One of the big debates surrounding INSPIRE in 2017 centers around the fitness for purpose of the INSPIRE data specifications. Earlier this year, the Germany National Mapping and Cadastral Agency BKG thus asked us to perform a study to identify practical issues in the INSPIRE data specifications that make implementation and usage harder. They also asked us to document recommendations on how to improve on the Technical Guidance and the Implementing Rules.

As you might know, one of our company’s goals is to help make standards better. For us that means that we use data-driven, analytic approaches to identify places of overspecification or underspecification as well as inefficient or overly complicated data structures. We also systematically look for mismatches between existing data and the targeted implementation platforms. In earlier posts, we’ve described some of the methods we use for that.

One of the big debates surrounding INSPIRE in 2017 centers around the fitness for purpose of the INSPIRE data specifications. Earlier this year, the Germany National Mapping and Cadastral Agency BKG thus asked us to perform a study to identify practical issues in the INSPIRE data specifications that make implementation and usage harder. They also asked us to document recommendations on how to improve on the Technical Guidance and the Implementing Rules.

As you might know, one of our company’s goals is to help make standards better. For us that means that we use data-driven, analytic approaches to identify places of overspecification or underspecification as well as inefficient or overly complicated data structures. We also systematically look for mismatches between existing data and the targeted implementation platforms. In earlier posts, we’ve described some of the methods we use for that.

Methods used in Schema and Data Analysis

The BKG has now published the final version of the report on the GDI-DE website.

In this report, we analyse five data specifications (Buildings, Species distribution, Environmental monitoring facilities, Utility and governmental services and Natural risk zones) from two perspectives:

  • Is there unnecessary complexity in the technical guidance that hinders adoption by users?
  • Do the specifications really support key use cases such as e-reporting or COPERNICUS in-situ data provision? We specifically looked for patterns that would be problematic for use cases such as Data Management, Data Exchange, Data Transformation, Data Analysis in a Desktop GIS and Data Publishing through INSPIRE Services.

In the report, we describe proposals where the INSPIRE Implementing Rules or Technical Guidance can be amended to ensure the interoperability of spatial data sets and services with reasonable efforts for the authorities concerned. The proposals include concrete references to alternative encodings and simplifications (e.g., multiplicity, voidable, flattening, data type).

Resources:

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Smart Cities are fundamentally about accessible data, situational awareness, resilience and decision support. They connect citizens with their cities’ infrastructure and administration, and enable them to drive their development. A successful Smart City implementation will help decision makers to reach out to the citizens, collect valid and trustworthy data and to make better decisions.

Smart Cities are fundamentally about accessible data, situational awareness, resilience and decision support. They connect citizens with their cities’ infrastructure and administration, and enable them to drive their development. A successful Smart City implementation will help decision makers to reach out to the citizens, collect valid and trustworthy data and to make better decisions.

In a Smart City, citizens have a higher life quality. It covers aspects from where to build schools and emergency centres, to reducing emissions, to building resilience to acute events or long-term challenges such as climate change. Being data-driven, is it important to increase the interoperability and reusability of the data, apps, and services developed in Smart Cities projects, and by implementing INSPIRE we can do so.

The INSPIRE Directive establishes rules for a spatial data infrastructure. When implemented, it makes data more visible, shareable and usable. Its focus lies on spatial data necessary to support policies that affect the environment, like transport, agriculture, hydrography etc.

Since 2016, the INSPIRE specifications also include standard interfaces and data models for real-time information, in particular related to utility networks, environmental information and to transport networks.

In many cities such as Hamburg and London, INSPIRE and Open Data initiatives are implemented hand in hand. Together, these can form the basis for sustainable Smart City infrastructures. As of today, many Smart City projects are islands.

Data once collected through different Smart Cities projects should be reusable and interoperable, so we need to harmonize that data and make it available for researchers, decision makers and citizens. By implementing INSPIRE standards we can do so and increase the value of data collected and validated. Several current projects such as smarticipate and GeoSmartCity follow this approach already.

INSPIRE implementation is not without its challenges as well. It has been criticized on two fronts – implementation complexity and limited usefulness. By making INSPIRE part of Open Data, Smart City, Spatial Planning and other initiatives, the value of INSPIRE becomes clear to more stakeholders.

