Spatial Data and Cesium

 

Spatial data coming to a web browser has never been easier. There are combinations of using applications for visualising spatial data. There are programming languages, frameworks and tools for executing spatial data visualisation. Out of these, the most popular tool that is used is JavaScript for both front-end and back-end development. AteamIndia employs Vue JS and Cesium combination for visualising spatial data. Vue JS as a framework is highly compatible with Cesium as they both share a common base.  There are also libraries like OpenLayers, Three.js and Babylon.js which are known for creating interactive maps as well as spatial data on maps. However, these are only fit for 2D data. Later on, 3D models supporting 3D data and maps became popular. In order to share these across programs and web, data standards were created. An example of this is CityGML. This is used particularly for sharing city models.

Cesium JS is now a very popular and widely adopted JavaScript library. It is the product of an open-source community. What makes it great is that it has enabled visualisation of 3D data possible on practically every device. However, it is not easily streamable. To make it easy, 3D tiles was developed. The geospatial data is huge and the tiles are an open specification that can stream all the 3D content like buildings, trees etc.

Even though a lot of organisations use CesiumJS and 3D tiles for the purpose of visualising 2D spatial data, in 2018, an additional mapping platform was introduced to complement this. This was the Cesium Ion platform. This is a platform that provides three options:

  • 3D tiling pipeline for streaming the data into any device effectively
  • Cesium Ion SDK for extending visualisations
  • 3D content-like imagery

In order to further modify the existing 3D tiling pipeline system, Cesium Ion introduced integration with FME data integration platform by Safe Software. This further made streaming easy and seamless. It’s a three-step process. The 3D data is first processed with FME. The uploading, tiling and streaming are dealt by Cesium.js. FME integration has many benefits. it helps to keep the web application up to date. This is because as and when there is a change in the underlying data, new visualisations will be created automatically. Thus, there is an automated system of workflow.

Those who use FME will have two format writers. One for writing the 3D tiles and the other for 3D point clouds. These make visualising with Cesium extremely easy. Safe Software also comes up with updated features of FME integration. The next one is this year, 2019, which will be a new Cesium Ion transformer. This new feature will extract the data from FME and process it into Cesium Ion creating a web visualisation with URL. This will be displayed right away in the browser. Cesium by itself and with the collaborations with other tools and frameworks have proved to be a great application for mapping spatial data. It is now widely used in all industries like sports, automobiles etc.

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