Example: Spectacular Images and Data from Web Servers

Few Manifold capabilities provide so much effect for so little effort as the use of web servers to automatically provide imagery or data for a Manifold project.    As we pan or zoom within the display window Manifold automatically fetches the necessary tiles from the web server to build the view we want.  With a few mouse clicks we can create a background map that could take hours to create from scratch.


This topic is a companion and introductory topic to the Example: An Imageserver Tutorial topic which shows step by step how to add data sources that are imageservers and how to use them.


Image servers instantly can provide background maps in virtually any style desired without the effort of formatting and they can provide a satellite view in astonishing resolution of almost any place on Earth.  The resolution of free satellite imagery is so good  that in many locations we can easily see individual people and determine the types of vehicles in use.   It is difficult to exaggerate the tremendous value of image servers for so little effort as made possible by Manifold.


As a client Manifold can connect to all typical technologies used for serving GIS data over the web as well as to many exotic technologies.  The result is the ability to connect to many thousands, if not millions, of sources online that provide access to a cornucopia of data.  This topic provides a gallery of the spectacular imagery and data we can obtain at will, for free, by using Manifold's ability to connect to a very wide range of web-based data sources.

Imageservers Providing Satellite Views

Imageservers are web servers using a protocol of serving images as tiles.  They are often used to provide images that show satellite photographic views or images representing digital maps.


Although the images used here are larger than average for documentation, they are small compared to the truly astonishing imagery we can create by spreading a Manifold window across an entire monitor or across multiple monitors.


Ancient spectacles:  Below, a view of the Colosseum in Rome.  The oval form is clearly visible from overhead.  This particular view is zoomed out from the highest resolution view available since zooming in to full resolution does not show the entire arena.  See a closer view of the Colosseum in the Example: An Imageserver Tutorial topic.




Modern spectacles:  Below we see a zoomed in view of the "Hollywood" sign in the hills above Los Angeles, California.   The sign is seen from orbit by a satellite and served by Microsoft's Bing imageserver site.   The smaller bushes are about half a meter, about a foot and a half, wide.  We can "read" the sign because a low sun angle causes the vertical letters to cast shadows in the form of the letters.




A technology icon: Below we see the Googleplex, the solar-panel covered headquarters of Google in Mountain View, California, as seen from orbit in satellite view by Google's competitor, Microsoft's Bing imageserver site.   Resolution like this, where individual people can be seen walking the paths, was exceptional for non-military satellite imagery only a few years ago but now it is becoming routine for larger and larger portions of the Earth.




Ancient secrets: the Sphinx at Giza, Egypt, as seen in resolution that covers most third world areas.  Vehicles are easily seen but individual people cannot be clearly seen.  Imageservers have transformed Earth sciences, allowing almost anyone from anywhere to go hunting for lost cities and relics of past civilizations in deserts that would be impractical to visit in person.




Modern secrets: a US B2 bomber surrounded by guards and armored vehicles at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.  Civilian satellites now generate so many petabytes of imagery as they ceaselessly orbit the world that national militaries cannot keep up with the flow of high resolution imagery available on the web.  This particular image was served by Google and acquired by a Manifold user in Europe zooming in from space to view highly sensitive military installations in the US. 


There is such a flood of detail available through imageservers using Manifold that anyone in the world from almost any location with an Internet connection and Manifold could easily review the armed forces infrastructure of any country, right down to knowing which nuclear missile silos in the middle of nowhere deep in the US are being maintained and which have been neglected.  




Natural wonders: A scene showing Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, Canada with the border between the US and Canada running through the somewhat more greenish swath of water in the upper right.  The use of imageservers is revolutionizing environmental stewardship.




Modern wonders: Aircraft at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris.   Planning the infrastructure that now connects the world has never been easier.




Tourist delights: The Eiffel Tower as seen from an orbiting satellite far overhead.  The resolution is so good that individual tourists can be seen on the ground and on the upper observation decks.




Servers Providing Map Views

We take it for granted that we can see digital maps over our telephones, tablets and in-car navigation devices, but the range of cartography available to Manifold users is far greater.  Instead of the one or two providers most people use, such as Google Maps, on their telephones or tablets when travelling, Manifold can work with hundreds of different imageservers and tile servers providing cartographic renderings in a vast array of different styles.   Many of these are free, many are regional or not worldwide or specific to a particular country or language and many require a subscription.   But even sticking only to free choices the results are astonishingly broad and deep.


We begin with some views of Europe, showing the same region but populated with a display provided by different servers.




Microsoft's Bing street map provides a typical web map display.




For a completely different background map, we can use the Canvas server's "dark" or "light" maps.  These are useful when showing layers above of point locations where we do not want the background map to be distracting.




Many servers provide map layers of physical features.




ESRI provides a world map of physical features using a REST server.




For oceanographic work we might prefer a display that minimizes features on land and emphasizes oceanic bathymetry.




