JavaScript for Geospatial applications: An Overview


JavaScript has formed a strong relationship with the Geospatial world (WebGIS, et.al) in a manner that is reminiscent of the relationship between Python and Desktop GIS. JavaScript is often regarded as more of a scripting language than a full-fledged object oriented language but I must admit it has got a much wider functionality than one might imagine and for the record, JavaScript is officially termed as Object-Scripting language (read: Mozilla’s JS page). If you are looking for an overview of  programming languages used in GIS, have a look at my previous post.

While the capabilities of Desktop GIS and their applications are undisputed, there has been a steady growth in the number of WebGIS applications and Apps. Majority of such applications utilize one JavaScript library or the other. Depending on whether you just want to use JavaScript for developing a simple map for your website (Related: Deploying your own Slippy maps) or visualize tweets in real-time, one of the many JavaScript libraries and tools might be of interest to you.

Here’s an overview of JavaScript for Geospatial applications:


Leaflet is a great tool for making mobile-friendly interactive maps and it extremely light-weight. Leaflet has a lot going for it and was one of the fundamental driving forces behind the recent redevelopment of OpenLayers 3.0.


OpenLayers has great documentation, a new version (3.0), lots of examples to get you started and the best thing of them all – Open source! Certainly my favorite JavaScript library and is one of the easiest ways to get a map on the web.

ESRI API for JavaScript

ESRI does it and does it well. Not for nothing, is ESRI considered as the GIS pioneer.  Some of the functionality that you see with ESRI’s API is not that easily achievable with the Open source solutions especially if you have limited programming skills. However ESRI is not alone in the JavaScript for Geospatial arena and it looks like this is going to be one interesting competition.


CartoDB impressed us with their living cities visualization partnering with HERE and then they “wowed” us with the real-time geo-tagged twitter maps. Guess those two examples are enough to understand why CartoDB.js is a great library for geospatial applications. Here’s a presentation (Jan 2013) about using CartoDB to develop maps for the web.


MapBox.js is another cool library for building interactive maps. FourSquare, Pinterest, National Geographic are some of the companies that utilize MapBox’s JavaScript libraries for their web maps.


Data-Driven Documents or D3 is general purpose data visualization library. D3 is certainly a hot topic of discussion and development among geospatial professionals. Considering that D3 supports a new format called TopoJSON for topology data, this is a given I guess! Our geo-geek blog partners at digital-geography do most certainly love this. Here’s a blog post regarding mapping using D3.

Node.js & Node Postgres

Great JavaScript libraries for building a web based PostGIS application. Here’s the guide that I found rather useful when getting started with Node.js.

Open Weather Map API

Get detailed weather information using this free JavaScript API.


Really cool JavaScript library for rendering interactive 3D (0r 2D) graphic visualizations without any plug-ins on the browser, requires WebGL though.


If you want to make use of the HERE’s awesome expertise with traffic information, routing and more.


The Open source alternative to ESRI’s Story map application.

And of course, Yahoo Maps API, Bing Maps API and Google Maps API. If you dont want to use the data from the big players, there is always OpenStreetMap.

Learning JavaScript

There are lots of JavaScript books, resources and tutorials available and to each one his/her own but you might want to have a look at OpenGeo’s resource for learing to use JavaScript for Geospatial applications aka programming WebGIS applications – OpenGeo’s JS page.

I am sure that I am missing a lot of really nice JavaScript libraries and APIs. It would be wonderful to have your input in this regard. After all, that’s what the comments section is for 🙂

Say thanks for this article (3)
The community is supported by:
Become a sponsor
#Business #Featured #GeoDev
Geo Addressing Decoded Part 2: Beyond Coordinates – Exploring the Depth and Impact of Geo Addressing
Aleks Buczkowski 05.2.2024
#Events #Fun #GeoDev #Ideas
Join 6th CASSINI Hackathon. Innovating with Space Technology for International Development & Humanitarian Aid
Geoawesomeness Team 09.9.2023
#Featured #GeoDev #People
MapAction looking for volunteers to unlock information management barriers in humanitarian sector
Alex Macbeth 10.31.2023
Next article
#Business #Featured #Ideas

With iPhone 6 and iOS8 Apple starts to be serious about indoor location.

Apple indoor - GeoawesomenessLast week Apple unveiled its new smartphone models: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They’re both exceptionally well designed pieces of hardware. But what’s most exciting from geo-perspective is that both phones include the M8 motion coprocessor with a barometer on top of the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. The barometer senses air pressure allowing to calculate relative elevation, which is a key feature to phone positioning between floor levels.


This will allow to add floor number parameter to X,Y coordinates in new CoreLocation API unveiled at the annual Apple’s WWDC2014 (Worldwide Developer Conference) in San Francisco in June. According to Apple’s presentation the API will use RF parametric data as well as motion sensors data from its M8 chipset for indoor positioning.


Apple has been working on indoor location technology for a while now. In March 2013 it acquired WiFiSLAM – company founded by a few ex-Googlers which allows to track indoor location with 2.5m accuracy using only ambient Wi-Fi signals that are already present in buildings. The technology requires an initial fingerprinting of a building even if this fingerprinting can be done only by walking through the building with a Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone.


Another piece of the indoor equation is iBeacon technology. It uses low energy Bluetooth 4.0 for proximity positioning. Why is important? Finding your way inside a building is cool, but what happens when you reach your destination…? That’s the most important part of your indoor journey for marketers and many app developers. iBeacons can trigger an action on your phone based on your proximity. For example you could get push notification with coupons or it could trigger particular app to wake up. iBeacon could be also installed in a places like exhibitions, museums or simply stores and it could provide you with some extra information about particular objects. What’s worth mentioning they work both indoors and outdoors.

Zrzut ekranu 2014-09-14 o 10.47.32


OK. But we cannot forget that positioning technology determines only your location. For navigation purposes we still need the next component with are maps. Good maps. Apple do not comment much on that matter. We know that Apple enabled three locations with maps around San Francisco, so that developers could test its API in a live environment: the California Academy of Sciences and the Westfield SF Center shopping mall downtown San Francisco as well as Mineta San Jose International Airport down in the Silicon Valley. On the other had we know that TomTom is Apple’s major map provider, and TomTom signed a deal with Micello who is one of the biggest suppliers of indoor map data with over 15000 floor plans in a database.

It seems that indoor positioning will finally move from being “the next big thing” to everyday reality.

source: GPS Business News

Read on