This years GeoData was held in Glasgow and ran under the title “Changing Times”. This event is focused primarily on the private/public sector but is an important event to find out what is deemed to be important to this large sector of the GIS market. Unsurprisingly given the title, the theme was change. The focus of this seemed to be around the need to adopt and embrace the use of standards to make things work. Envitia’s Dr. Sarah Cole kicked things off with a presentation on the growing importance of standards in GI. The presentation drew on the AGI Foresight Report 2015
- 64% of GI professionals think that standards are critical for future.
- Open Standards could save around ¼ of the cost of projects
Meeting the INSPIRE Directive
The use of standards then moved onto the INSPIRE directive. Two presentations, Compass Informatics and Forth Valley GIS, looked at how organisations could work towards INSPIRE compliance. The presentations were informative, with Compass highlighting how the Irish government had implemented a GeoNetworks Solution where all councils have their own portal that feed into the main national hub run by central government.
The thing that struck me was how the process of standardising and organising data to meet the INSPIRE guidelines was described as being simple and straightforward. This may be a slight over exaggeration and I am sure that reality will throw up some hurdles. I imagine these will be show-stoppers, but they will require extra thought and effort to get over them. The UK and Scottish government are well on their way to creating working INSPIRE portals based on GeoNetworks. These should allow councils to be able to comply with INSPIRE. By creating portals that are both GEMINI 2 and INSPIRE compliant, they have had to work through most of the difficulties so everything should be much easier for others who follow their example. This work top create the INSPIRE portals has been supported by the OS, the BGS and by EDINA.
Open Standards for Open Data
Back onto data standards and Cadcorp discussed the use of Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) to make data accessible. This means making data machine readable so that you get the data that you want. Kind of like ensuring that you get the right answer by asking the right question. Say you wanted data on the number of Ospreys in Scotland, you would not be too happy to receive data on all bird species for the whole of the UK. Yes, the returned information will contain your answer, but it is going to take a while to extract it. This message was echoed by Snowflake who talked about the open data standards. Rich Rombouts detailed that Open Data should mean that data is
- Legally open
- Socially Open
- Technologically Open
This would make data easier to use and integrate into applications. This echoed Cadcorp’s message, machine readable data formats would mean that you request what you want when you want it. So you don’t have to worry about downloading and updating datasets. You leave that to the data owner which would mean that you always get the current data. Rich recommended reading a government white paper on “Designing URI’s for the UK public sector”
Environmental GIS in Action
There were two other presentation that focused more on the application of GIS to environmental science. Ambiental described how they use GIS and remote sensing to predict flood extents while Environment Systems presented some work they have done to refine ecology mapping. Environment Systems demonstrated how difficult it is to automate classifications in the natural environment. Boundaries are not sharp, they often show a gradual change and are therefore hard to define. Environment Systems have been experimenting with the use of fuzzy logic to better define these difficult boundaries.
All in all, it was another great event and a big thanks should to the GeoDATA team for making it happen.
NOTE – I will try and link to the presentations when they are made available online.