumer of those mapping capabilities having to build the underlying infrastructure. Thus, in a time of greatly reduced resources, MassGIS' Web Mapping Services have enabled significant improvements in service delivery by state and other agencies without requiring additional hardware/software expenditures or data resources.

Thank you for your time in considering this application. If you have questions concerning this application, please contact me at 617-626-1120 or Christian Jacqz, Director, MassGIS, at 617-626-1056.


Robert Wilbur

Chief Information Officer

A3. Summary of what the system accomplishes and why it is exemplary

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services provide broad access to a wealth of high quality Massachusetts data for any public agency website. Not only have the services improved data access on MassGIS' web site, but they have made the same capability (including attributes and spatial query functionality) available to other government applications through an open XML interface. This greatly leverages investments in data, hardware, software, and skills at MassGIS. Problems with existing state agency web-based interactions with the public and with agency staff have been solved. In addition, agencies that have not previously served map data can include maps on their web sites without having to build or maintain the supporting infrastructure. The services also interoperate with other served map data so distributed data can be combined. A total of 14 Massachusetts government entities have developed web applications that use the MassGIS Web Mapping Services, (screenshots and URLs are included later in this document). While we did not initially have the tools to adequately track usage, we now do. The services are experiencing high usage. In the last 5 months (January 1 to May 22, 2005) 595,648 requests were logged, an average of 4,247 per day. Use of the services has also been accelerating. In the previous 5 month period consisting of August 2005 to December 2004, 372,576 requests were logged, an average of 2,451 per day (an increase of 73% for the second period over the first).

The services are exemplary because they:

* Improve service delivery and solve on-line data collection problems--State and local government agencies have improved the quality of data collected and services delivered on their web sites by adding GIS maps as a new feature to web applications without investing in the GIS back-end. State and local government agencies can also use the services to augment their existing web mapping capabilities by adding MassGIS data (e.g. color orthophoto basemap). Because the web mapping services can interoperate with other web mapping capabilities, agency data layers can be combined with MassGIS layers even though they are in different physical locations. MassGIS' web mapping services offer a standardized way of integrating mapping into web sites, avoiding a possible proliferation of nonstandard web mapping systems across agencies that do not communicate well. MassGIS is creating a central registry of map layers from various agencies that will serve as a common repository of Massachusetts data served from remote as well as local servers.

* Make MassGIS data more accessible--MassGIS is the place to go for high quality MA GIS

data. Before the web mapping services were available, data was distributed through CDs or by download through various tiling schemes. Now, hundreds of data layers and symbolizations of them can be used in any public agency web site. These data layers not only create map images but also provide information in response to spatial queries such as: "What vernal pools are within this bounding box?", "What is a list of the verified market sales points that were sold for greater than $300,000 and were sold before June 1, 2000?", "What is the nearest subway station point to this address?". In addition, the web mapping services enabled the creation of the general purpose data viewing and downloading application OLIVER (OnLIne ViewER) that provides mixing and matching of layers and intuitive data download. The web services also enable MassGIS to participate in and contribute to The National Map (

* Save public agencies money and reduce duplicate efforts--Spatial information resources can be centralized at MassGIS and served to government entities. These entities do not need to purchase, install and tune hardware, spatial databases and web mapping software or train staff on these systems. Web application developers do not need to understand the underlying database and web map creation software in order to create maps in their applications. They use the standard, documented XML Application Programming Interface (API). Publicity about the services means that agencies have avoided redundant efforts because they know they can use MassGIS' services.

A4. Three "user testimonials"--These testimonials should include the title of the system, the person's name, job title (if relevant), a statement of what specific ways the system improves their work and/or the work of their organization, and how frequently they use the system.

MassGIS defines users as application developers or state or local government agency staff

Testimonial 1:

Dick Perkinson, Chief of Application Development

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),

Oversees four developers that use the system on a weekly basis

The new Web Mapping Services offered by MassGIS are a great example of the right product being available at the right time. As Chief of Application Development for the Department of Environmental Protection I am responsible for getting applications built. One of the initiatives that I have been charged with is a project that we call the "Public Access Project". It is very high priority project, is extremely visible, and has strong political backing as well. Basically it is a desire by our secretariat, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, to increase the "visibility" of the data being collected by our organization to our constituent base of internal employees, the municipalities of the Commonwealth and the public at large.

The paradigm for this deliverable is one based on location. The location can be expressed as an address, a city, a zip code or picking a point on a map. Once the location is identified a map centered on that location is displayed with labeled icons indicating areas of environmental concern chosen from a list of possible object types. The icons each mapped to an entity in our database and additional information about that object(s) is displayed in an appropriate grid control.

In order for this application to be successful it had to be Web deployable. It had to offer sophisticated mapping functionality without requiring our constituent base to download large "applets" or specialized "plug-ins".

MassGIS filled the bill nicely with their mapping web service. They built an XML-based web service that, when called by us with the appropriate XML formatted request, could return a map image, a map feature or provide basic geocoding services. When we wanted geocoding we passed it an address and it gave us back an xy state plane coordinate for that location. When we passed an XML formatted bounding box we got back an image file of either a map or at closer scale an ortho photo. A differently formatted request returned feature "data" from the GIS data layers on any number of topological and environmental objects.

Putting it simply, a call to GIS mapping services provided us with a data and feature rich image that allowed us to "deliver the goods". All of this delivered with nothing more than a simple browser on the client, Bravo! The cherry on the cake, so to speak, is that by providing this service using XML it also satisfied another goal of our programming environment; to use more open standards. Thank you MassGIS!