With the right tools and solutions, INSPIRE implementation is not more expensive or complex than other data infrastructures. It is possible to transform and harmonize data in a simple workflow, as well as it is possible to publish services within seconds.

We strongly believe that implementing INSPIRE can be easy, with fully integrated, hybrid cloud solutions. To show you how a sustainable and effective INSPIRE implementation can look like, we developed a guide that will take you through the process step-by-step.

For a more practical approach, you can always reach out to us at info@wetransform.to and book your online demo session for implementing INSPIRE with INSPIRE GIS.

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Last week, more than 800 people met in Strasbourg for an event packed with workshops, keynotes and presentations. This somewhat personal retrospective summarizes our impression in broad strokes. First of all, it was a very intense week for our team - with more than 50 meetings and 10 contributions to the programme. For almost all of these, videos are now available online.

Last week, more than 800 people met in Strasbourg for an event packed with workshops, keynotes and presentations. This somewhat personal retrospective summarizes our impression in broad strokes. First of all, it was a very intense week for our team - with more than 50 meetings and 10 contributions to the programme. For almost all of these, videos are now available online.

Participants Keynote session on Wednesday

Strategy

Most of the INSPIRE community is aware of the discussions surrounding the Fitness for Purpose of INSPIRE, and the related efforts to improve the usefulness of INSPIRE network service and data specifications. There is also an ongoing debate to define a list of Priority data themes and data sets to indicate which steps implementers should focus on. Some stakeholders are very critical of the current state of INSPIRE and point to technical difficulties in implementation as well as to limited usefulness for many use cases.

This criticism is somewhat in contrast to the many organisations moving forward on their INSPIRE implementation. There was a substantial number of presentations and workshops about projects that showed how to successfully implement interoperable services. As an example, Christine Najar from Swisstopo presented their feasibility study, which looked at the concrete efforts required to provide both INSPIRE and ELF/ELS data and services, and came to the conclusion that overall efforts are lower than many people anticipated.

At this point, there is a lot of evidence that some parts of the INSPIRE requirements need to be modified or relaxed, to make implementation easier and more robust. One example is the actual data discovery process, which we analysed in the context of the INScope project. In that project, which we presented together with Wageningen University & Research and the European Environmental Agency, we showed that only a few percent of data sets actually meet all requirements according to their metadata. Another example is the simplification of the encoding, for which several suggestions have been made, e.g. by Denmark and by Germany.

Some recommendations from the study commissioned by BKG

It is also important to focus on the usefulness and usability of INSPIRE data. To increase the usefulness, several national initiatives such as the Spatial Planning Act in the Netherlands build on top of the INSPIRE legislation. INSPIRE extensions are one way to piggyback local use cases onto the INSPIRE infrastructure.

Technology

In the technology and tool oriented sessions, the single keyword that was used most was probably Docker. Docker is a container technology that makes the deployment and maintenance of server based applications much easier than virtual machines did. Docker is a core building block of an entire ecosystem with tools such as docker compose, docker swarm and Rancher that allow us to build scalable, robust applications that can be managed much more effectively than previous generations. The paradigm shift is to move away from individual servers that are manually administered (“Pets”) to fully automated cluster deployments (“Cattle”). No more manual patching of individual Application Servers or Oracle Databases! By now, we have Docker images for all relevant Open Source and Closed Source applications available, be it ArcGIS Server, FME Server, GeoServer, deegree or our own hale connect platform.

Closely related to this topic was the second trendy keyword – the Cloud is coming! INSPIRE mandates a relatively high level of availability and performance for all INSPIRE services, with requirements such as 99% availability and 20 WMS requests per second for a 640x480 raster image. For smaller organisations who do not have dedicated staff and hardware, these objectives can be hard to fulfill, so cloud architectures offer a practical, efficient solution.

Joeri Robbrecht from DG ENV gives an introduction to the INSPIRE requirements and their impact

One key consideration that popped up several times was the question of whether cloud services are secure enough. Several presenters including Ken Bragg (Safe Software) explained that “AWS is probably more secure than your data center” in one variant or another. AWS is by now offering basically any certification one could ask for, and is very transparent about security issues. Especially in the context of INSPIRE data, which is intended for sharing and publishing, there are very few reasons left not to use cloud services – be it Software as a Service Solutions (such as haleconnect.com) or Platform as a Service resources. For those organisations with additional requirements about who should access data, there are also solutions in place or being developed, e.g. by the CLARUS project, which develops a Cloud Encryption Gateway and a Cloud Access Security Broker.

