Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Natural Earth vectors in the cloud!

Natural Earth is a jewel among public domain datasets. I’ve made the entire vector dataset (175,000 features!) available on Google Fusion Tables (GFT). Now you can easily query and download vector geometries in different formats (KML, GeoJSON, WKT and SVG) with associated attributes. This experiment will show if Google Fusion Tables can be used as a cloud-based feature server.

All 139 Natural Earth fusion tables are listed in this table. Every table is public and exportable. A few features are missing at 1:10 million scale because the polygons where too large for GFT (the character limit for a given cell is 1 million characters). The data features are described on the Natural Earth website. Table names are identical to the original shapefile names. 

All tables include 4 geometry columns containing vector data in various formats:
The geometries are in EPSG:4326 (longitude/latitude, WGS84). I've only included three decimals to save space and bandwidth. The longitude accuracy is approximately 111 m at equator, which should be sufficient for this dataset.  

Unfortunately, the built-in mapping features of GFT are useless for world maps containing polygons and lines (both line and polygon geometries are displayed as markers at zoom levels less than 5).

Update from Google: "I'm delighted to announce an update - Due to some impressive engineering wizardry on our team, the defaults for zoomed-out views are much improved. Tables with less than 1000 features mapped will show lines and polygons for three additional zoom levels. In addition, many of Bjørn's remaining tables have been granted individual exceptions for visualizing within Fusion Tables; any re-use through merging will inherit this exception. Happy mapping!" 

You can download the data using the Google Fusion Tables API, and render the vectors in your own web mapping application. 

Examples of how to use Natural Earth in the cloud will follow in later blog posts. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

This is great news, keep up the excellent work!

Robert Russell said...

Great work! can I ask if you are allowing people to use your work. e.g. creative commons or public domain as per the natural earth dataset. I have been inspired by your work to get into thematic mapping with SAP. I used the natural earth dataset and Japan as an example here.
Thank you
Robert Russell

Bjørn Sandvik said...

Hi Robert,

Feel free to use the data tables in your projects. Add a link to this site if you like.

Terms of Use - Natural Earth
Google Fusion Tables API - Terms of Service

Please inform me about your experiences with Natural Earth vectors in the cloud.

Bjørn said...

Great work. It looks to me like some of the data (for the UK in particular) might be incomplete or corrupt:

Is there some way to address this? Is is a problem with the Natural Earth data or Fusion Tables?


Bjørn Sandvik said...

Hi Larry,

I had an error in my code which converts geometries to various formats. I've now fixed the geometries in this table (map).

Please notify me if you find errors in other tables you would like to use. said...

Thank you for your quick response, that fixed it. I will let you know if I see any other issues.

Larry said...

Just noticed, there are now duplicate entries in that table for each state/province for the UK.
So I get two entries when I query it.
Larry said...

Greece also has duplicate entries for the states. I'm not sure if there is something wrong with the dataset now (I don't remember this before, but I will admit I didn't look closely).


Bjørn Sandvik said...

Hi Larry,

I think the issue with duplicate entries is solved. If the problem still occurs, please check if you're using one of the tables listed here. This list is always updated with the latest table IDs.


Anonymous said...

Seems the is no Canada

Lizania Cruz said...

Hey Bjorn,
I find your blog very interesting. I work in a design studio in NYC and we are looking for someone who can create a specific shape file that has dots for small islands in south east asia and the caribbean that we can use in indiemapper. Do you have any contacts that would be able to create this? Or are you able to do something like this?