Testimonial 2:

Kevin Flanders, President

PeopleGIS Inc.

PeopleGIS has created an online mapping service called MapsOnline that serves communities across New England. For the past few years, we have leveraged the OGC services provided by MassGIS to provide our clients with orthophotography, USGS topoquad imagery, and other data layers free of charge. Our Massachusetts clients are experiencing several thousand page requests per month, with the MassGIS data supporting many of their needs. This service is unique in New England, and certainly sets the standard for data sharing and access on behalf of a governmental agency. In addition, MassGIS has provided all of the documentation and support necessary for the use and configuration of their OGC services, which we appreciate beyond words. In a growing field of information management where various players are positioning themselves to address the roles they can best serve, MassGIS is realizing their vision for cooperation, sharing, and partnership.

Testimonial 3:

Kerry Conard, Municipal Channel Manager, Mass.Gov

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division,

Mass.Gov, the portal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, uses MassGIS Web Mapping Services to display complex and difficult to find information in a user-friendly manner. MassGIS built two web-mapping applications specifically for display on

The first application, the Legislative District viewer, allows users to determine their legislative representatives, as well as see map images of their legislative districts. Input is as simple as the city or town name or the zip code. The result is a map image of the legislative district as well as links to informational pages regarding the state senator and representative.

The second application, the Census Data by Town viewer, allows users to display dozens of demographics using simple drop-down menu selection. There are six categories, such as language, race and age, and multiple layers within those six categories. For example, a user might select the City of Malden, the category "citizenship", then the layer "number of people without U.S. citizenship". The result is a map image of Malden highlighting areas of the city with varying percentages of residents without U.S. citizenship.

The applications allow Mass.Gov to provide maps to the public without having to collect, store, update and serve the GIS data. Additionally, Mass.Gov does not have to buy, install, learn and maintain a web mapping software system.

B. Jurisdiction

B1. Name of Jurisdiction

Commonwealth of Massachusetts state government

B2. Population served by the organization/agency

MassGIS provides GIS data and services to Massachusetts state, regional, and local government agencies, to private companies and to the public.

B3. Annual total budget for jurisdiction

MassGIS total annual budget: $979,360 Executive Office of Environmental Affairs total annual budget: $6,640,000

B4. Name, title, and address of chief elected and/or appointed official

Ellen Roy Herzfelder, Secretary

Executive Office of Environmental Affairs

100 Cambridge, 9th Floor

Boston, Massachusetts 02114

B5. Name, title, address, telephone, FAX, and email for contact person for system

Christian Jacqz, Director


251 Causeway St., 5th floor

Boston, MA 02114

617-626-1193 phone

617-626-1249 fax

C. System Design

C1. What motivated the system development?

MassGIS was tasked with creating web mapping services from the highest levels of IT in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts embarked on an aggressive E-Government initiative entitled Mass.Gov in March 2001. A consultant, Accenture, completed a Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth's Information Technology Division (ITD) and laid out a conceptual architecture for a Mass.Gov portal. GIS was identified as one of four common statewide "shared services" that should be provided to E-Application developers to create the content to be offered through the portal. (The other three services were E-Payments, Customer Relationship Management, and Security.) The Accenture report stated (p. 15): "Creating shared Services ... helps avoid the costs of agencies duplicating the development of these services at additional costs. And it helps all agencies more quickly implement new services because these components ... will be readily available to plug in. The shared services should actually speed the rate of implementation of new robust interactions and transactions." Also, "... smaller agencies may not have been able to provide key mapped services because of the prohibitive expense of GIS. If the application component is already available it could spur the development of a host of new geographic services." (P. 10)

A vision and high-level design for the GIS shared service was subsequently developed by Applied Geographics, Inc, in a June 2001 report "The Shared Geographic Information System (GIS) Service of Mass.Gov". (This report was prepared for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance Information Technology Division (EOAF-ITD) and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs- MassGIS.) The following is taken from page i--ii of the Executive Summary:

"What is the Shared GIS Service?

Once developed, the shared GIS service will be data and technology that allow Mass.Gov E-Application developers to easily include maps or spatial analysis products (e.g. driving directions, or a list of nearest entities) in Mass.Gov web pages. Rather than having to build a mapping functionality as part of their E-Application, the shared GIS service will allow state agencies to use an existing, high-performance resource. The shared GIS service will be composed of three main pieces of technology:


In many ways, the new shared GIS service is analogous to or ... Whereas MapQuest or Vicinity serve a limited quantity of general purpose data on a nationwide basis, the shared GIS service will deliver highly detailed spatial data, specific to Massachusetts."

C2. What specific service or services was the system intended to improve?

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services have resulted in the following service improvements:

* State agency web sites enhanced by providing map information

* Easier access to MassGIS' database of statewide GIS information

* Improved data collection and display capabilities for state agency web applications

* The capability for connecting isolated islands of data at agencies in a central registry

Each of these are discussed in more detail below.

Enhanced State Agency Web Sites by Providing Map Information

The premise of the shared web services, as discussed in Section C1, was that state and local government agencies can enhance their web sites by adding GIS maps as a new feature to web applications without investing in the GIS back-end. This premise has been realized. MassGIS has invested and maintains the hardware and software necessary to warehouse and serve the data layers and spatial information through the web services. Developing the web services capabilities made sharing of this centralized resource possible, thus realizing an efficient use of financial and human resources and a significant cost savings for many government entities. Many of the state and local agencies were new to GIS and by using the web mapping services and letting MassGIS handle the back-end, the agencies could focus on improving core services rather than developing a new capability. Furthermore, Massachusetts government entities can add maps to web sites within their own programming language and server environment. Agencies can use the services to create web sites on Windows or UNIX servers. Applications can be built in .NET, Java, JSP or a host of other programming languages. The open source OpenGIS XML API is the only restriction. This flexibility was critical because various government agencies have investment in different types of servers, operating systems and staff skills. Agencies are more likely to adopt the services if they do not have to radically change their existing setup. The web services are a communication medium between the agencies.

