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Topographic mapping evolution: From field and photogrammetric data collection to GIS production and Linked Open Data

March 1, 2019

Whither the topographic map? Topographic mapping historically has been approached as a map factory operation through the period 1879-1990. During this time, data were field and photogrammetrically collected; cartographically verified and annotated creating a compilation manuscript; further edited, generalized, symbolized, and produced as a graphic output product using lithography, or more recently, through digital means. Adoption of geographic information systems (GIS) as the primary production process for topographic maps, including digital database preparation (1975-2000) and product generation operations (2001-present), has led to faster and more standardized production in a semi-automated process. However, the topographic product has remained the same static graphic.
Global Navigation Systems (GNS) began in the post 1990s, led to publicly and commercially produced location-based information traditionally provided by surveyors for topographic maps. Advances in GIS technology, computer processing, memory, and storage devices, along with GNS spawned new location systems and led to ubiquitous, consumer-based cartography through commercial entities on the World Wide Web (Web). This global availability of cartography has provided consumer access and the ability to produce topographic types of map products previously supplied only by traditional National Mapping Agencies (NMAs). Information provided by location-based services made available through connected databases has led to completely new business models based on cartography and geospatial data.
A new form of topographic map as an interactive, linked knowledge base is now being created. The appearance of the Semantic Web and Linked Open Data allows the map to become an interactive knowledge base. In this current theory and implementation of topographic mapping, the map is a graphics-based interface to a triplestore knowledge base which includes a topographic feature ontology, semantics and relations, and instance data with geometry and topology available. The topographic map graphic becomes an interactive link to the knowledge base and additional linked data through the Linked Open Data cloud.