How it all started
It all started with an observation: There was and still is a lot of satellite data floating around in the internet, much of it freely and openly accessible through initiatives like the Copernicus Programme. Scientists from all around the world were excited, and started processing, analyzing and discussing their results. The only problem: There was no easy way to publish their geodata in an attractive manner. Websites, blogposts, and scientific online publications contained either pre-rendered videos of a spinning globe presenting the data, or – even worse – static images (screenshots of globes!), instead of an interactive, intriguing 3D-globe the user could interact with.
Much better than a static image, right? Try zooming in or panning with your mouse or finger!
Then, there is EOX’s expertise in tools for geodata visualization like VirES for Swarm or the CODE-DE Catalog Client, which enabled to display complex formats, create image pyramids on the fly and ran completely in the browser. A lot of time and energy went into these projects, and still is. With mapalupa, a “spin-off” of this highly sophisticated services was brought into life as a technical demonstrator and concept, already sparking interest with different user groups.
Now, we are proud to announce that we expanded this technical demonstrator into a product! Although still in beta, it is now possible for users to use mapalupa as a service: they can try out the workspace first and experiment with their own data, they can sign up for an account if they wish to store their settings, and they can choose from different subscription plans (one free and two paid options), payable by credit card.
We are certain that this approach is a good mix between a service that is easy and free to use, and a powerful tool for professionals who need an expanded set of features. Charging our users for the service enables us to keep improving the product and helps us understand what our users value the most.
It is a first for EOX to charge individual users on a subscription basis – a lot of effort went into finding our value proposition, thinking about the service value chain, and experimenting with a brand which is appealing to a wide audience. The majority of this work has been done during taking part at ESA’s Small ARTES program, which helps businesses to methodically approach the design of a new product in terms of business idea validation and value proposition design.
So – how does mapalupa work?
It’s easy as drag and drop! Loading the mapalupa Workspace shows the user a blank globe, with one layer already added. It is our home-brewn Terrain Light layer (part of our EOX::Maps), perfect as a canvas for overlaying it with the user’s own data. Alternatively, the user is able to replace it with the Sentinel-2 cloudless layer or our OpenStreetMap layer, or provide her/his very own base layer. Then, the user can add her/his own files in png, jpg, jpeg, gif, json, gjson, kml, tiff or tif format (a new layer gets created for every upload), change the visibility order of the layers, and upload layer legends. To finish off the composition, mapalupa also provides top layers for labeling the globe (Overlay, Overlay Bright layers) or giving some slight orientation (Coastlines layer). All data uploaded by the user has to be Open Data as of right now (private scenes coming in near future).
The user can interact with the preview globe while editing, and when she/he found a good angle for presentation, she/he can then save the camera position. Lastly, hitting the “Generate Widget”-button generates the embed code for the current scene. This html-code can be copied and pasted into any website or blog (like a YouTube-video) to display the newly created scene.
Alternatively, a direct link to the scene can be sent via mail or social media. In just a few steps, the user has created a beautiful, interactive 3d globe, and can display geodata without the need to write a single line of code or the need to open any other programs than the browser!
We want to enable potential users to be able to try out mapalupa first before signin up. The workspace has a “quick access” mode when approached by an anonymous user, where a temporary session is created and mapalupa’s full functionality can be tried out. The anonymous user’s uploaded data and saved settings are stored temporarily on our servers, she/he can even generate a widget code to try out embedding her/his first mapalupa globe in her/his own web publication. In case of a browser refresh or a connection interruption, the session authentication is set by a cookie, so nothing is lost by mistake. After a few hours, a temporary session is deleted and all the uploaded data is cleaned up, aswell as the widget iframe deactivated.
When a user decides to sign up for a free account, she/he is able to create two more scenes in the workspace. After upgrading to a paid subscription, she/he can create a total of ten scenes (Starter Plan) or 100 scenes (Premium Plan), with additional storage space provided (more Information about our plans here).
We’re excited to see what creations our users are going to come up with – for the start, we created some examples and put them into the mapalupa Example Gallery – check out the gallery page for our famous Sentinel-2 Cloudless globe, a GeoTIFF example from northern Italy showing off the 3D-relief of the Alps, a historic globe from 1719 or a Moon Globe!
Also, we’re excited about all this and would love to hear from our users how they use mapalupa and if there are any important features they’re craving for – we created an Ideas & Feedback Froum to collect all those thoughts.
Finally, stay tuned for a future blogpost describing how mapalupa works “under the hood”! Until then, feel free to sign up for a free account and try out the service yourself – you’re going to like it.