Social Space for Geospatial Information


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Social Space for Geospatial Information

  1. 1. IST-Africa 2011 Conference ProceedingsPaul Cunningham and Miriam Cunningham (Eds)IIMC International Information Management Corporation, 2011ISBN: 978-1-905824-24-3Social Space for Geospatial Information Karel CHARVAT1, Premysl VOHNOUT1, Stepan KAFKA2, Jachym CEPICKY2, Tomáš MILDORF3, Karel JANECKA3, Tomas CHVATAL1 1 Ceske Centrum pro vedu a Spolecnost, Radlicka 28, Praha, 150 00, Czech Republic Tel: +420 281 973501, Fax: +420 281 973501, Email: 2 Help service-remote sensing, Vnouckova 614, Benesov, 256 01, Czech Republic Tel: +420 317 724620, Fax: + 420 317 724620, 3 Faculty of Applied Sciences, University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, Univerzitni 22, Plzen, 306 14, Czech Republic Tel: +420 377 632691, Fax: + 420 377 632602, Email: Abstract: This paper introduces ideas to build a social space for sharing spatial data and spatial information. It includes also the experience with sharing of spatial data and spatial information. The objective of 4th way to SDI is not to build a single node or access point for accessing or collecting spatial information but to build a network of nodes, where every node could be an access point for spatial information. The objective of 4th way to SDI should not be understood as an alternative of public initiatives including INSPIRE, GEOSS, GMESS or UNSDI but to give a chance to anybody to profit from formed Global SDI using standards coming from this initiatives and using interoperability rules defined mainly by Open Geospatial Consortium and W3C. The objective of 4th way to SDI is not to replace such useful initiatives as OpenStreetMap, but to make results of the initiatives more accessible for everybody. The objective of 4th way to SDI is not to remove such solution like Google Maps or Microsoft Live Maps, but give some alternative, where on one side people could share information in different environment including for example Google. The objective of 4th way to SDI is to support utilisation of Open Sources. Proprietary solutions are not excluded from the network. A key aspect is interoperability. Objective of 4th way to SDI is also to give a chance to share and use spatial information by people, who do not have necessary infrastructure. Keywords: SDI, Social Networks, Communities, URM, GeoHosting1. IntroductionThere can be identified four basic blocks for SDI building: institutional support, politicalsupport, accessibility and usability [6]. As depicted on the following figure, we see a gap inthe SDI building. This article should stress out the importance of user involvement in SDIbuilding representing the gap. What are the methods to build Spatial Data Infrastructure (furthermore referred to asSDI)? What is the future of SDI building in development countries? How developingcountries could profit from new technologies? How experiences from Europe could beimplemented in Africa? And what we can do together? These are the main questions, whichwe would like to address and discuss.The most frequent ways how to build SDI are: 1. Building SDI by public administration in Europe is public based SDI mainly supported by the INSPIRE initiative ( There are defined certain rules for data sharing and their life cycle. They include metadata,Copyright © 2011 The authors Page 1 of 9
  2. 2. specifications for data sets and spatial data services; network services and technologies; agreements on sharing, access and use; and coordination and monitoring mechanisms, processes and procedures. 2. Commercial public portals – e.g. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft. They are used every day by users who are looking for some information. This data cant be often used for building of local or regional SDI due to licensing policy issues. The data provided are very often missing information necessary for building up SDI, e.g. metadata according to the international standard or metadata at alls. 3. The third alternatives are voluntary or online communities. As the example of OpenStreetMap ( shows, nowadays, citizens have an interest in sharing their findings within a community. Therefore, the architecture should foresee collaboration possibilities for people who are not employed by environmental agencies. Data are eventually reported by the general public needs to be checked and validated before it may be published. Specific data models and formats might be a problem in this domain. The usage of these infrastructures are sometimes difficult for a non specialist.2. ObjectivesIntroduction chapter explained the three common approaches of SDI building. The conceptof our approach is