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At our INSPIRE and Beyond conference, I shared some thoughts on INSPIRE as an open platform market, and about its potential to change how we utilize spatial data. As only about 35 of you were able to attend that presentation, I got several requests to also outline my thoughts on the matter in an article. So here you go!

What is a Platform Market?

You have probably heard about many of the most successful businesses of our time, such as Uber, AirBnB and Amazon. They have all been hugely successful and have been able to acquire millions of happy users.

What all these Platforms share is that they enable demand-driven growth by leveraging underutilized resources. Here are a few examples of platforms and the underutilized resource they made accessible:

  • AirBnB – Apartments
  • Uber – Private Cars
  • INSPIRE – Geospatial data

Making such resources available means that supply-side economics don’t play a big role in such platform markets. In a properly managed platform, the market is only limited by how much demand there is.

Platforms provide value units of at least one type:

  • AirBnB – Apartment Rental
  • Amazon – Article that can be bought
  • LinkedIn – Job Posts, Profiles, Group Posts
  • YouTube – Videos
  • INSPIRE – Spatial Data Sets and Services

Platforms are often two-sided or multi-sided marketplaces. This means that there are multiple stakeholder groups, not just the two groups typically involved into a single producer – consumer transaction. For INSPIRE, you will have these groups:

  • Regional, national and European Platform providers
  • Regional, national and European Data Providers
  • Regional, national and European Data Users
  • Service Providers
  • Service Users

One organization or person can take multiple roles at the same time, or in temporal succession.

A successful platform has to provide value to all actors, and the capture of value needs to be balanced carefully. If one group is extracting too much value, the platform can fail quickly. As an example, consider Uber, the ride-sharing platform: Most risks and costs lie with Drivers, some with Passengers, but basically none with the Platform operator. This has led to significant protests as well as legislation being passed that effectively banned Uber from operating in many territories.

At our INSPIRE and Beyond conference, I shared some thoughts on INSPIRE as an open platform market, and about its potential to change how we utilize spatial data. As only about 35 of you were able to attend that presentation, I got several requests to also outline my thoughts on the matter in an article. So here you go!

What is a Platform Market?

You have probably heard about many of the most successful businesses of our time, such as Uber, AirBnB and Amazon. They have all been hugely successful and have been able to acquire millions of happy users.

What all these Platforms share is that they enable demand-driven growth by leveraging underutilized resources. Here are a few examples of platforms and the underutilized resource they made accessible:

  • AirBnB – Apartments
  • Uber – Private Cars
  • INSPIRE – Geospatial data

Making such resources available means that supply-side economics don’t play a big role in such platform markets. In a properly managed platform, the market is only limited by how much demand there is.

Platforms provide value units of at least one type:

  • AirBnB – Apartment Rental
  • Amazon – Article that can be bought
  • LinkedIn – Job Posts, Profiles, Group Posts
  • YouTube – Videos
  • INSPIRE – Spatial Data Sets and Services

Platforms are often two-sided or multi-sided marketplaces. This means that there are multiple stakeholder groups, not just the two groups typically involved into a single producer – consumer transaction. For INSPIRE, you will have these groups:

  • Regional, national and European Platform providers
  • Regional, national and European Data Providers
  • Regional, national and European Data Users
  • Service Providers
  • Service Users

One organization or person can take multiple roles at the same time, or in temporal succession.

A successful platform has to provide value to all actors, and the capture of value needs to be balanced carefully. If one group is extracting too much value, the platform can fail quickly. As an example, consider Uber, the ride-sharing platform: Most risks and costs lie with Drivers, some with Passengers, but basically none with the Platform operator. This has led to significant protests as well as legislation being passed that effectively banned Uber from operating in many territories.

