Navigating University Campus Easier

by Electronic Map

Fresh creative minds are extremely important for continuous innovation to happen in the sectors of GIS and information technology. In 2013/2014 academic year, a group of final-year students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed an electronic map for the university campus for their Final Year Project, by which showed the huge convenience that GIS technology can bring to our daily life.

iCUHK can provide optimized routes for navigating from one location to another within CUHK to users on different devices.

CUHK is world-renowned both for its academic achievements and magnificent campus. Its campus area of 137.3 hectares is the largest among the universities in Hong Kong. While the hundreds of buildings in the area provide excellent facilities for teaching, learning and researching, students and visitors often lost their way in the campus or found it difficult to travel from one building to another.

Three students, Chan Man Kit, Ho Shun Wing and Pong Hei Ching, from the Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management of CUHK believed they can provide a better solution to the problem other than traditional paper maps and existing digital image maps. Supervised by their teacher, Professor Helen Meng, the three students developed a Web Apps called “iCUHK” and the uniqueness of the application is that it has incorporated information of shortcuts and routes that only CUHK students know. By utilizing this website, users can locate their position and find the routes to their destination easily by computers or mobile phones within the campus of CUHK.

At the project planning stage, the students determined the functions and characteristics of iCUHK as below:

  1. Its user interface will be automatically optimized both for traditional computers and smartphones. It can provide consistent user experience for devices with different screen sizes;

  2. It can provide the shortest and fastest routes for users for both walking and taking bus based on CUHK students’ experience and knowledge;

The system can calculate the best routes based on dent factorsiffer.

In order to meet these requirements, the students used web technologies such as HTML5, Cascading Style Sheets level 3 (CSS3), and Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax) to accommodate the multiple platforms and various devices that users may use to access iCUHK. In addition, a mathematical algorithm called Dijkstra’s algorithm and search optimization methods were introduced into the system in order to calculate the best routes for queries about navigating between 2 locations in a fast and efficient manner. GPS capability in mobile phones is also utilized so that the information retrieved or calculated will be much more accurate by identifying the current location of a user.


Esri’s ArcGIS Online platform is the core GIS component of iCUHK and plays an important role in the aspect of user interaction. When user clicks on the map provided by ArcGIS Online, in order to get his/her location or the path between two locations, ArcGIS Online will send the information of the locations such as coordinates to the database of iCUHK for processing. In the case of calculating routes, different factors such as the distance between two points, the location of nearby bus stops and available paths will be taken into consideration.


Moreover, users can also get maps with information of points of interest like restaurants, libraries, shops, mail and IT facilities by clicking specific buttons in the application.

iCUHK can display map with the locations of special facilities like restaurants upon users’ requests.

The students summarized the benefits that ArcGIS Online has brought to their project as below:

  1. ArcGIS Online supports HTML5, CSS3 and Ajax so that developing the Web Apps for both mobile and desktop users is easier;
  2. To develop a GIS Web Apps based on ArcGIS Online is easy because the platform provides many resources such as JavaScript API.
  3. ArcGIS Online provides a Graphical User Interface and many built-in functions, so it is also easy for users to add and edit additional layers of information like points of interest on the basemaps;
  4. There are detailed online tutorials and sample codes for developers so that it is relatively easy to implement different functions of the system.

In conclusion, the project of iCUHK shows an innovative application of GIS. It gives straight-forward, informative and interactive user experience to its users based on the advanced capabilities of ArcGIS platform. The students believed the system can be further developed so that more information can be embedded and it can become a one-stop website in which visitors can get all information about CUHK.