called 4th way to SDI building. The idea is to take advantage ofstandardisation efforts including INSPIRE and OGC ( andcombine thess efforts with both commercial initiatives and mainly with support ofinitiatives on voluntary basis. The goal is to bring all these possibilities closer to people ina form, which is easily accessible and understandable. The future solution has to supportintegration of spatial and non spatial information. A solution based mainly on Open Sourcesoftware integrates spatial and non-spatial information, uses standards for communication,storage and interfaces and enables to communicate with various stakeholders through socialnetwork sites and other means. The solution is based on Geoportal4everybody( © 2011 The authors Page 2 of 9
  3. 3. 3. BackgroundOne year ago, we used the terms 4th way to SDI and Geoportal4everybody for the first time.But this process started many years ago with the ideas of Geohosting and UniformResource Management (furthermore referred to as URM). The objective of Geohosting is tooffer services supporting the creation of a spatial data sharing system with possibility topublish data for any user having access to Web. The system is based on open formats and isopen for interaction with other SDI platforms. It could be used in education, but also couldbe a solution for researchers and small data providers including developing countries. Themain objective of the URM is an easy description, discovery and validation of relevantinformation sources. The URM ensured that any user can easily discover, evaluate and userelevant information. A free text search engine (e.g. Google) can’t be used due to the factthat in many cases a user obtains thousands, if not millions, of irrelevant links. Thishappens because the free text enginesdo not fully recognise the context of the searchedinformation. The context characterises any information, knowledge and observation.Context strongly influences the way how the information will be used. A possibility forsolving the discovery problem within a context is to use metadata for standardiseddescription of any information, knowledge, data sources, sensors, etc. In combination withstandardised lists of terms (controlled vocabularies or thesaurus, standardised way ofgeometric location, gazetteers and controlled list of categories), it will increase efficiency ofdiscovery of requested knowledge, information or data sources. Metadata are descriptiveinformation about an object or a resource whether it is physical or electronic. Whilestandardised metadata are relatively new, the underlying concepts behind metadata havebeen used for as long as collections of information have been organized. Library cardcatalogues represent a well-established type of metadata that has served as collectionmanagement and resource discovery tools for decades. The URM concept allows to accessany information stored on one portal with other portals using the URM principles. We would like to promote a shift from the pyramid paradigm, which is often mentionedin the relation to building of Global SDI, to paradigm of spider net. Our concept is based onCopyright © 2011 The authors Page 3 of 9
  4. 4. a system of distributed data sources, where every provider can decide about accessibility ofhis data against concept of cloud computing, where one organisation is managing allinformation. The idea is not against outsourcing of data or services or using of externalservices, but to have control about data from the side of data holders. For implementation ofthis concept, we suggest the ideas of Geoportal4everybody. The principle of the URMallows to build a "spidernet" SISE (Shared Information Space for the Environment)infrastructure supporting interconnection of any two portals and effective exchange ofinformation.4. MethodologyGeoportal4everybody combines both approaches. It offers possibility of publishing userderived data on a community portal, but also to share information using metadatacatalogues with other portals. It also offers connection with public portal and reuse ofinformation on public portal. We also offer easy integration of such information sourceslike OpenStreetMap. With the development of new desktop solutions, it is possible toconnect all infrastructures from desktop solutions. As an example Janitor system can bementioned. It integrates catalogue functionality into desktop system. New functionality of Geoportal4everybody also includes aspects of social network site.A social network site consists of a finite set or sets of actors and the relation or relationsdefined on them. The presence of relational information is a critical and defining feature ofa social network. The focus of the Geoportal4everybody project is on