Using Google and GIS to Promote Skokie Attractions

The Village of Skokie Manager’s Office recently approached the
Geographic Information System (GIS) Department with the idea of creating
a map of the downtown area in order to highlight the local businesses
and restaurants. This project started as a basic map depicting major
streets and the shopping zones on those streets in the downtown area.
As the project began to take shape, the GIS Department suggested going
in a slightly different direction and using a Keyhole Markup Language
(KML) file to give the public a way to locate attractions in the
village. A KML is a file to be used in conjunction with Google mapping
applications such as Google MapsTM and Google EarthTM. For this
particular project the village decided that Google MapsTM was the better
application over Google EarthTM simply because every internet
connection could access the file rather than having to download and
install the Google EarthTM software.

The base of the project was the underlying data from which the GIS
Department was able to create the KML. Data is created by first
producing an Excel spreadsheet with certain attributes such as address,
business name and type and phone number. This table is then is then run
through a GIS process called geocoding which essentially means to place
this information onto a map using the address of each location. Each
point, now at the proper spatial location, still retains its original
attributes from the spreadsheet such as the business name and phone
number. Once these points have been created in the GIS they then get
transferred into KML file using another GIS function where the end
result is a useable file for GoogleTM applications.

The KML makes information about restaurants, entertainment and art in
the village readily available to the public via the internet. Since
GoogleTM is a free mapping application, the data that is placed in the
Google MapsTM comes at no additional cost to the village. While the
idea of using GIS data in GoogleTM is relatively new it is still amazing
to see how far technology has come to simplify processes such as these
and obtain an end result that helps the local community better serves
their residents and customers.