Easier Access to MassGIS' Database of Statewide GIS Information

The web services enhanced access to MassGIS' large database of statewide GIS data, creating a new ability to mix and match any data layers in the OLIVER client, and offering more convenient extract of data from the database. The web services pick out data layer symbolizations from different ArcIMS mapservices (backed by Oracle and SDE) and composite the component images together. OLIVER can be used to download data as shapefiles (along with ArcView legend files (.avl) and Arc9 legend files) for any area of interest. Previously, download of MassGIS data was based on tiles. The user had to figure out which tile(s) were appropriate, download multiple sets of files and ended up with separate data pieces, and more data than needed (and a slower download). With OLIVER, the user can zoom to a particular area and download just what they need.

Improved Data Collection and Display Capabilities

Several state agencies have improved data collection or the usefulness of data they display by deploying the web services. The Department of Envirronmental Protection collects information about regulated facilities through a web-based application; the coordinate information provided by users of the application was notoriously unreliable. By incorporating a map from the MassGIS Services into the application, users are able to provide a correct coordinate by selecting the correct location on a map that has been added to the application.

The Department of Revenue posts a tabular listing of market sales information on its web site. This enables assessor's to search for comparable sales for unusual land uses (e.g., gas stations, bowling alleys). However a key missing component was the location of these sales. The application now is built around the MassGIS web mapping services and enables users to see a map showing sales locations.

The Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) had very poor records for the locations of state owned buildings and facilities. They recently deployed a web-based application that displays the existing locations developed using an address. DCAM staff who manage buildings and facilities use a mapping capability developed using the web mapping services to move points representing buildings or facilities to their correct location; they orient themselves using the orthophoto base map. The application also enables them to update attribute information.

The Capability for Connecting Isolated Islands of Data at Agencies in a Central Registry

State and local government agencies can combine MassGIS data with their own data in web applications without having to acquire and serve the MassGIS data themselves. If agencies have their own specialized data and serve it over the web, due to the interoperability of the services, their data layers can be combined with MassGIS layers even though they are in different physical locations. The web services provide a "glue" for connecting data sets. MassGIS is in the process of creating a searchable registry (cascading web service) that will contain not only MassGIS-served data, but also data served from local communities or other government agencies. All the data in the registry can be combined and viewed in OLIVER, even if in different projections.

C3. What, if any, unexpected benefits did you achieve?

* Data contributions to MassGIS increased. The provision of online GIS mapping services has encouraged government agencies to contribute their datasets to the MassGIS central database. MassGIS has always collected agency GIS data layers to be distributed to the public on hard-copy maps, CDs, and Internet interactive mapping applications. Agencies sometimes have found it difficult to take the time to compile and write metadata for their data layers so that MassGIS could use and distribute them. The "carrot" of being able to have their data layers in the OLIVER online mapping application for display and download, and being able to have their layers ready to be plugged into their own applications has been an incentive for data documentation and contribution.

* Limitations of proprietary systems overcome. The Department of Conservation and Recreation was able to purchase a facility management system from a third party vendor without being concerned that it would not interoperate with MassGIS' current spatial database format. Integrating maps into the system was a high priority, and due to the existence of the web mapping services this was possible without having to duplicate the vast MassGIS database in a different format. The web services API made it possible to add map displays to the application with a minimum of additional programming work by the vendor.

* Funding was attracted from outside agencies to extend the capabilities of the web mapping services.

C4. What system design problems were encountered?

* MassGIS could not rely solely on ArcIMS. While ArcIMS provided many of the capabilities MassGIS was looking for, it did not provide all the needed capabilities. Specifically, it was not appropriate for all tasks and content types, its interface was not as stable as required, it could not support simple applications (e.g. URL's in web pages), and it could not integrate sufficiently with other services implemented on other platforms (for example, a web-based facility management application sold by FAMIS). The solution to these problems was building the MapAccess middleware. MapAccess provided separation between client application design and the specifics of service provision through ArcIMS.

* Some standards were not sufficiently developed. The original vision included the use of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL). However, these technologies were not well enough developed when our system was being created for use in the web mapping services. In the past few years they have since matured and the intent is that they will eventually be incorporated into the MassGIS Web Mapping Services.

* Additional servers were needed. ESRI, the company that makes both the ArcSDE and ArcIMS products, recommends that the two products reside on separate servers for performance reasons. At first MassGIS had all software components on a single system. Once ArcIMS was moved onto its own server, MassGIS saw a large increase in performance (maps were served about twice as fast).

C5. What differentiates this system from other similar systems?

The MassGIS web mapping services have many differences from two similar types of systems: ArcIMS web mapping as a stand-alone system, and commercial web mapping services.

Differences from ArcIMS as a stand-alone web mapping system:

* OGC Compliancy

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services implement many of the OpenGIS Consortium standards and specifications. In fact, insights from MassGIS' practical experience of using the standards have influenced the OGC. OGC standards or specifications that have been implemented include the WMS (map creation), Geocoder, Gazetteer (spatial information), and WFS-T (online data editing such as moving points to their correct location on top of aerial photos). MassGIS Web mapping services also support different versions of WMS, for example, 1.1.0 and 1.1.1. OGC interfaces enable the idea of a data portal.

