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Open Access Highly Accessed Editorial

Web GIS in practice III: creating a simple interactive map of England's Strategic Health Authorities using Google Maps API, Google Earth KML, and MSN Virtual Earth Map Control

Maged N Kamel Boulos

Author Affiliations

School for Health, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK

International Journal of Health Geographics 2005, 4:22  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-4-22

Published: 21 September 2005

Abstract

This eye-opener article aims at introducing the health GIS community to the emerging online consumer geoinformatics services from Google and Microsoft (MSN), and their potential utility in creating custom online interactive health maps. Using the programmable interfaces provided by Google and MSN, we created three interactive demonstrator maps of England's Strategic Health Authorities. These can be browsed online at http://www.healthcybermap.org/GoogleMapsAPI/ webcite – Google Maps API (Application Programming Interface) version, http://www.healthcybermap.org/GoogleEarthKML/ webcite – Google Earth KML (Keyhole Markup Language) version, and http://www.healthcybermap.org/MSNVirtualEarth/ webcite – MSN Virtual Earth Map Control version. Google and MSN's worldwide distribution of "free" geospatial tools, imagery, and maps is to be commended as a significant step towards the ultimate "wikification" of maps and GIS. A discussion is provided of these emerging online mapping trends, their expected future implications and development directions, and associated individual privacy, national security and copyrights issues. Although ESRI have announced their planned response to Google (and MSN), it remains to be seen how their envisaged plans will materialize and compare to the offerings from Google and MSN, and also how Google and MSN mapping tools will further evolve in the near future.