“Real time” Story Map Tours

Story Map Tour is a popular Story Map, ideal for presenting a set of photos or other media along with captions, linked to an interactive map. It has been used to author interesting tours such as Places to Go in San Diego, Explore the Adirondacks, and many others you can find at the Story Map Tour Gallery.

Map Tours can use photos or media that are hosted on photo sharing sites like Flickr, Google Photos, YouTube or other web locations. While these are typically static, you can create a more dynamic Map Tour if the media are updated and overwritten at their hosted location, or if the URL points to streaming video.

Example: Queensland Traffic Cams

Traffic web cams make for interesting real time Story Map Tours. Many “live” cams are implemented by grabbing a snapshot from the traffic cam and overwriting the existing URL location for each camera snapshot at regular intervals, usually every few minutes. Other traffic cams include live streaming video.

For this example, a spreadsheet was created containing the lat/long of traffic camera locations from the Queensland, Australia, Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Fields were added to provide the information needed for the Map Tour. including URLs to photos captured from the traffic cams. See Create a Story Map Tour using a spreadsheet for more information.

The edited spreadsheet contains the following fields:

  • Lat/Long – location of traffic camera
  • Name – used in the photo title in the map tour
  • Description – shown alongside the name in the larger map tour photo
  • URL – web location of larger size photo
  • Thumb_URL  - web location of thumbnail photo
  • Color – used by the map tour to define the marker color
  • Website – not needed for the map tour, but used in our web map pop-up

The Queensland traffic cam photos are available in only one size – a little larger than ideal for the thumbnails, and a bit smaller than ideal for the larger photo, but close enough that we could use the same photo as-is for both the thumbnail and featured photo in the tour. A key ingredient to our real time tour is that each traffic cam snapshot is overwritten in place at its URL location every 60 seconds.

View a cam snapshot

View and download the spreadsheet

Build the Map Tour

Two workflows can be used to build the live traffic Map Tour; you can start with a web map, or start with the Map Tour builder. In general, it’s recommended that you start at the Story Maps website, and launch the Map Tour builder from there.

Start with a map

Follow these steps to author a map tour using the downloaded spreadsheet and authoring a new web map.

Step 1 - Download the spreadsheet from the link above, and drag and drop the spreadsheet onto a new web map. Configure the web map as desired.

Step 2 - Save your map, and click Share. Then click Create A Web App.

Step 3 – Choose Build a Story Map, then locate and click Story Map Tour.

Step 4 – Click Create Web App

Then enter a title, tags, and summary.

Step 5 – Complete the Map Tour using the builder. Since the spreadsheet contains most of the information needed by the builder, only a few changes will be needed to finalize your tour. Add a title, subtitle, and change Settings as desired, then Save and Share.

Start with the Map Tour builder

Step 1 – Launch the Map Tour builder from the Story Maps website. There are several ways to launch the builder, one way is to click the Apps tab, locate Story Map Tour, and click Build.

Step 2 – Click Advanced Options (the gears).

Step 3 – Click Import Tour data from a CSV file.

Step 4 – Select, or drag and drop the downloaded spreadsheet.

Step 5 - Complete the Map Tour using the builder. This is the same as Step 5 above. When finished, save and share your story map.

More examples

This example from the City of Santa Clara features streaming cam shots from traffic cam locations throughout the city.

Your can view the Map Tour or download the CSV containing the cam locations and build your own streaming web cam tour using the steps above.

For more information

This post was originally published on September 24, 2013, and has been updated.

This entry was posted in ArcGIS Enterprise, ArcGIS Online, Story Maps and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply


  1. mapsnrocks says:

    Bern: Great post! Not only have I a good sense of what was done but I also have had a chance to see how to do it myself…and ultimately do it. The combination is a pattern I hope you follow in the future.

  2. jekkster says:

    Bern, I’m being told by ESRI tech help, that i have to have an ArcGIS online account to get this to work. I’ve downloaded the template, pieced together all the necessary data and items.. and when I go to index.html and edit this to point to my map that is on my local IIS (using ArcGIS Viewer for Flex), it does not work. Any help or pointers would be great! Thanks,, Jeff

    • Bern Szukalski says:

      Jeff – you do not need an organizational account, but you do need to have at least a public account so you can save the web map. The story maps all require a web map as the foundation. When I test templates running in my local IIS, I just use the ArcGIS Online web map ID in the index.html running from my local IIS. References to photos are usually already out at a public location and that is what is in the spreadsheet in the map. I am not sure by what you mean by “map on your local IIS” – the web map you need to reference is an ArcGIS Online web map, so use that web map ID.

  3. csincosk says:

    Thanks for posting! I made the map and the directions were really easy to follow and it turned out great.

  4. accgis13 says:

    My Intro GIS class is using this template to create story maps.The maps include two shapefiles (tour route and tour stops). Everything is working fine for the groups that created their web map and started the web app on Tuesday. But for the groups that created their web map today and then created the web map app today, the shapefile layers are not showing up in the web app. So it’s making it really hard for them to locate their pictures. Plus they are getting really frustrated since they are beginning students. I tried stepping through the process with them and the map layers just don’t show up even though the basemap does. What’s going on?

    Thanks for getting back to me ASAP.
    Mary Beth Booth

    • Bern Szukalski says:

      If things worked just fine the other day, and not today, then I am puzzled. There have been no changes or updates. If the problem persists, then we’d need some more information to go on, some details about the shapefiles and your workflow, and ideally for you to share links to the web maps you are using for the tour. Questions that would be useful are:
      - Do the shapefiles show up in the web map, but not in the story map? (would need a link to take a closer look if so)
      - Is there anything unusual or otherwise different in what you are doing today than what worked on Tuesday?

      If you think it’s an issue with shapefiles in the web map, then the best way to seek additional help is to visit the ArcGIS Online Forum:

      If you feel it is a specific issue with story map templates, then email (there is no forum yet) to storymaps@esri.com

  5. sdw_eaglegis says:

    Hey Bern – thought I’d share this great real time Story Map from our partner GBS. The App takes the NZ Herald National News RSS Feed and spatially locates the latest 10 headlines on a Map of New Zealand, as well as indicates whether the news story was a positive or negative one: GeoEnriched NZ Herald National News Headlines.

    They actually have another story map on how they did it using ArcGIS, among other things: A Machine Learning (AI) Story Map. Cheers, Sam

  6. ColTom says:

    How is it possible to autmatically refresh my images at specific seconds (eg. from webcams) in my story map in autoplay mode?