Linked Data is mostly a topic of research projects and prototypes. The main promise of Linked Data is to better integrate with “mainstream” IT technology by making resources such as individual spatial objects discoverable through search engines and by embedding fragments of linked data in normal web content. Just changing the encoding from GML to RDF or JSON-LD for all INSPIRE data however is certainly no silver bullet.

A Personal View by Anida

Anida and Andreas happy to give a thumbs-up even on the last day of the conference :)

This year, I attended the INSPIRE conference for the first time, so I am not going to compare it to previous conferences. I would rather like to focus on the key points and takeaways from an INSPIRE Newbie perspective.

The conference brought together many INSPIRE, GIS, Data and Technology experts, as well as lots of people looking for opportunities to learn something new, and to exchange experiences. The conference was also a meeting point for people looking for new career opportunities, and that made me wonder. Was this market not too small to come to a conference looking for new career opportunities? Then I realized that it is not about the market size, it is about the impact of what was going on with INSPIRE and beyond.

I heard a lot about the approach to open data and making it available for citizens and businesses and listened to discussions about how far public administrations should open their data. In my personal view, on its own, INSPIRE will not bring high-end innovations, but combined with Open Data principles, they become feasible. Attending the SMESpire workshop as a representative of a start-up made me think more about the innovations that can be created by implementing INSPIRE.

Can we bring innovation, open data and fulfillment of legal obligations together? In my opinion, we can, but it is very important to understand why are we implementing INSPIRE. As I see it, INSPIRE should not be the ultimate goal: to implement something just for the sake of implementation. It should be a tool to help countries maintain, manage and exchange big amounts of data effectively, to foster international collaboration. That will then lead to innovations created by businesses. Businesses will find a way to create the added value that will then lead to growth. What does it take? Collaboration and communication, and then a bit more of it. It also takes some kind of a joint platform, that will enable SMEs to take part in different projects and address the needs and priorities of INSPIRE implementers.

So it was a week full of learnings and a really great opportunity for exchange and networking, but moreover, it was an opportunity for so many people to find that one solution, implementation or the expert that will bring them further and closer to their goals.

The way forward

We’ve very much enjoyed supporting this year’s conference through our Gold Partnership, and would like to thank the organisers in Germany, France and at the JRC for the great conference.

The INSPIRE GIS partners at our joint booth, together with some JRC staff

There is not much of a break now, though – the next INSPIRE Roadmap milestone is approaching fast: On November 23rd, provision of existing data sets tied to Annex I in INSPIRE interoperable form is required. Many organisations we work with aim to fulfil their obligations in time. Looking beyond this milestone, focus will shift towards annex II and III – a good moment to take a break and evaluate both the major strategic directions and new technology.

We’re looking forward to the 2018 edition in Antwerp! You can bet that we will accept the challenge of the Hunt for the Golden Pineapple!

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It’s almost a tradition for us to release a new hale studio version for the INSPIRE conference, and 2017 is no exception! This year, we’ve created a maintenance release of hale studio. This version fixes several bugs and brings these enhancements:

  • Save transformation projects directly to hale connect
  • Partition GML output into multiple files
  • Support for PostgreSQL Materialized Views
  • Support for Double columns for the CSV reader
  • Improved handling for HTTP/HTTPS codelists and schemas

We’ve also fixed several bugs and added smaller improvements. The whole list is available in the changelog.

Get the latest version, and let us know what you think of it!


It’s almost a tradition for us to release a new hale studio version for the INSPIRE conference, and 2017 is no exception! This year, we’ve created a maintenance release of hale studio. This version fixes several bugs and brings these enhancements:

  • Save transformation projects directly to hale connect
  • Partition GML output into multiple files
  • Support for PostgreSQL Materialized Views
  • Support for Double columns for the CSV reader
  • Improved handling for HTTP/HTTPS codelists and schemas

We’ve also fixed several bugs and added smaller improvements. The whole list is available in the changelog.

