The Disadvantages of Using Screen Sharing for Online Geospatial Collaboration

The standard approach to achieving a “common picture” in real time across multiple desktops is unofficially screen sharing technologies. In this approach presenters transmit a view of their desktops running GIS mapping software.

The problems:

When displaying GIS information during a screen sharing session, the broadcast desktop displaying the data via screen sharing ceases to exist on all attendee desktops as soon as the session is over. This leaves all attendees with no visualizations or data to continue analysis, and only a “Your screen sharing session has ended” notice.

When a presenter passes the lead role to another attendee, everything that was displayed on the previous presenter’s desktop ceases to be available, making it impossible for a new presenter to build upon the information displayed by a previous presenter.

During screen sharing, any network disruptions or slow network connections on the presenter or attendee side will make continuous streaming impossible, disrupting presentations. Users also run the risk of having attendees view any windows or pop-ups that might appear on the presenter’s desktop, which may contain private and/or sensitive information.

As reported previously by our partners, at times approximately 50% of participants calling in to screen sharing briefings cannot use the screen sharing capabilities. Screen sharing typically requires third party software installations and updates on the devices of all attendees to the screen sharing sessions. Doing this is not always possible; especially when stakeholders do not have the expertise or administrative privileges to do installations, when agencies do not allow software installations outside of those allowed by the IT department, or when firewalls block the transmission of streaming video.

These screen sharing services depend on a third party streaming server, which has different security standards than the standards set by federal and state agencies, and no guarantee of continuity during an attack or disaster situation.

The solution:

GeoCollaborate® achieves total and true commonality and collaboration across all stakeholders accessing data using web maps.  All users receive, share and collaborate with the data and annotations and have access to all the tools, functions and data offered in the web map before, during and after the real-time collaboration.

Using GeoCollaborate® Live participants connect to a session in real time from their own web map and automatically follow all the functions performed on the presenter’s web map.  Functions like dataset loading, layer stacking, zoom and map extent changes, drawings and annotations are replicated across all connected map viewers, effectively creating a true geospatial Collaborative Common Operating Picture (C-COP). At the end or at any time during the session any participant can disengage from the session to regain full control over their web map which has all the datasets and annotations visualized so far. With nothing more than a browser and an Internet connection on any device (traditional or mobile) users can quickly join a collaboration without any third party software installations required.


Rafael de Ameller- CTO

Achieving a Common Operating Picture with Geospatial Data

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping platforms are used by stakeholders to provide a single identical display of relevant operational information in real time (i.e., critical infrastructure, hazards, deployed personnel, population stats, evacuation routes, etc.).  When using GIS or geospatial mapping tools, intelligent decision making and the development of effective and valuable decision support services require collaboration between those who interpret the data (authors, analysts, and subject matter experts) and those who make decisions based on that data (managers and team leaders).

Achieving a “common picture” among multiple users in real time using mappable data and current technologies was limited to an individual’s discovery and display of geospatial intelligence products on their interactive maps and the transmission to others of their desktop view using screen-sharing technologies such as WebEx or GoToMeeting.  Remote participants saw only a broadcast image of the presenter’s desktop while their own local map displays remained static, non-collaborative, and unable to incorporate the information shown in the presenter’s desktop video stream.  Furthermore, when the screen-sharing session was over, all remote users ceased to see the map with relevant information displayed.

GeoCollaborate®, a patented collaborative software, achieves total and true commonality and permits collaboration across all stakeholders accessing data using interactive web maps, GIS platforms, or Common Operating Pictures (COPs).  In the same way that map services bring real-time map information to maps, GeoCollaborate® is a network service that permits real-time data sharing and collaboration across an unlimited number of disparate web maps.  The concept behind GeoCollaborate® is simple: it lets anyone securely author the content of a lead web map, share content, and collaborate in real time or offline with other follower web maps with nothing more than a browser and a network connection.

Rafael de Ameller, Chief Technology Officer