Automating topographic map creation: FME’s role at the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography

The Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography’s Case Study

About the project

Employing the FME Platform, our team crafted a solution that revolutionized the creation of topographic maps for Poland, reducing the timeline to just a few days.


Industry: Public sector
Country: Poland
Solution: FME Form, FME Flow

The Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography, a public institution in Poland, is dedicated to delivering current geodesy and cartography data to the public. Their mission revolves around providing efficient services to citizens while contributing to the development of a contemporary spatial information infrastructure.

The challenge

Our client embarked on the ambitious task of producing a digital topographic map of Poland at a 1:50,000 scale. In search of a subcontractor, they prioritized expertise in the FME Platform. The subcontractor needed to be capable of automating the process of generalizing and editing the Topographic Object Database (BDOT10k), which is essential for map creation.

Recognizing the inefficiency and expense of manual cartographic editing, the Office sought a solution to automate map generation. This decision aimed to eliminate the need for the involvement of a large team of cartographers for both initial map creation and subsequent updates.

Building upon our past successes, particularly in generalizing BDOT10k to BDOO and editing topographic maps at a 1:25,000 scale, we approached this project as a natural evolution of our partnership with the Office.


Topographic maps: definition and use cases

A topographic map, typically ranging from scales of 1:10,000 to 1:100,000, provides a detailed portrayal of geographic features. It encompasses:

  • Geographic data concerning man-made and natural features, such as roads, railways, power transmission lines, elevations, rivers, lakes, etc.
  • Elements like the title block, map emblem, legend, text scale, graphic scale bar, and contour lines.

Topographic maps serve various purposes, including:

  • spatial development planning,
  • preparation of thematic maps,
  • crisis management and military applications,
  • tourism and archeology,
  • geodesy and cartography calculations.

The solution

To create topographic maps at a 1:50,000 scale, our focus was primarily on ensuring adherence to technical standards for digital maps. They are defined in the Regulation of the Minister of Economic Development, Labour, and Technology dated 27 July 2021.

We utilized the following tools and resources:

  • The FME Platform for automated cartography generalizing and editing.
  • QGIS for visualizing and printing PDF maps.
  • The ArcPY (ArcGIS) library for certain generalizing tasks.

Throughout the solution development, we encountered several challenges, including:

Utilizing multiple tools and generalization libraries required careful customization of our toolkit to achieve optimal results. Each task was matched with the most suitable tool; for instance, we utilized QGIS for map printing. Coordinating these various elements while maintaining efficiency proved challenging.

Process optimization was essential. Initial versions of our solutions revealed that data processing for complex terrains prolonged the overall process. We implemented several optimizations to significantly expedite this aspect.

The diverse terrain across the country necessitated varying generalization parameters and resulted in graphic conflicts across generated map sheets.

Our solution operates entirely on automation and leverages current data from the National Geodetic and Cartographic Resource, including the BDOT10k database, The National Register of Geographical Names, and a digital terrain model.

The process encompasses the following steps:

  • Generalizing: This involves simplifying geometry, enhancing cartographic representation, and filtering redundant objects.
  • Editing geographic contents and generating landform elements.
  • Creating map layouts, contour lines, and additional elements like legends, text scales, and graphic scale bars.
  • Determining locations and organizing map objects and necessary descriptions such as place names, water feature names, and landform names.
  • Managing graphic conflicts that arise during the generalization process.

The process’ pillars


Results & benefits

Automated generation of over 1000 topographic map emblems.

Substantial acceleration of the map creation process, allowing for the processing of maps for the entire country in just a few days.

Implementation of an option for further reducing processing time to several dozen hours, depending on configuration.

Enhanced accessibility of up-to-date and reliable maps, now publicly available via Poland’s Geoportal.

Quick and automatic updating of maps following changes in input databases.

Future collaboration

Following the successful completion of topographic maps of Poland at a 1:50,000 scale by Globema, the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography has decided to extend the project to create maps at a 1:100,000 scale.

Through a competitive tender process, Globema has once again been selected as the service provider for this project.


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