The week we raised a glass to ArcIMS

Last week we raised a glass to ArcIMS as we turned off the software that quite literally put the BGS website on the map. We launched GeoIndex fifteen years ago, almost to the day, thanks to the ESRI ArcIMS web mapping software that enabled organisations like ourselves to serve maps across the internet.  It revolutionised our ability to deliver maps and other spatial data online. GeoIndex provides a map-based index to our geoscience data holdings, enabling users anywhere in the world to discover what information we hold for their area of interest from the comfort of their home, office or when in the field. Over the last 180 years, BGS has amassed vast data assets relating to many areas of geoscience (geological mapping, site investigations, geochemistry, geophysics, minerals, groundwater, geohazards and much more).  Our archive of over 1 million spatially referenced borehole records is one of our most well-used resources with over 50,000 scanned records downloaded every month.

An early version of GeoIndex built using ESRI ArcIMS

OpenGeoscience provides access to a range of similar web viewers that allow users to view, pan, zoom and interrogate interactive maps on a range of topics including London's soil geochemistry, groundwater levels over time and seabed samples.  Our most popular map viewer is 'Geology of Britain', which receives up to 40,000 visitors per month.

Geology of Britain viewer.  This allows you to explore the geology of Britain.

This has led on to the development of mobile apps for iphone, ipad and Android. We created the iGeology app, which allows people to find their current location using GPS and discover the geology under their feet.  The app has been downloaded over 250,000 times.

iGeology is a free smartphone app helping you to discover the landscape beneath your feet.

For those familiar with GIS, we offer several of our data archives as web services that can be integrated into other systems.  Third party organisations can take advantage of these services to combine geological data with their own data and gain fresh insight into their land and property assets.

Our newest solution is the augmented reality iGeology 3D for Android.  Highly innovative, this mobile app utilises the GPS, camera, tilt sensor, compass and motion detector functions on tablets to create a 3D scene of the landscape in which a person is standing – and then layer geological data on top of this scene.  As the person moves, the data displayed synchronises with the changing view.  

ArcIMS also facilitated commercial innovations such as GeoReports, released back in 2002, providing site specific ground condition reports to aid those interested in drilling, investigation, house purchase or for those concerned about subsidence or Radon.

An early version of GeoReports built using ESRI ArcIMS.

The Groundhog system enables the interrogation of 3D geological models of the subsurface, creating virtual boreholes, cross-sections and horizontal sections.

These web-based GIS services developed by BGS make it easier for people to discover and use geological data. They substantially increase the number of people using our resources, and help us reach a wider demographic. Their ease-of-use means that people don't necessarily have to have specialist knowledge and software to be able to view and use geological maps. We hope this increased use of our data resources will bring long-term advantages for the whole country by stimulating new commercial projects and businesses that will benefit the economy as a whole.

Whilst the use of ArcIMS within BGS has now been replaced by the latest innovations in web mapping technology, it will be remembered for its role in ushering in a new era of online spatial data delivery.