social network sites (e.g Facebook,Twitter) as one of the main dissemination and communication tools. The Geoportal4everybody is be an entry point for any news (new developments,problematic topics, progress in the project, etc.). News are posted by involved actors andautomatically distributed to a number of selected communities – social network sites. This approach allows involving other communities from one place without having toenter each community. Users of various social network sites can read entries and commentthrough their respective communities and don’t have to register elsewhere.Geoportal4everybody is in principle also social network offering sharing of information(spatial and non-spatial) among community. The principle of sharing of information amongportals also offer a support for exchange of information among communities. Feedback from these social network sites is retrieved using RSS channel and answeredagain from the central point.Copyright © 2011 The authors Page 4 of 9
  5. 5. Geoportal4everybody supports utilisation of information from other social network sitesincluding SlideShare or YouTube. Other functionality is combining text with interactive maps.5. Technology DescriptionThe geoportal is composed of several components. These are further described in moredetail. It should give an overview of the technology used and basic characteristic of eachcomponent.5.1 SimpleCMSSimpleCMS is a content management system (Furthermore referred to as CMS) focused onusability and simplicity for end users. The main advantage in comparison with other CMSsystems is simple approach for solving complex tasks. SimpleCMS provides access to thefollowing features and/or provides access to the following options: • Define content and system of menu for home page • Publish on home page articles • Publish external links in menu on home page • Publish on home page predefined map composition from MapMan • Order information on home page • Remove information from home page • Publish RSS channels on home pageSee the example of Simple CMS at http://www.naturnet.org5.2 GeohostingThe Geohosting system is able to work both with data stored directly on the internal serverand with information accessible via web services. Data are saved in geodatabase by default,but the system is able to work also with data in individual files of different formats. Datarepositories are represented by the File Repository and the GeoDatabase. Individual SWsystem components are: • DataMan • MapManDataMan is application for management of spatial data. It supports management of data indatabases or files. It supports export and import of this data and also publishing andupdating of related metadata. In database, it is possible to store both, vector and raster data,including their attributes. Also for file oriented storage, it supports both, vector and rasterCopyright © 2011 The authors Page 5 of 9
  6. 6. data. From raster formats, it currently supports IFF/GeoTIFF, JPEG,GIF, PNG, BMP,ECW, from vector formats ESRI Shapefile, DGN, DWG, GML.The basic functionalities of Dataman are: • Transfer the spatial file into file repository • Describe file by metadata (ISO19115} • Definition of structure in database • Transfer file from file system into database (currently only for shapefile) • Describe record by metadata (19115) The Map Project Manager (MapMan) is a software tool for users who want to publishlocal data or to create new map projects and compositions from local data and externalservices. It supports publication of spatial composition from locally stored data (fields ordatabase-stored in DataMan), with external WMS, WFS data services. It supportsvisualization in web browser using clients including HSLayers, GoogleMaps, DHTMLclient, Desktop viewer GoogleEarth, GIS Janitor or publish data as OGC WebMapService(WMS), OGC WebFeatureService (WFS). All published data are also connected withmetadata stored in Micka. Mapman functions list • General goals • Support for creation and publication of map compositions from own and external data • Support for publication of map compositions in more coordinate systems • Support for combination of different types of layers in different coordinate systems • Creation of project (map composition) • Project settings • Name, Abstract, Author, Keywords • Extent (as coordinate or visual in map) • Coordinate system • Access permissions (for browsing and editing) • Type of possible layers in project • Vector layer • Files • SHP, GML, DGN, other formats supported by OGR library • Databases • PostGIS database • MSSQL Geomedia database • Services • WFS (WebFeatureService) • Raster layer • Files • TIF, JPG, GIF, PNG, otherformats supported by GDAL library • Services • WMS (WebMapService) • Methods of adding layers to the project • From existing WMS or WFS servers • From user data storage (files stored on server by users) • From connected databases • Find required layers (datasets) in embedded catalog client (CSW – Catalog Service) • Layer’s symbology is defined by SLD (Styled Layer Descriptor) • Publication of projectCopyright © 2011 The authors Page 6 of 9