* More flexibility in data presentation and organization

ArcIMS serves one mapservice at a time to a client, whereas the Web Mapping Services allow layers to be mixed and matched from multiple mapservices. All the layers in that

mapservice are served to the client. The client cannot mix and match data layers from different ArcIMS mapservices. This leads to a lot of layer duplication in the ArcIMS map configuration files--the files that set up the ArcIMS mapservices. If 2 client applications want to use the wetlands in their interactive map, then the wetlands must be placed into each AXL configuration file. If the wetlands layer undergoes a change that requires the AXL file to be updated (for example, attribute values are recoded), then more than one AXL file must be altered. With the web map services each layer/style needs to only be represented once in the configuration files.

* Ability to mix and match any data layers

With ArcIMS alone, client applications need to talk to ArcIMS in its proprietary AXL language. In the web mapping services system the MapAccess server code acts as a translator between the client application (XML) and ArcIMS (AXL).

* Ability to add non-ESRI components

With ArcIMS alone, other brands of web mapping functionality could not easily be added. But because of the XML to AXL translator, additional services components can be added to the backend or components can be switched out. As long as the XML API remains the same the client applications won't be affected. MassGIS has plans to add an additional geocoding engine (currently ArcIMS geocoding is available), possibly MapMarkerJ available from MapInfo.

* Easier data organization

The Web Mapping Services have a tidy layer ordering system. In the web mapping services system, there is a structure of Layers and Styles. Each layer has one or more styles. Each style points to a certain server, a certain ArcIMS mapservice and a certain layer ID within that mapservice. This is an easier way of organizing and maintaining data layers than in ArcIMS (mapservice files and id numbers). Also, without the Web Mapping Services there would be no simple way to group the layers for presentation to different users. With the system some applications can ask for a user to log in and can provide a subset of the MassGIS data catalog and/or a different grouping/ordering of the layers

* Ability to add layers from various agencies into one registry

Layers from other agencies can be added to the MassGIS Web Mapping Services registry. MassGIS does not need to know the data storage and presentation details of these layers in order to incorporate them into the MassGIS layer registry. The town of Brookline can serve data from its server, in a different projection (feet instead of meters which MassGIS uses), and the MassGIS server will combine the two layers appropriately into one map image. This is a cascading web map service.

Differences from commercial web mapping services (such as ESRI's ArcWeb Services).

* Up-to-date local Massachusetts data served

While ESRI and other companies offer web mapping services, the data served is not our high accuracy, frequently updated MassGIS data. The Department of Revenue could have used a commercial web mapping service to include roads in its application. But the roads

would not have been the high quality up-to-date Massachusetts Highway Department roads. The MassGIS services can provide high resolution (1/2 meter pixels) color orthophotography statewide, as well as many other data layers with much higher accuracy and detail than those available commercially.

* MassGIS web mapping services offer extra functionality

Additional web mapping services functionality not covered by the OGC standards or specifications was also built into the MassGIS version of web mapping services.

1. NearestEuclidean function. The application sends a point and a data layer such as MBTA subway stations and the MassGIS Web Mapping Services return the nearest subway station to the given point. Extra functionality such as this might eventually end up in an OGC specification, if it seems a common enough need.

2. MassGIS was the first SDE-backed WFS-T (a WFS-T that works directly with SDE version (transactions)). A WFS-T system allows users to edit data in their own versions through the web service. The Java API that was built on top of the SDE API could be distributed for use at other organizations.

3. Server based image compositing. Compositing on the server allows flexibility in creating images and is necessary to mix and match layers within one WMS. This allows OLIVER to create a map with layers from different underlying ArcIMS mapservices. It also allows layers from other remote servers (such as the Town of Brookline) to be combined with MassGIS layers in the same map.

4. There are special optional vendor-specific tags for highlighting features available in the MassGIS WMS GetMap request. hiliteLayer, hiliteColor and hiliteXY.

5. A Web Security Service (WSS) enables different user accounts. This makes it possible for applications using the web services to require user authentication while also allowing custom content to be served to specific users or groups of users.

6. An XML interface for custom data extract

7. Generalized Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD) implementation onto both raster and vector images. The three possibilities are:

NamedLayer/NamedStyle--Web services administrator sets up layers and styles

NamedLayer/UserStyle--the user can dynamically change the symbolization

UserLayer/UserStyle--the user can create entirely new "graphics" and style them.

D. Implementation D1. What phases did you go through in developing the system?
1) Creation of seamless data layers, loading into Late 2001

2) Initial web mapping functionality using ArcIMS Late 2001

3) OGC WMS interface functionality created Late 2001

4) Integrated WMS, Geocoder, Gazetteer, Simple Catalog Early 2002

5) Development of JSP browser toolkit for rapid Mid 2002
application development

6) Development of management interface for MapAccess Mid 2002
service platform

7) Initial implementation of OLIVER data viewer/ Early 2003
download application

8) WFS (Web Feature Service), WFS-T Early 2003
(WFS-Transactional) interfaces

9) Addition of WSS (Web Security Service) access Mid 2003
control service

10) Point update viewer / DCAM viewer distributed Mid 2003
online update

11) Improvement of image compositing, 2004
interoperability w/ WMS 1.1.1 spec

The system as originally conceived is complete, but MassGIS continue to enhance its performance and functionality.

