Lessons learned from the relaunch of Queensland Globe

By on 4 August, 2017

Queensland Globe was used for real-time response to Tropical Cyclone Debbie.


A new, vastly improved version of Queensland Globe has been released, with a range of powerful new features designed to work seamlessly across all mobile devices.

In 2013, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) pioneered the first marriage of Google Earth and government spatial data, into Australia’s first  standalone application – the ‘Queensland Globe’.

This had never been done before and fundamentally changed how the public, business and government accessed authoritative spatial data in Australia.

According to Steven Jacoby, DNRM Executive Director of the team behind the globe tool, governments need to be ready to not only embrace open data but also to start from scratch when technologies and user demands change.

“Our first release of Queensland Globe was a run-away success. It used the familiar Google Earth viewer and in no time it was centre stage at the G20 event in Brisbane profiling Queensland to world leaders including Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.”

“Then Google announced they were no longer going to support Google Earth Enterprise, which meant we needed to find a new technology platform.

“This presented a unique opportunity to look at what had worked well and  what we felt was missing, or could be improved when we released on a new platform. It’s a process that has taken nearly two years,” he said.

The newly relaunched Queensland Globe includes 652 data layers from almost every Queensland Government department. It is now accessed straight from a browser, so users are no longer required to download Google Earth. It also works on all modern smartphones and tablets.

It was developed using the Esri JavaScript API 4.x and Esri REST web services application hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Beanstalk. Its web services published using ArcGIS Server from departmentally hosted servers.

“The way in which we consume information continues to evolve and giving users access to enhanced data, anywhere, on any device, at any time is essential,” explained Jacoby. “That is exactly what we’ve done with the new Queensland Globe.

“Now totally driven by web services, users can decide whether they want to view the data through the Globe application or consume the data feed into their own applications.”

Michael Kraus, Manager of GIS Services at the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, used the Queensland Globe to respond to the recent Cyclone Debbie natural disaster in Queensland and has already benefited from the tools being mobile-friendly.

“Our team has been using the Queensland Globe for around 12 months now, and we’ve really appreciated being able to access imagery-based mapping and state government layers to help with reconstruction efforts in Queensland.

“The advantage of the new Queensland Globe is that our cartographers and analysts have access to the back layers of data. This means we can incorporate our own data and then overlay it with state government data easier than ever before.

“Because our staff regularly go out and work with local regional councils and Indigenous communities, being able to access the Queensland Globe on tablets is certainly advantageous.

“Using Globe we know that what we see on screen is the most up to date information available,” he said.

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Tim Kent, Senior Survey Draftsman with Queensland-based surveying company ‘Alan Sullivan and Associates’, is also a daily user of the Queensland Globe and was involved in early BETA testing of the new version.

“Being in the information industry it is essential that we can find information that is relevant quickly. Previously, to get a permanent mark sketch, a ‘SmartMap’, plan or survey required a visit to a local DNRM branch or through an information broker,” Tim said.

“The Globe is our constant information companion and always occupies one of my two computer screens. I used the previous version of the Globe for extracting real property data, conducting basic surveying records searches, extracting permanent mark information and general overviews of streets and suburbs.

“Using web services in conjunction with the Globe means jobs can be started quickly. Being able to integrate any open data has unlocked boundless amounts of spatial data.

“The new Globe is a mapping beast that can be fully customized using multiple sources – for example we customized our version of the Globe with additional open data from local government associations (LGAs),” he said.

So what’s Steve Jacoby’s advice for other state agencies and large organisations about to embark of a spatial tool of this scope and significance?

“Most government agencies have a general policy of ‘share, before you buy, before you build’ and I think that remains very sound advice.  We went down the path of using a tried and tested spatial engine and viewer in Google Earth before having to build our own application through necessity.

“If agencies have similar objectives with regard to open data and a commitment to delivery of spatial data through web-services, then I’d encourage them to contact us –  we would be more than happy to share our journey, learnings and application developments.”

While only in the market place for a few months, the new Queensland Globe has had strong take up and early feedback is very positive. It’s the potential – for everything from disaster management to the real estate market – that has people talking.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is the Globe’s potential to foster improved collaboration,” Steven Jacoby said.

“Anyone with a connected device can be one click away from the latest map whether it be helping parents choose a home in the right school catchment, landowners getting advice on best practice land management, or disaster managers getting the latest forecasts and imagery in the field, post cyclone or flood.”

“And not only can they view the information they need, they can add to and on-share their maps with others, building and growing the value and utility of our State’s spatial data,” he said.

“It’s been a long process but the thrill of sharing Queensland with people around the globe – through the Queensland Globe – is pretty satisfying for our team,” he said.

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