GLOBALBASE Project since 1999

Despite the fact that humanity as a whole has never been wealthier, we are facing many problems; some, such as global environmental and breadbasket issues, are in fact age-old problems, but have gained unprecedented recognition recently, while others, such as local revitalization, conservation of culture and similar are receiving attention on a less global scale. One thing that is common to almost all of these problems, however, from our individual day-to-day difficulties all the way up to the world-spanning global scale, is that they somehow involve geographical factors. This is not surprising at all when we think about the obvious fact that we humans all live in space.

Yet, many people tend to think "whatever happens in faraway countries has nothing to do with me," whereas they fail to appreciate their own culture. This way of thinking can be considered a negative geographical effect, and it is one of the factors that make it difficult to solve various issues occuring on the Earth.

For instance, how do the breadbasket issues in Africa relate to our daily lives? or what roles does our culture play in the local community? In the GLOBALBASE project, we believe that one of the keys to asking and answering such questions lie in easy access to geographical information, in particular through visual representation of this information using iconography in a so-called geo-browser. The purpose of the GLOBALBASE project is to show various issues occuring on the Earth utilizing geo-browser and related technologies and to heighten the awareness among the public about local and global issues.

Some of the well-known software already in use today for browsing up-to-date geographical information include GoogleEarth, Earth Browser, and NASA's browser. What the GLOBALBASE project aims to do is creating browser that appears superficially similar.

We must, however, not forget that current geo-browsers present a pitfall. The majority of the geographical information is maintained at a large scale, such as aerial photographs and official maps, and may not be created or updated by any one person and/or country. In normal geo-browsers, geographical information used as the base is provided by browser developers and related enterprises. Thus, it is not a far-fetched thought that some powerful organizations might construct geographical information that is particularly convenient for them. Or, to put it the other way round, not all the geographical information available actually reflects information of local communities and/or global issues.

Then, the question becomes: what geo-browser is able to reflect information of local communities and global issues as is? We consider such a geo-browser to be one that allows local communities or people/organizations, who are perhaps conscious about issues involving themselves, to provide information on their own accord. Such voluntarily provided information of course varies greatly depending on the provider, even if it deals with the same subject, and information provided by one source may contradict with information provided by another. At GLOBALBASE, we embrace this concept; we actually believe it to be very important that huge amounts of such potentially contradictory information can be provided, even when it covers the same space.

When one considers how a geo-browser should be designed given this premise, the first issue that should be considered is the basic data structure. In GLOBALBASE, we do not prescribe any base map. All pieces of open geographical information are equal, and any of them can be used as a basis. Correspondingly, the viewer side should be able to select his/her preferred basis and change it according to the circumstances as well. Moreover, information providers should be able to determine all parameters of each piece of geographical information. Furthermore, it should be possible to store such geographical information on a server under complete control using administrator's priviledges.

On the other hand, the viewers of the information, i.e., the geo-browser users, should be able to select geographical information based on keywords and classification information in order to quickly and easily obtain exactly the information they need and show the selected geographical information in one space in a seamless manner.

These conditions proposed for the GLOBALBASE project are to some extent already the norm for normal information on the Internet, considering how information providers are able to publish WWW documents and users are able to browse them; but this is not the case in network-oriented geographical information systems. This is where the GLOBALBASE project aims to make difference using our up-to-date autonomous-distribution technology.

Recognizing the points outlined above, the GLOBALBASE project currently involves the following practical initiatives.

Educational Campaign on Maps

People are apt to regard maps as being difficult to understand. In particular, we belive that many people are disinclined to construct maps by themselves, even if they may be able to use them somewhat easily. For this reason, we hold workshops in which we chart maps together with people in various backgrounds, which is helpful as a part of our regional development activities as well. The workshops are named "Tomorrow's Map," and have so far been received well by the public; even children have participated and enjoyed the sessions.

"Maps of Tomorrrow"(Japanese)

In fact, we consider it to be one of the essential features of the GLOBALBASE project that even maps constructed by children can be incorporated into the system explained below and viewed, in the same way as maps charted by specialists. The individual workshop of "Tomorrow's Map" may seem entirely unrelated at first glance, but all the maps will eventually be connected into a single global map as the number of maps gradually increases.

Parallel Scape, A New Way of Enjoying Urban Space

We intend to propose a new way of understanding local regions using GPS and GLOBALBASE, as though it were a game. We are preparing for the launch at the Parallel Scape website.

Development of New Open Source (LGPL) Space Browser

We are currently developing a space browser entitled COSMOS and a server called LANDSCAPE, which is used for providing maps and geographical information. COSMOS and LANDSCAPE can be downloaded from the following Download page and used freely.

Download Page

The entire source code of the space browser and server is made available to the public as open source. It is expressly permitted to develop other software based on the open source code.

As of September 10, 2007, the latest beta version is ver.B.b16.12 for both COSMOS and LANDSCAPE. We have set the following system development targets.
  • ver.A - code name ASTROBOY (development already completed)

    We developed this version for the purpose of developing the basic network protocol of GLOBALBASE called "autonomous distribution-oriented geographical information system." Please refer to Section "DATA STRUCTURE" in "ARCHITECTURE" for the detailed explanation.

  • ver.B - code name BLAZE (beta version)

    In ver.B., we are implementing the main user interface and data editing functionality in COSMOS, such that the browser allows browsing at average ease of use, along with efficient data transmission functionality in LANDSCAPE.

    Current goals for this verision:
    1. Complete the basic user interface of the dedicated browser COSMOS
    2. Allow browsing 2-dimensional maps/aerial photos with COSMOS
    3. Develop functions for searching and overlapping multiple maps in real-time
    4. Allow simple plotting and legend editing with advanced COSMOS functions
    5. Allow sending large quantities of vector or raster (matrix-oriented structure) data with LANDSCAPE
    6. Create scripts for converting existing LANDSCAPE vector/raster data to new formats
    7. Develop functions for pasting a group of GLOBALBASE maps onto a website via HTTP-GATEWAY, the gateway between the LANDSCAPE network and the WWW network
    8. Develop a search engine function that may be used to search for data on LANDSCAPE. It should allow searching for names of places and features registered on the GLOBALBASE network as well as browsing through WWW pages linked from within vector data and associating location information in the search.

    The formal release of ver.B. is schduled for the fall of 2008.

  • ver.C. code name CERRESTO (planning stage)

    In ver.C., we intend to push the development toward the creation of a more real space. We aim for a system that allows expressing spatial data on Earth as well as in the cosmos as realistically as possible.

    1. Support for 3-dimensional or higher dimensional data
    2. Develop COSMOS support for such projective methods
    3. Allow expressing fields (e.g., gravitational field)
    4. Support projection in non-Euclidean geometry (e.g., Minkovski space)

Various Efforts toward Diffusion of New Space Browser

We are also working on consolidating our framework for supporting people who wish to provide information via LANDSCAPE. The number of companies and NPOs that support us and develop homepages and create data using LANDSCAPE is gradually increasing. If potential users do not have knowledge about server-side programming, they should be able to rely on such organizations. Users are of course also more than welcome to set up their own servers.

E-mail: Hirohisa Mori, joshua [at]
  GLOBALBASE has particated in the open source software support program SORCE FORGE Logo