D2. Were there any modifications to the original system design?

* SOAP/WSDL not used Originally the system was envisioned as using the technologies SOAP and WSDL. However, as system implementation started, it became clear that these technologies were too immature for use in the web mapping services.

* Image compositing system altered The image compositing system has three possible algorithms. The algorithms offer tradeoffs between speed, accuracy and image size. Method one is slower, always accurate but produces larger images. Method two is faster, often inaccurate but produces smaller images. Method three is very slow, always accurate and produces small images. A larger image size can grow to be the bottleneck in image serving, because sometimes the network is the slowest point, not the processor speed. MassGIS has elected Method one due to our desire to give the best images at a reasonable speed.

E. Organizational Impact

E1. What user community does the system serve and how?

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services serve two user communities:

Builders of applications at MA government entities: Agencies can enhance their web sites by adding mapping functionality with a minimum of effort. With this capability, agencies can better serve their constituents who are:

Users of the applications: Targeted groups such as assessors, environmental consultants or the public who use the applications benefit from the integrated maps and spatial functionality. Due to the high cost of implementing a mapping system and a lack of web mapping experience in the agencies, without the web mapping services many of the agency applications probably would not have included maps. Since much of the information in these applications is geographic, the applications would have been less useful.

E2. What are the ultimate decisions/operations/services being affected? If appropriate, provide a few examples including, but not limited to: screen input/output forms, paper products, or other descriptive graphics.

Massachusetts' government agencies have used the web mapping services for diverse purposes; they display government information to the public in a variety of ways; they enable agency staff to update map information on-line; they display data to agency staff for research purposes. Besides the operations discussed in C2, the operations being affected include land use planning, assisting the public find their legislators, study of historic coastline change, analysis of animal disease patterns, town planning, and Census demographics by block group. Some applications rely heavily on the web services while others use the web services for only a part of their functionality. This section contains a screenshot and brief description of each application.

The applications look and behave differently, are written in various programming languages, and deal with a myriad of different subjects, but they all have in common the use of the MassGIS Web Mapping Services API. The applications can look, behave, and be built differently because the only restriction upon them is the use of XML. A partial list of specific activities being offered through the applications include:

* MassGIS OLIVER--data view, data download, map printing

* Department of Revenue--real estate sales analysis

* Town of Douglas Online Maps--buildings, aerial photos, parcel info for residents

* Department of Agricultural Resources--animal disease reporting and analysis

* Department of Environmental Protection--regulated entities; locational information capture

* Executive Office of Environmental Affairs--land use planning

* Information Technology Division--helps public find their legislators

* Information Technology Division--demographic information

* Coastal Zone Management--historic shoreline change

* Division of Capital Asset Management--update location of state owned buildings

* Department of Conservation and Recreation--reservoir protection

* Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions--biodiversity education


Languages: Written in Java by Syncline for MassGIS

Web Services Used: WMS, Geocoder service, Gazetteer service

Status: Complete

Purpose: OLIVER allows users to view all the data layers (and their symbolizations) in the MassGIS data catalog. The user can browse data through a set of hierarchical folders organizing content into useful categories. The user can zoom in to an extent chosen from a list of places, organized into categories such as towns, counties or state parks. OLIVER allows the user to enter an address and get right to a site of interest. Data extraction through OLIVER is perhaps the most useful feature, as users can choose how much data to download. Instead of downloading individual numbered tiles of data that may cover more geographic area than the users needs (extra unneeded bytes being served), just what is needed is downloaded. The download finishes sooner as well.



Department of Revenue (DOR) LA3 Recent Sales Application

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans by MassGIS for DOR

Web Services Used: WMS including UserLayer, Gazetteer service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Helps the public find recent sales of residential and commercial properties. Augments a similar preexisting tabular web application by providing a map view. Offers complex query functionality--user can search by type of sale (from single family houses to hotels to bowling alleys to golf courses and more) and/or a date range and/or a price range. The number of matches is displayed and brief information about the matches are displayed in a table at the bottom of the application. More information can be obtained from a point by using the info tool (a pop up window displays the information). The query is resubmitted and the purple dots, match number, and table are updated as the user zooms, recenters, or chooses another town.



Town of Douglas Online Maps

Languages: Written in Javascript and PHP by PeopleGIS for the Town of Douglas

Web Services Used: WMS (color orthophotos)

Status: Complete

Purpose: Shows residents of Douglas property boundaries, parks, building footprints, and other information about their town. This application is an example of the interoperability of web mapping services. The color orthophotos in this application are being served from the MassGIS Web Mapping Services server. All the other data layers are being served from a MapsOnline server. The data could be in different formats or projections, but they can be combined. PeopleGIS does not have to collect, store, and serve the gigabytes of orthophototography. Currently four towns have sites through MapsOnline--Belchertown, Sutton, Somerville, and Douglas.



Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Animal Disease Application

Languages: Written in ASP by Ditherdog for MDAR. The XMLDOM and XMLHTTP components are used to build and send XML to the GIS server. An Access Database is used and there is some JavaScript for map interactivity(change in disease shown, or dates of cases).

Web Services Used: WMS including UserLayer

Status: In Progress

Purpose: Helps DAR staff to analyze animal disease data input by veterinarians across the state.