Get the latest version, and let us know what you think of it!


Save transformation projects directly to hale connect

hale studio extends its integration with the online collaboration platform by allowing to save projects directly to hale connect. This allows for a true online workflow where your changes to a project that was saved to or loaded from hale connect will be saved directly to the remote project without the need of another export. You can switch back to an offline workflow at any time by saving your project to a local file on your computer.

If you have a private cloud or on premise installation of hale connect or inspire gis, you can also log in to that by changing the application settings.


Partition GML output into multiple files

When exporting data as GML, the exported data can now be partitioned into multiple output files. The number of features per file can be configured during the export. This partitioning approach keeps features that reference each other together in one file, so it is not effective for some networks and hierarchies.


Support for PostgreSQL Materialized Views

The PostgreSQL schema import now supports loading materialized views alongside tables and regular views.

Thanks to the Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau for funding this work.


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GDI-Südhessen is a cooperative at county level, including more than 100 municipalities in the southern part of the German state of Hesse. The goal of this group is to improve internal cooperation and data sharing and to collaboratively tackle larger challenges, such as the implementation of the INSPIRE initiative.

GDI-Südhessen was also one of our first customers. Together with GDI-Südhessen, we’ve built the “GDI InspireUmsetzer” open platform to achieve both goals: Exchange data across all member organisations using shared data models, and fulfill INSPIRE obligations. Especially the latter typically requires significant capacity building, investment in software development and in changes to internal data production processes. Because of the large amount of expert knowledge that is required, there is significant resistance to implementing the INSPIRE directive.

The platform we have built in 2016 and operated since enables data providers without any knowledge of INSPIRE standards to upload data in a very easy process, and the system then transforms the data and provides services in a fully automated workflow. The process also includes publishing in open data catalogues and data and metadata validation. Our intent from the start was to build GDI InspireUmsetzer so that the same solution could be offered to all public authorities in Europe that also need to comply with the INSPIRE directive. In particular, wetransform offers the platform to organisations like municipalities or surveying departments that don’t have their own IT departments and limited expertise in spatial data infrastructures. This INSPIRE implementation platform is available in different deployment modes (public cloud, private cloud, on premise) and is built on trusted open source software such as hale studio and deegree.

A Preview of the whitepaper

To learn more about the GDI-InspireUmsetzer project, its organisation and processes, download our in-depth case study.

Attending the INSPIRE Conference 2017? Andreas von Dömming and Martin Domeyer will present the platform on Friday 8th of September, 09:45 in Strasbourg!

GDI-Südhessen is a cooperative at county level, including more than 100 municipalities in the southern part of the German state of Hesse. The goal of this group is to improve internal cooperation and data sharing and to collaboratively tackle larger challenges, such as the implementation of the INSPIRE initiative.

GDI-Südhessen was also one of our first customers. Together with GDI-Südhessen, we’ve built the “GDI InspireUmsetzer” open platform to achieve both goals: Exchange data across all member organisations using shared data models, and fulfill INSPIRE obligations. Especially the latter typically requires significant capacity building, investment in software development and in changes to internal data production processes. Because of the large amount of expert knowledge that is required, there is significant resistance to implementing the INSPIRE directive.

The platform we have built in 2016 and operated since enables data providers without any knowledge of INSPIRE standards to upload data in a very easy process, and the system then transforms the data and provides services in a fully automated workflow. The process also includes publishing in open data catalogues and data and metadata validation. Our intent from the start was to build GDI InspireUmsetzer so that the same solution could be offered to all public authorities in Europe that also need to comply with the INSPIRE directive. In particular, wetransform offers the platform to organisations like municipalities or surveying departments that don’t have their own IT departments and limited expertise in spatial data infrastructures. This INSPIRE implementation platform is available in different deployment modes (public cloud, private cloud, on premise) and is built on trusted open source software such as hale studio and deegree.

A Preview of the whitepaper

To learn more about the GDI-InspireUmsetzer project, its organisation and processes, download our in-depth case study.

Attending the INSPIRE Conference 2017? Andreas von Dömming and Martin Domeyer will present the platform on Friday 8th of September, 09:45 in Strasbourg!

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