Platform Market value matrix

In addition to the value provided to the various actor groups, there are also external effects, so called Externalities:

  • Positive Externalities:
    • ParkNow - Lower environmental disturbance due to less park space search
  • Negative Externalities:
    • AirBnB – Noise and disturbance for neighbours, value of property might go down
    • Uber – Taxi drivers lose income

Platforms can take different forms. There can be proprietary platforms such as Uber for ride shares, open platforms such as Micro Four Thirds for photographic and videographic equipment, or partially open platforms such as Amazon Web Services. INSPIRE, with its common set of open standards for network services and data specifications, is an open platform. Everybody can in principle contribute to the platform as a data provider or as a data consumer.

Characteristics of Platform Markets

Not all markets are equally suited to be disrupted by a platform model. Let’s first have a look at some typical characteristics of platform markets:

  • There are strong network effects, i.e. there is an exponential benefit in getting more producers and consumers on the platform;
  • There are Winner Takes All tendencies, i.e. because of the strong network effects, there is a tendency for one platform to capture the entire market;
  • There are dynamic effects between roles, such as interactions with content (upvoting) leading to more interactions with the same content. These dynamics can occur either inside one stakeholder group (Same-Side effects) or across stakeholder groups (Cross-side effects).

There are certain indicators for whether disruption of a market by platforms is likely:

  • Information Intensive (instead of being intense in physical resource requirements)
  • Unscalable Gatekeepers (there are bottlenecks in accessing the underutilized resource, such as finding it, accessing it and using it)
  • Highly Fragmented (there are many smaller specialised actors)
  • Information Asymmetries (one stakeholder group has far more information than another)

We can easily see that public geospatial data providers match this description well. Partially, the market for public geospatial data providers has already been disrupted: Think classical map making. Paper maps used to be based on authoritative data. Everybody who travelled a little probably had dozens, or even hundreds of these maps. Nowadays, we use Google Maps and in-car navigation systems. These mostly use data specifically captured by commercial companies such as HERE and TomTom. As a consequence, sales for paper maps have dropped dramatically.

However, public authorities still have extremely valuable data ranging from environmental monitoring to cadastral parcels to infrastructure and utilities data that could form the basis for many applications.

INSPIRE as an Open Platform

We think that when INSPIRE is implemented, it provides an opportunity for a true platform revolution of the European geospatial data market. The market for geospatial data has been growing by more than 10% each year in the last 10 years, but most of that is not captured by public data providers.

Obviously, we are not yet there entirely. Things that are missing (in practice) include:

  1. Standard licensing and purchasing frameworks (One-click buying for all data sets) with accessible pricing
  2. Widespread deployment of stable, cost-effective infrastructure software (instead of everybody trying to build and operate their own solutions)
  3. Modern, mainstream-accessible interfaces for accessing data (such as the current WFS 3.0) and metadata (such as RDF via LDProxy)
  4. A clearly articulated and balanced value proposition to all stakeholder groups

The last point is one I’d like conclude on. A recurring theme of discussions around INSPIRE was whether it’s useful to implement for data providers, and whether there would be actual use cases that can directly build on the INSPIRE infrastructure. Should the INSPIRE infrastructure become a successful platform where all stakeholders win, we – as a community – need to define these benefits quickly and clearly. So, let’s work together to make INSPIRE the next platform revolution!

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INSPIRE is a digital infrastructure, but it is also a community. This community meets on-line, and also face to face at events such as the annual INSPIRE conference. Events really do bring people together to share challenges, ideas and solutions.

As part of the INSPIRE community, we wanted to establish a new opportunity to do exactly that. Thus, we organized the first INSPIRE and Beyond (IAB) conference. It took place from 23rd – 24th May, 2018 in Darmstadt, Germany, at one of the world’s leading applied research organisations, Fraunhofer IGD. With about 35 registrants – all of whom came to the event – it was still an intimate group.

In terms of the format, we decided to combine a presentations track with a workshop track based on feedback from early registrants. The IAB 2018 included keynote sessions and talks on topics related to the INSPIRE Directive, its implementation, challenges and outlook. In the workshop track, it offered training focused on tools and technologies that can help geodata providers to efficiently implement the directive.