  7. 7. • MapViewer (web application) – with relevant metadata • WMS – with relevant metadata • WFS – with relevant metadata • Google Map • Google Earth • Using in external applications5.3 HSLayersHSLayers (Help Service + OpenLayers) combines capabilities of ExtJS and OpenLayersand several helping scripts to establish truly Web GIS applications. Development started in2007. In 2009, after 2 years of development, it was released under conditions of GNUGeneral Public License 3. HSLayers features are coming up from OpenLayers and thereforetheir characteristics are as follows: • Portrayal of various types of data: • Raster: OGC WMS(-T), Image (PNG, JPEG, GIF), … • Vector: OGC WFS(-T), GML, GeoRSS, KML, GPX, GeoJSON, … • Data sources from commercial servers: Google Maps, Virtual Earth, Yahoo Maps, … • The user interface (use control) adheres to current conventions in web map portals. • Information about queried objects in text bubbles.HSLayers additional functions including dynamic adding of OGC (Open GeospatialConsortium) services into map - clients for WMS and WFS, portrayal of independent datasources on the client side, saving of map composition according to WMC (Web MapContext) OGC specification on user computer for repeated future use or for sharingbetween users and others.5.4 Catalogue ClientCatalogue client allows search through connected metadata catalogues by catalogue serviceOGC CSW. Data can be searched by text or by defined elements defined in standards (OGCCSW 2.0.2, AP ISO, INSPIRE). Basic elements are dataset and services. Basic elementscan be extended by user demands but they will not be searchable on other catalogues. Firstversion of catalogue used cascading of multiple services. This version support addingservices independently on each other. This application interacts with map viewer so it can be added map services into map byone click. Another interaction is with metadata extractor. Documents or web pages storedby extractor can be opened also by one click.5.5 Metadata Editor MIcKAMIcKA is a complex system for metadata management used for building Spatial DataInfrastructure (SDI) and geoportal solutions. It contains tools for editing and managementof metadata for spatial information, web services and other sources (documents, web sites,etc.). It includes online metadata search engine, portrayal of spatial information anddownload of spatial data to local computer. MIcKA is compatible with obligatory standards for European SDI building (INSPIRE)and ISO standards. Therefore it is ready to be connected with other nodes of preparednetwork of metadata catalogues (its compatibility with pilot European geoportal iscontinuously tested). A test version of MIcKA is accessible at © 2011 The authors Page 7 of 9
  8. 8. 6. DevelopmentsThe described solution is continuously developed and single components are published asopen source step by step. But on the other side we offer also commercial support andcustomisation for potential users. Solution is currently part of solution of Czech NationalINSPIRE portal, but also a lot of European portals like OneGeology(, NaturNet Plus (, Habitats(, EnviroGrids ( and Plan4all are basedon this solution. For public usage there are portals Geoportal4everybody and UNSDI.CZ.The main principles of the solution are: • Independent components • Composition according to user requirements • Based on SOA • Possibility to integrate with other resources • Maximum openness • Open Source • Open Standards • Extension to non-GIS community • Open Search • Administration of other (non-spatial) data sources7. RecommendationsTo support these activities it is necessary to be more focused on activities like awareness,education, participation of different groups and preparedness of users. There are severalpilot projects dealing with education in various fields and using of social network sites forgetting feedback on SDI building. It was shown during the execution of these projects thatit is possible to build an SDI using the feedback and voluntary contribution of users. Theawareness and information support has to be provided on all levels with main focus onregional and local level and also in direction to private sector and different social networks,until now not accomplished by GEOSS (,GMES (, INSPIRE and other initiatives. It is very important that allinitiatives are