ArcWatch: GIS News, Views, and Insights

January 2014


Urban Observatory: A Live Museum with a Data Pulse

Contribute Your Government or Organizational Data

By Shane Matthews
Esri Cartographic Specialist

Society today faces many unique challenges that impact cities in every country. Governments, businesses, health care, social services, and other types of organizations must plan for higher population and housing density in urban areas, maintain and increase open space, and decide where to locate services for youth and senior citizens.

First look: The Urban Observatory was  unveiled at the 2013 Esri International User Conference.
First look: The Urban Observatory was unveiled at the 2013 Esri International User Conference.

Enter the Urban Observatory, a project by Richard Saul Wurman, Radical Media, and Esri that creates an interactive museum experience that uses digital maps and the power of geospatial analysis to bring important and interesting data collected about our cities to life.

You can compare and contrast data for three cities at once. Data that's available includes commercial and industrial land use; new development; population and housing density; traffic; current temperatures; wind speeds; the youth and senior citizen populations; open space; and more.

By visualizing data using digital maps and advanced display technology, you can interact with information about cities around the world like never before. You can currently view data for 19 cities, including Paris, France; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Mumbai, India; Johannesburg, South Africa; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and New York, New York, and Los Angeles, California, USA.

The Urban Observatory consists of two components: exhibits and an interactive website. The exhibit provides a unique, immersive experience unlike any other. Dynamic data, digital maps, and related content are derived from many sources. The website supplies the data and functionality to easily view and interact with all types of information.

A land use comparison for nine cities is displayed in the Urban Observatory.
A land use comparison for nine cities is displayed in the Urban Observatory.

The Urban Observatory has gained considerable momentum since its unveiling at the 2013 Esri International User Conference. (Read an article about the Urban Observatory concept and the groundbreaking exhibit in ArcNews.)

There are over 260 maps in production that are incorporating 16 unique data themes for 19 different cities. The three most recent additions to the Urban Observatory are Dublin, Ireland; Perth, Australia; and Prague, Czech Republic.

Other cities are welcome to get involved. If you have data you believe is appropriate and would like to participate in the Urban Observatory project, please complete the participation form to get started.

Esri will review the information provided and contact you regarding how to proceed. Esri staff will provide the data models and templates you need so that contributing and publishing your own organization's data will be a snap.

Start comparing data about cities today.

Contact Us | Privacy | Legal | Site Map