URLs: (internal only at this point) Note: screenshot shows dummy data


Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) NetMapView

Languages: Written in .NET by Systems Engineering, Inc. (SEI) and DEP internal developers for DEP

Web Services Used: WMS including UserLayer, Gazetteer service, Geocoding service

Status: Complete, but awaiting official sanction

Purpose: Provides information on regulated entities to the public through a geographically enabled, web-based portal into the DEP's EPICS database. A ThemeEditor application has also been created, which allows internal developers to select layer/styles from the web map service (WMS) and set drawing order and scale restrictions. This Theme information is saved in a table accessed by NetMapView, which formulates a scale dependent XML GetMap request and posts to the MassGIS WMS application. (An additional application is being written for a tablet PC for field use.)

URLs: (internal only at this point)


Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) eDEP Site Locator

Languages: Written in .NET by Systems Engineering, Inc. (SEI) and DEP internal developers for DEP

Web Services Used: WMS including UserLayer, Gazetteer service, Geocoding service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Interactive PDF form enables the regulated community to report to DEP. Contains a zoom range tool.



Community Preservation Act Viewer

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans by Syncline for MassGIS/EOEA

Web Services Used: WMS, Gazetteer service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Helps the public visualize potential development in their municipality or a group of municipalities. The user can pick communities of interest on the right panel and the application will zoom to the extent of that group of municipalities. The list of communities changes to reflect which are the neighboring municipalities. The map can switch between two maps--Map 1 shows developed areas, areas potentially constrained for development, open space, and new subdivisions and other layers. Map 2 shows potentially developable land by zoning (12 categories), plus water and wetlands, watershed boundaries, and Biomap Core Habitat and Biomap Supporting Natural Landscape--data layers created by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Additional boundary layers are also shown. The zoom tools are Javascript based so that a zoom in box can be drawn. The user can identify a land use or zoning polygon. A unique feature of this application is the ability to generate a report with on-the fly calculation of statistics (see next page) for the chosen list of communities. The repoort is generated on a separate server and includes a map.

URL: launcher.jsp


Community Preservation Viewer Report


Information Technology Division (ITD) Legislative District Viewer

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans by Syncline for ITD

Web Services Used: WMS, Gazetteer service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Helps the public identify their state legislators. This application has a complex query interface. The user can zoom to a City/Town (including partial strings and fuzzy spelling), by zip code, by legislator name (including partial strings or fuzzy spelling), or by the name of the district. If the query produces more than one result, a list is provided on the right side. Eventually the map is zoomed in, and the correct district is highlighted in orange. Links to legislator's web sites are provided on the right. The user can also use the Show Info tool to click at any part of the map (for example, their street) and see legislators. ITD requested that this application have no Javascript--the zoom tools are therefore simpler radio button type tools. Additional MassGIS-specific highlighting parameters are used in the GetMap request to highlight the district orange.



Census Data By Town Viewer (copy of this viewer offers a dropdown by legislative district or legislator)

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans by MassGIS for ITD

Web Services Used: WMS, Gazetteer service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Helps the public examine 63 Census data "themes" by block group in six categories: Population/Age, Housing, Language, Income, Citizenship, Race. Since the legend groups data into ranges for symbolization, an identify tool is provided to allow the user to identify a block group and get exact statistics for items in a category.


URL of viewer with legislative district/legislator dropdown instead:


Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Shoreline Change Viewer

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans by MassGIS for CZM

Web Services Used: WMS, Gazetteer service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Helps the public and CZM staff examine different historic Massachusetts shorelines and transects. The user can identify a transect for detailed information or zoom to a transect by id or to a coastal town.



Department of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) Point Update Viewer

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans

Web Services Used: WMS including UserLayer, Gazetteer service, WFS-T service

Status: Complete

Purpose: Helps the DCAM facility managers to move state-owned building points to the correct location on a color orthophoto.

URL: only for stage agency staff


Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Water Supply Protection Act Viewer

Languages: Written in JSP and Java Beans by MassGIS for DCR

Web Services Used: WMS including, Gazetteer service, Geocoder service

Status: Complete, but awaiting official sanction

Purpose: Helps users find Watershed Supply Protection Act impacts near their parcels. The Watershed Protection Act (WsPA) regulates land use and activities within critical areas of the Quabbin Reservoir, Ware River and Wachusett Reservoir watersheds for the purpose of protecting the quality of drinking water. Two areas are protected in different ways under the WsPA. Within 400 feet of the reservoirs and 200 feet of tributaries and surface waters (the "Primary Zone"), any alteration is prohibited. "Alteration" includes a variety of activities, such as construction, excavation, grading, paving, and dumping. Generation, storage, disposal or discharge of pollutants is also prohibited in the Primary Zone. Between 200 and 400 feet of tributaries and surface waters, and on land within flood plains, over some aquifers, and within bordering vegetated wetlands (the "Secondary Zone"), certain activities are specifically prohibited. These include storage, disposal or use of toxic, hazardous, and certain other materials; alteration of bordering vegetated wetlands; more dense development; and other activities. A flexible query interface is offered--the user can search by town (dropdown), by parcel, or by an address.



Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions Biodiversity Days--Species Sightings Maps and County Plant Distribution Maps

Languages: Written in Java servlets, XML posted to a JSP

Web Services Used: WMS using SLD

Status: Complete

Purpose: Displays maps of which towns species have been reported in (over 11,000 maps), and also maps of plant distribution by county (over 5,000 maps). These maps are dynamically generated from a database. If a new sighting for a town is entered, the map will be updated the next time it is requested. Town sightings represent 4 years of data.

URL: Town Map and County Map links


E3. What were the quantitative and qualitative impacts of the system?