focused not only on sharing data, but also services. Services should enableappropriate use of collected data and information.8. Business BenefitsThe way to increase general participation of all group of stakeholders and users of vision ofSingle Information Space for Environment, currently supported mainly by the ICT Ensureproject and in future by the HABITATS project. Taking into account previous facts,INSPIRE could be a good legislative and standardisation frame for real future EuropeanSDI and eventually in relation with GEOSS and UNSDI ( could help to build worldwide SDI. But there is a need to combine currentstandardisation work with the following aspects:• To support more bottom up approach in building SDI, where local and regional organisations will not only adopt regulations but they will more actively participate on forming of SDI.• To support participation of public bodies but also private initiatives, communities and social network sites on building of SDI.• To support not only sharing of information, but also their analysis, modelling and easy accessibility for different applications.Copyright © 2011 The authors Page 8 of 9
  9. 9. 9. ConclusionsThe way of the presented solution is to increase general participation of all groups ofstakeholders and users in SDI building. Current initiatives are usually based on top downapproach. A feedback on SDI building seems to be essential for meeting the requirementsof governmental bodies and users – drivers of the SDI. It was proven during the executionof the previously mentioned projects that it is feasible to build up such communicationwhich will be performed in both directions (from users to SDI and vice versa). It isnecessary to combine current standardisation work and to support bottom up approach inSDI building by involving public bodies and private initiatives, communities and socialnetwork sites. Further work has to be done in this field, especially in the analysis of thefeedback from users and assessment of reliability of the user feedback. The above mentioned technologies were developed within the frame of these projects: Plan4all - the solution was achieved with financial co-funding by the EuropeanCommission within the eContentplus with registration number 318007. enviroGRIDS @ Black Sea Catchment - the solution was achieved with financial co-funding by the European Commission within the Seventh Framework Programme withregistration number 226740 and name “Building Capacity for a Black Sea CatchmentObservation and Assessment System supporting Sustainable Development” BRISEIDE - the solution was achieved with financial co-funding by the EuropeanCommission within the Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme withregistration number 250474 and name “BRIdging SErvices, Information and Data forEurope” HABITATS - the solution was achieved with financial co-funding by the EuropeanCommission within the Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme withregistration number 250455 and name “Social Validation of INSPIRE Annex III DataStructures in EU HABITATS” The technologies are further disseminated throughout the following projects: NATURNETPLUS - the solution was achieved with financial co-funding by EuropeanCommission within the Lifelong Learning Programme [CZ/09/LLP-LdV/TOI/134009] SDI-EDU - the solution was achieved with financial co-funding by the EuropeanCommission within the Lifelong Learning Programme [CZ/09/LLP-LdV/TOI/134010] The technologies are fully operational in the following institutions: CENIA - Czech Environmental Information Agency, Prague, Czech Republic Red de difusión de la Investigación en Ciencias Sociales y Jurídicas (REDISCJ),Canaria Islands, Spain Zemgales plānošanas reģions, LatviaReferences[1] Karel CHARVAT, Stepan KAFKA, Marek SPLICHAL, Ota CERBA, Jelle HIELKEMA UniformResource Management, IST Africa 2008, Windhoek, May 2008[2] Karel CHARVAT, Petr HORAK, Martin VLK Jelle HIELKEMA Stepan Kafka, Jachym CEPICKY, JanJEZEK, Ota CERBA: GeoHosting – Publish Your Spatial Data Yourself, IST Africa 2009, Kampala May2009[3] Karel CHARVAT, Maris ALBERTS, Stepan KAFKA, Jachym CEPICKY, Irena KOSKOVA and MarekSPLICHAL, Computer Assisted Educational Processes Based on Naturnet Learning Tools and ThierIncorporation into Uniform Resource Management System, IAALD AFITA WCCA2008, Tokyo 2008[4] European Parliament, 2007. DIRECTIVE 2007/2/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OFTHE COUNCIL of 14 March 2007 establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the EuropeanCommunity (INSPIRE).[5] INSPIRE documents. [Online].Available:[6] Dasgupta, A., 2010. Spatial data infrastructure: So close, yet so far? Geospatial World.Copyright © 2011 The authors Page 9 of 9