INSPIRE is a digital infrastructure, but it is also a community. This community meets on-line, and also face to face at events such as the annual INSPIRE conference. Events really do bring people together to share challenges, ideas and solutions.

As part of the INSPIRE community, we wanted to establish a new opportunity to do exactly that. Thus, we organized the first INSPIRE and Beyond (IAB) conference. It took place from 23rd – 24th May, 2018 in Darmstadt, Germany, at one of the world’s leading applied research organisations, Fraunhofer IGD. With about 35 registrants – all of whom came to the event – it was still an intimate group.

In terms of the format, we decided to combine a presentations track with a workshop track based on feedback from early registrants. The IAB 2018 included keynote sessions and talks on topics related to the INSPIRE Directive, its implementation, challenges and outlook. In the workshop track, it offered training focused on tools and technologies that can help geodata providers to efficiently implement the directive.

Participants at INSPIRE and Beyond 2018

For starters

In the opening keynotes, we wanted the attendees to get a clear understanding of where we currently stand in terms of INSPIRE implementation, and what the main open challenges are. For this purpose, we invited two keynote speakers.

The first keynote presentation “INSPIRE – current status and what can we expect” was delivered by Prof. Dr. Robert Seuss from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. Prof. Seuss pointed out crucial challenges in the INSPIRE implementation, and gave an outlook for future expectations. One of interesting takeaways is the expectation that INSPIRE will be fueled by mega trends like Digitalization and Open Data which help a lot in understanding the possible outcomes and the added value of a successfully implemented directive.

Nicolas Hagemann from the German SDI Coordination Office addressed the question of the current INSPIRE and SDI status in Germany in the second key note presentation “INSPIRE at the finish line?”. He showed the latest statistics for INSPIRE progress from respective EU reports. His key takeaways were that INSPIRE implementation is approaching the finish line in Germany, but that there is also a lot of work ahead to complete the provision of interoperable data sets in Annex II and Annex III, as well as to align INSPIRE to national projects in Germany and to other European initiatives.

Innovation is crucial

In the innovation session, we started off with a presentation on the next generation of “Cloud-based INSPIRE services”. Michel Krämer (Fraunhofer IGD) focused on how to implement future spatial data services based on the WFS 3.0 specification in a native cloud architecture. The presentation gave insights into how GeoRocket, an Open Source framework developed by the Fraunhofer IGD GEO Group, can address challenges such as large data volumes, a wide variety of use cases and low operating costs. Wetransform currently works with Fraunhofer on this topic and thus wants to contribute to innovations that make INSPIRE data really useful.

The Opening Keynotes Session

Being practical and technical

At IAB, we offered four workshops, which addressed a wide range of topics from data models in INSPIRE, data transformation, data publishing, as well as an advanced workshop on Groovy scripting in hale studio.

In the Data Modelling workshop, Thorsten first started with the “why” of data models, and then introduced processes to manage them and tools to design them. The focus was clearly on the methodology of designing a data model, but he also showed innovative tools for data-driven modelling and for profiling of data models.

In the Data Transformation workshop, Simon focused on advanced topics in data transformation in hale studio, such as the new capabilities for merging alignments.

The Data Publishing workshop addressed questions of creating INSPIRE compliant View and Download services, including metadata. This workshop also provided clarification on some common questions related to compliance.

The Groovy Scripting workshop presented the hale studio option to define custom functions using Groovy Scripting. In this workshop, Johanna Ott and Simon Templer shared how to develop these, along with a lot of recipes for solving common issues in transformation.

And what is beyond INSPIRE?

INSPIRE is not supposed to be self-serving only. One of the key questions driving the community nuts right now is what business processes and values chains will build on the infrastructure, and currently, such processes are still rare. For this reason, we included two sessions on Business and Applications.

“Smart Cities” are another hyped concept where actual applications are often not that clear. However, both smart cities and INSPIRE build on data. INSPIRE mostly contributes more static, reference data, whereas smart cities provide a dynamic were a central point of the Application session with presentations showing use cases and examples on how geodata can improve smart cities management, or how geodata can drive better citizens participation in their cities.