The ability to write software applications that can mix and match data layers from different underlying ArcIMS mapservices opens up the entire MassGIS data warehouse to software developers. Other Massachusetts agencies do not need to buy Oracle, SDE, and ArcIMS software (costing tens of thousands of dollars). The agencies do not need to hire staff to maintain these systems or the hundreds of GIS data layers. See section F2 for estimates of such costs that each agency has avoided. The agencies that have avoided such costs in part or whole are: Department of Revenue, Department of Environmental Protection, Coastal Zone Management and others.

The developers in the agencies only need to learn the Application Programming Interface (API). The API as a structured syntax of interacting with the system frees the application developers from needing to know how things are setup "under the hood". The API in use is an OpenGIS XML standards-based API. MassGIS maintains documentation on the API and explains the API, and the application developers can use it to include maps and interactive mapping functionality in their web sites. As a result, many applications have been written using the web mapping services. The applications, however, are not forced into one mold or look-and-feel. Due to the flexibility of the services, applications have their own style and maps fit better into an agency's existing web site.

E4. What effect has the system had on productivity?

Since web site developers do not have to buy, install, learn, and maintain a GIS database and map production system, they focus on their applications. The web mapping services provide the spatial information needed almost as a module that can be plugged in. The API is human-readable XML text. The API is fairly easy to learn and MassGIS provides common XML request examples in its Handbook for software developers. However, adding a basic map to a web site using the services can be as simple as learning how to correctly construct an HTTP request.

A large number (20) of applications have been created by many different government entities. If the web services were not available, state and local government agencies would need to duplicate MassGIS efforts by obtaining, storing, and keeping up to date and serving the gigabytes of GIS data (wasting money and staff time) or would simply not offer mapping functionality in their Internet applications due to the high cost.

E5. What, if any, other impacts has the system had?

As mentioned in section C3, providing online GIS mapping has encouraged government agencies to contribute their datasets to MassGIS central database as well as acted to encourage those agencies to maintain full and complete metadata.

E6. How did the system change the way business is conducted with and/or service delivered to clients? Give specific examples comparing the old way with the new.
 Before Web Mapping After Web Mapping
Service Services Services

Department of Data was distributed The ability to find
Revenue distribution in tables through a comparable sales is
of property market web application. It greater by seeing
sales information was impossible to their location and
for comparison know whether two their relationship
Service improvement: addresses in to landscape
map where there was adjacent towns were features (highways
none far apart or just or parks). The map
 across the town line is also an interface
 from each other. to the data.

MassGIS Web Based Many users download With OLIVER, users
Data Viewing and data including can easily zoom to
Distribution government entities, an area of interest
(download) environmental (geocoding). Users
Service improvement: consulting can view the data
more flexible companies, (mix and match any
viewing and libraries, schools data layers) before
downloading of data and real estate they download it (to
 professionals. The see if it's what
 web site allows they want). Users
 users to download can download three
 data in chunks, or ways (by extent, by
 tiles. (user must feature in a layer,
 figure out which of or by drawing a
 several tiling shape). Users
 schemes the data is download only what
 stored in, and which they need and do not
 tiles they need). have to deal with
 tiles. The download
 itself is faster
 since the data
 downloaded is

Collecting of Users of the DEP web Now users can click
coordinates by the site had to enter on the appropriate
Department of coordinates by hand site on the map, and
Environmental into forms. The the coordinates are
Protection from possibility of calculated,
environmental entering the wrong reprojected, and
professionals coordinates entirely entered into the
Service improvement: or making a typing form for the user.
errors in error was high.
coordinates provided
by customers
almost eliminated.

Municipality online The municipality The municipality's
mapping would download online mapping
Service improvement: imagery from our web application comes
data now combined site or order it on directly to the
from distributed CD and serve it as MassGIS server for
locations part of their online base map layers.
 maps, as a base map. MassGIS updates are
 immediately in the

F. System Resources

F1. What are the system's primary hardware components? Give a brief list or description of the hardware configuration supporting the system.

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services currently uses four servers. Two servers are on the state network and two servers are available to the Internet (see diagram below).


These sets of servers are copies of each other. Each set consists of a UNIX machine running Solaris and a Windows server. Each UNIX server runs the database software (Oracle and ArcSDE), the web server (Apache), the servlet engine (Tomcat), and the application server (JBoss). Each Windows server runs ArcIMS and creates output images (maps and legend files) that are copied to the UNIX machine to be served out to applications. The internal setup is used by state agencies because state agencies are all on the same state network. State agencies develop new applications and maps for internal use only, or for eventual deployment to the external server and the public. The public and some agency staff in regional offices are off the state network and they use the external setup. For performance reasons ArcIMS was moved to its own server. The external servers are connected to the Internet through a switch by way of two wireless 4 Mbps (megabits per second) antennas.

F2. What are the system's primary software components? Describe the primary software and, if a commercial package, any customizations required for the system.

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services require many layers of software (see diagram below). This software collection is needed at MassGIS to store the geographic data, produce map images, and communicate with client applications. The end users of the applications need only to have a web browser in order to access the applications.

Software Approximate
Name Purpose Cost

Oracle 9.2 Database--stores geographic $40,000
 data in seamless layers

ArcSDE Spatial connection to $16,000
9.2 Oracle database--allows
 ArcIMS to talk to Oracle
 using spatial language

ArcIMS 9.0 Produce web maps, answers $20,000
 spatial questions about

MapAccess (1) Web Mapping Services core $300,000
 server code; takes the XML
 request sent by an
 application and translates
 it into AXL in order to
 talk to ArcIMS; translates
 AXL responses from ArcIMS
 back into an XML response
 for the application;
 determines the optimum
 (least) number of ArcIMS
 mapservices it needs to
 contact in order to create
 a map; composites resulting
 component ArcIMS images

JBoss 2.4.1a Application server--runs free
 applications (open source)

Tomcat 3.2.3 Servlet engine--helps free
 control communications (open source)
 between the applications
 and the web services.

