I'm trying to set up a demo that serves up live spatial data, but am having trouble finding any suitable example data sources.

Ideally I'm looking for something that updates every few seconds; either with a new position or maybe a fixed position but a new status.

So traffic congestion (for example) is out because it doesn't really update frequently enough. I was thinking that a live GPS feed would be ideal - but I just don't know of any.

Does anyone have any suggestions, or example feeds that are reliable and open?

7 Answers 7


Why not just build your own? One of the coolest personal geo projects was to grab a cheapo cam, project the georeferenced frames to a 3D scene from a building, combine it with OpenCV for auto feature detection and feed that data to postgis.


I was getting more data than could be handled by a non-event based server, but it made for a cool realtime video.

Another out of th box option is to use something like OpenGTS and attach it to something that moves :)

  • 4
    Okay, that's just plain cool. Aug 9, 2011 at 19:58

Have you tried looking into live bus tracking or similar AVL data?

A quick google search revealed a lot of possibilities, but the Chicago Transit Authority looked like it had possibilities. They even have a Bus Tracker API that might give you access to a direct feed (although I haven't even read the details, let alone tried to use the API).

  • Thanks. Although I won't be using Chicago, you got me looking and there is actually a similar thing for San Francisco: sfmta.com/cms/asite/nextmunidata.htm - in fact a number of municipalities seem to be using the same technology. Something called nextbus (nextbus.com/homepage). Quite interesting and ideal for what I am hoping to do. Thanks! Aug 4, 2011 at 22:44

How about global lightning data?

Another option would be to use Flickr REST API to fetch data about the latest uploaded geotagged images (if possible).

UPDATE: here's the Web method you could use: http://www.flickr.com/services/api/flickr.photos.search.html

  • 1
    I really like the lightning data idea - but the site seems to be closed down. Oh well. Thanks. Aug 4, 2011 at 22:47

You could also use Twitter API to access geolocated messages.


I think the question implies a preference for sources of real time vector data, but given the title, I thought it a good place to remark on any and all sources of real time GIS data.

USGS Real Time Streamflow Data

The US Geological Survey real time streamflow data provides a fun source of information. Clearly the gauges are points corresponding to changing streamflow values. From the USGS site:

Current data typically are recorded at 15- to 60-minute intervals, stored onsite, and then transmitted to USGS offices every 1 to 4 hours, depending on the data relay technique used. Recording and transmission times may be more frequent during critical events. Data from current sites are relayed to USGS offices via satellite, telephone, and/or radio telemetry and are available for viewing within minutes of arrival.


Weather data applies, too. I use a WMS call like the following in conjunction with a Google Map to quickly get local weather radar images without ads. Here's an example of the URL. I don't know how often the feed refreshes, officially, but rapid refreshing during a big weather event reveals it to be very continuous and real time. There is no telling what you'll see if you click this (if we have clear skies in Springfield you'll just get a transparent PNG):


You can investigate the various NOAA services here. It's a cool site with several free services and some descent examples.

NWS Data (a division of NOAA, but tasked with warning and advisory responsibilities)

The National Weather Service also provides some free services. I backed into the URL a little and got this page with a raw list of WMS layers you can grab. I followed the link to one of them, opened Fiddler, then selected View In.. ArcGIS.com Map, and I was able to trap a WMS URL similar to the one above and monkey with it until I got something I wanted. This example takes a Lon/Lat Bounding Box (EPSG:4326) and returns a PNG map image projected to North Aamerica Lambert Conformal Conic (EPSG:102009). This approach is repeatable for any layer you want, such as the warning/advisory polygon areas, but the radar is more likely to always show something so I used their radar:



Would pachube work? You can access public live data feeds here


Portland Oregon's public transportation service has a nice api for vehicle locations.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.