While Veneta Ivanova, from the Fraunhofer OGD Institute focused on citizen’s participation in her presentation, Szymon Ciupa, from the Smart Cities Initiative, explained current challenges and practices in smart cities management.

Kate Lyndegaard then switched gears and showed how INSPIRE and another EU legislation, the famed GDPR, intersect. She explained the scope of both legislations, and explained how to tackle GDPR in terms of INSPIRE using examples of personal data stored in the metadata. INSPIRE and GDPR: Are they interoperable? was probably the hottest presentation in terms of the discussion it generated, not only in the session, but also during the breaks. This is no wonder considering that the GDPR was to come into force in just two days after the event, and that there is massive uncertainty in how it will play out for all involved.

Anida Jusufovic concluded the business session with an in-depth presentation about optimizing procurement processes. In Getting what you need: Optimizing Procurement for INSPIRE solutions she walked the event attendees through the tendering and procurement jungle and showed some steps that can increase the efficiency in INSPIRE procurement projects. Based on a structured decision tree, institutions can see and decide which procurement model works best for them and in that way increase the outcome quality and reduce risks. The decision tree can be separately downloaded and viewed here.

A Strong Network of Partners

The morning of the second IAB day was dedicated to wetransform partners and their integrated solutions and services.

In “Can you stand your success?” Ikka Rinne from Spatineo presented tools for testing service availability, performance and capacity that can effectively be used in INSPIRE projects. In his engaging presentation you can find out more about the Spatineo Monitor, a plug-in for INSPIRE GIS, or about other innovative tools coming from Spatineo.

Stefania Morrone, from Epsilon Italia, engaged the audience with interesting use cases in her session “INSPIRE as an effective tool for e-reporting: the EEA ‘EU Registry on industrial emissions’” Stefania presented the long term goals of an efficient INSPIRE implementation by clearly showing that the Directive is serving a self-purpose, but can offer more when planned accordingly.

Let us conclude

After two very engaging days, Thorsten Reitz concluded the first IAB event. His Closing Plenary started off by asking “Is INSPIRE leading the next platform revolution?” By using analogies of AirBnB, Uber, LinkedIn and other platform providers, the closing session offered the opportunity to think about INSPIRE as an open Geospatial Data Platform that would allow authoritative geospatial data to be utilized to its full potential.

Thorsten also explained some of the mid-term and long-term product strategies of wetransform, giving a sneak preview into the new touch-first Web Transformation tools that will become part of haleconnect.com in Q3 2018, and in explaining the road to different levels of autonomous data transformation.

The Closing Plenary and Open Feedback Round

Feedback – for IAB and for the INSPIRE community at large

The feedback round was the final highlight of the event: all attendees had a chance to provide direct feedback. We asked four questions:

  1. What would you like to see more of?
  2. What would you like to see less of?
  3. Which topics should this event address next year?
  4. Which topics should the INSPIRE community urgently address?

The attendees didn’t have any ideas what to skip, but there was plenty of feedback what to add to the event and which topics we could address:

  1. More presentations on INSPIRE use cases in production
  2. More presentations on how to use INSPIRE extensions to work with INSPIRE in practice
  3. More hands-on workshops
  4. More detailed presentations by users, e.g. on how they used hale studio to create transformation projects
  5. More presentations by wetransform that summarize the challenges and solutions observed across all customers
  6. More opportunities to “Bring your own Project / Data”

One somewhat critical point was the dual-language format of the conference (parts in German, parts in English). We will critically review our approach there and consider changes for 2019.