Numerous open source servers provide completely royalty-free and open displays, such as the Open Street Maps (OSM) display of terrain elevation data using Migurski's formatting of terrain features.


We now will zoom far into the display, first into Germany and then into Munich right into the central square, the Marienplatz to see a variety of different map layers available from different web servers.




OSM layers are completely free.  Above we see the OSM base map, which provides a massive amount of information when zoomed into local areas such as the downtown of a city.




Various organizations and even individual hobbyists have customized different aspects of OSM to provide different displays based on special interests.  The above shows an OSM imageserver display aimed at users of public transportation.  It shows the main public transport links in downtown Munich.




WikiMapia provides a completely free map using simpler styling than OSM with less-overwhelming amounts of information.




A commercial map, also free, from Yandex, a popular choice in Eastern Europe.





The classic Google street map formatting and data.


LIDAR imagery

LiDAR is a technology that uses lasers to scan terrain from aerial platforms such as aircraft or drones.  It generates massive amounts of data with very high precision.   The following images show data from the same server used in the Example: Style Applied to an Image Server Image topic to show how to use a WMS web server and to apply Style and palettes.  The data is LiDAR data for Charles County in the state of Maryland in the United States served by the state of Maryland.




The image above, styled with a palette that is typical for terrain elevation displays, shows the incredible detail available in LiDAR data.   The image below shows the same data with the Style dialog used to apply a palette that breaks terrain heights into distinct groupings.




The truly cool thing about Manifold's ability to utilizes a wide range of web server, tile server, imageserver and similar technologies is that we can create map layers almost instantly with nearly zero effort that serve almost any interest.   We can also acquire data from such servers, for example, vector data for drawings, and we can utilize satellite photos of almost any location on Earth either as the fundamental objects of our interest, as backgrounds or as sources from which we can create custom maps and drawings.



How can we find image servers like those in this topic?  - Many are built into Manifold and appear in the list when we choose Web Server: imageserver as the Type in the New Data Source dialog as illustrated in the Example: An Imageserver Tutorial topic.  Others may appear as a default Source string when we choose different types of web servers in the Type box, for example, Web Server: osm.  For others we must provide a Source string after we choose the Type of web server, for example, for a Web Server: wms or Web Server: arcgisrest type, as illustrated in the Example: Style Applied to an Image Server Image topic.   As mentioned in that topic, we can use the usual Internet search engines to find web sites with links that provide source strings to connect to various web servers we can use.    Every day there are more and more.


See Also

File - Create - New Data Source


Web Servers


Example: An Imageserver Tutorial - An extensive tutorial showing step by step how to add new data sources that are imageservers, how to show them as layers in a map, how to create a new drawing that matches the projection of the map and how to trace over what is seen in an imageserver layer to create an area object in the drawing.


Example: Create a New Data Source from a Manifold Image Server - Manifold image server modules are snippets of code which use the Manifold Image Server Interface (ISI) to automatically fetch image tiles from popular image servers like Virtual Earth, Wikimapia, Yahoo!, Google Maps, Yandex and many others. Image servers can provide street maps, overhead satellite imagery, combinations of streets and satellite imagery and other data as well.  Using Manifold Image Servers is one of the most popular Manifold features.


Example: Create a New Data Source from a MAP File - Create a new data source from an existing Manifold .map project file.   This is the classic way to nest projects, one calling another, to create libraries of data and projects.   Access to nested projects has effectively zero performance loss and the links within projects take up effectively zero space so we can create huge constellations of data at our fingertips.


Example: Create a Data Source within an Existing Data Source - When a data source is writable, for example, if the data source is a Manifold .map file, we can work within that data source as if it were at the top level of our project.   For example, we can create a new data source that is nested within the existing data source.   This example shows how.


Example: Create and Use New Data Source using an MDB Database - This example Illustrates the step-by-step creation of a new data source using an .mdb file database, followed by use of SQL.  Although now deprecated in favor of the more current Access Database Engine formats, .mdb files are ubiquitous in the Microsoft world, one of the more popular file formats in which file databases are encountered.  


Example: Modify GPKG Geometry with SQL then Add Drawing - This topic provides a "Hello, World" example that shows a simple, but typical, task involving spatial data.  We will take a country-sized data set in GeoPackage (GPKG) format and change all areas in the data to the boundary lines for those areas and then save those boundary lines as a new table.  We add a spatial index to the table and create a new drawing to visualize the new table.


Example: Trace an Area in a Map over an Image Background - In a map with a drawing layer above an image layer (served dynamically by an imageserver), create an area object in the drawing by tracing over the outlines of something seen in the image layer below


Example: Style Applied to an Image Server Image - Because the Edit - Style dialog simply changes the way an image is displayed and not the data, it can operate on read-only data served by various web servers such as WMS REST servers.    In this example we look at every detail of creating a data source using a WMS REST  server and then manipulating the appearance of the display with Style.  We will connect to a WMS server that provides LiDAR data in various forms, including as terrain elevation.