Apache Web server--serves images, free
1.3.20 XML, HTML pages (open source)

AWStats 5.5 Web server log analyzer-- free
 generates statistics (open source)
 nightly on patterns of use
 such as busy times of day,
 browser types and versions,
 operating system types and
 versions, and screen
 resolutions that are most
 popular; counts amount of
 gigabytes of XML, images,
 HTML served daily

Shell scripts (2) --Detect errors in the free (written by
 logs and restart key parts MassGIS staff)
 of the system; restart
 system components on a
 --Count number of images
 generated daily

(1) custom-built by consultants to OpenGIS standards

(2) custom-built by MassGIS staff

F3. What data does the system work with? List and briefly describe the database.

The MassGIS Web Mapping Services provide access to a large GIS data warehouse. The warehouse contains data developed for or by MassGIS as well as data from many different organizations and agencies. The data layers are both vector and raster. Raster images include TIF and MrSID types, and some images are in SDE. All vector data reside in SDE, which runs on top of Oracle. Therefore, most data layers reside fundamentally in the Oracle database. is the MassGIS web page that lists all the available MassGIS data layers. Almost all MassGIS data layers are available through the web mapping services. Some examples of data categories and the data layers they include are:


Color Orthophotos (1/2 meter pixel resolution)

Black and White Orthophotos (1/2 meter pixel resolution)

USGS Topographic maps

NOAA charts

Physical Resources:

Land Use (1:25,000 scale)

Wetlands (1:12,000 scale)

Lakes, Ponds, Rivers (1:12,000 scale, 1:25,000 scale)




Certified Vernal Pools (1:25,000 scale)

Potential Vernal Pools (1:12,000 scale)

Regulated Areas:


FEMA Flood Zones


Roads (1:5,000 scale)


Hospitals (accurate to building)

Schools (accurate to building)

Prisons (accurate to building)

Political Boundaries:

Town boundaries

County boundaries

Census Demographic Data

There are more than one hundred data layers. In addition, MassGIS has created hundreds of "themes" or symbolizations of these data layers. Land Use can be viewed as 1951 Land Use, 1971 Land Use, 1985 Land Use or 1999 Land Use. Openspace can be viewed by ownership of each parcel or by access type. Each symbolization is a different query and/or color and pattern representation of the data layer.

The web mapping services create Layer names and Styles that are associated with those symbolizations. In the previous Land Use example, "Land Use" is the layer name and "Land Use 21 Classes 1971 Solid" is one of the style names. Each Layer name and Style is associated with a particular layer paragraph in a particular ArcIMS mapservice (AXL configuration file). Links to metadata are also associated with each Layer/Style combination, providing extensive information about the data layers such as date of last update, attributes, production method and a maintenance schedule.

F4. What staff resources were required to implement the system (i.e. report approximate staff and consultant time as FTE's)

Staff resources consist of those for development, on-going operation, and secondary support of the services. Each color represents a distinct staff person.

Development Staff
 Number of
Activities Department FTE's

Initial software development of consultant 2 FTEs for
MapAccess 1.5 years

Installation of Oracle, ArcSDE, MassGIS 1/4 FTE for
Apache, Tomcat, JBoss, ArcIMS 3 months

ArcSDE tuning, loading of data MassGIS 1 FTE for 6
layers months

Tuning of Apache, Tomcat, JBoss, MassGIS 1/4 FTE for
ArcIMS 3 months

Operations Staff
Development of client applications. MassGIS/State 1/2 FTE
Some client templates were received Agencies
from the consultant and taken apart,
studied, and modified in order to
better understand how clients could
be written to send and receive and
parse the XML.

Improvement of MapAccess server code MassGIS 1/2 FTE
including bug fixes and
enhancements, performance
improvements, evolution with OpenGIS

Creation of ArcIMS mapservices for MassGIS 1 FTE
MassGIS Data Catalog; System
documentation and testing;
Maintenance of bug lists and
enhancement requests; Application
testing; Point of contact for

Support Staff

The support system staffing would have existed with or without the web mapping services project.
Development and Management Number of
Activities Department FTE's

Maintain network/Internet EOEA 1 FTE
connections, firewall

Maintenance of servers' operating MassGIS 1/2 FTE
systems, Backup of Oracle

The web mapping services were a logical extension of many of MassGIS' core activities: distributing data to the public through download and online mapping, and supporting GIS activities in Massachusetts government entities. Much of the hardware, software and staff support for the web services was preexisting. Committing the extra effort to create services has leveraged the existing resources and greatly expanded use of MassGIS' data in government web sites.

In summary, the MassGIS Web Mapping Services have been a huge success. They have improved access to map data in Massachusetts as well as saved costs for government agencies. MassGIS has set a standard for the future and is implementing a vision of interoperability that should serve Massachusetts' government agencies well as more of them serve their own data over the web.
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Title Annotation:URISA 2005 Exemplary Systems in Government Award
Publication:Urban and Regional Information Systems Association Annual Conference Proceedings
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Previous Article:Mapping and Addressing Parcels (MAP).
Next Article:Enabling the enterprise Brampton's Web-Based GIS Solution: GIS services the corporation of the City of Brampton.

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