These were the main points with respect to the community at large:

  1. Clarify the role of extensions in INSPIRE
  2. Clearly explain which feature type is used for which use cases
  3. Move forward on maintenance of the current technical guidance, ideally with an annual release cycle
  4. Incorporate alternative or additional encodings such as GeoJSON and interfaces such as WFS 3.0 quickly so that current Annex II / III work can benefit from these developments
  5. Clarify what the alternatives to INSPIRE implementation would be, and how INSPIRE relates to these alternatives
  6. Specifically motivate sectors such as Utility companies why they should implement INSPIRE
  7. Better position INSPIRE outside the community and create significant connections to other policy areas, ranging from CAP to GDPR

We would like to thank everyone who attended the first INSPIRE and Beyond event and contributed to its success. This story will continue: We plan to organize another INSPIRE and Beyond next year and provide some more use cases and present interesting INSPIRE implementation projects.

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At the last INSPIRE conference in Strasbourg, we learned that you - the INSPIRE community - need more places to learn about current best practices and solutions for an efficient INSPIRE Directive implementation. At wetransform, our mission is to support the INSPIRE community to make the infrastructure a success for all stakeholders and to help bring Europe together.

In that spirit, we would like to invite you to INSPIRE and Beyond – Solutions for today and tomorrow (IAB 2018).

We believe that INSPIRE will help satisfy the increasing need for high-quality data and information that administration, business and society in general have today. We have all seen the estimate that 80% of the data used for environmental, business and policy-oriented decision making integrates geographical information. Spatial data grows rapidly, both in volume and in application. Nowadays, it includes not only topography and land ownership, but also information regarding demographics, environment and security. Such spatial data requires a structured data management approach if we want this data to be discoverable, accessible and easy to use.

At the last INSPIRE conference in Strasbourg, we learned that you - the INSPIRE community - need more places to learn about current best practices and solutions for an efficient INSPIRE Directive implementation. At wetransform, our mission is to support the INSPIRE community to make the infrastructure a success for all stakeholders and to help bring Europe together.

In that spirit, we would like to invite you to INSPIRE and Beyond – Solutions for today and tomorrow (IAB 2018).

We believe that INSPIRE will help satisfy the increasing need for high-quality data and information that administration, business and society in general have today. We have all seen the estimate that 80% of the data used for environmental, business and policy-oriented decision making integrates geographical information. Spatial data grows rapidly, both in volume and in application. Nowadays, it includes not only topography and land ownership, but also information regarding demographics, environment and security. Such spatial data requires a structured data management approach if we want this data to be discoverable, accessible and easy to use.

The INSPIRE Directive plays an important role in driving interoperability between spatial data infrastructures in European countries. In a nutshell, the directive says that the spatial data needs to be collected only once, being easily accessible and in formats that are usable for all spatial data responsible agencies in Europe. Under this directive, public authorities must:

  • Publish metadata about their geographic information
  • Make data available according to standard interoperable specifications
  • Offer services for metadata discovery, viewing, download and data transformation
  • Harmonize the conditions under which EU members supply data and services

INSPIRE already changes the way how European countries manage their spatial data. The coordination between European countries has improved, in terms of joint creation, sharing and using spatial data. This results in better decision making processes. However, overall implementation is still only at a few percent and needs to speed up significantly in the next three years so that we can all reap the benefits of INSPIRE.

At IAB2018, we offer a broad spectrum of content, with a specific emphasis on making INSPIRE usable and useful for supporting the business processes of public agencies in charge of spatial data management and spatial data infrastructures (SDI):

  1. Data harmonization
    • How to best leverage tools for data harmonization, data publishing and validation
    • Annex I data harmonization deadline has passed, yet institutions on lower administration levels are still looking for efficient solutions
    • Annex II and III data harmonization is in the focus now, as the deadline is approaching, and agencies are working on meeting the deadline
  2. Efficient SDI - Infrastructure decisions
    • How can solutions be procured and how development can be managed effectively
    • Best practices and efficient ways of implementing SDI
  3. How to make INSPIRE useful for core business process today and in the future
  4. How to fulfill INSPIRE Quality of Service criteria with available (limited) resources
  5. Best practices and experience exchange among agencies that are implementing INSPIRE
  6. Long-term Perspectives for the INSPIRE SDI

IAB2018 is open for registrations for speakers, companies working in spatial data industry and representatives of public agencies.

Find our more on the event homepage, and on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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