1Spatial Addresses Hot Topic of Spatial Data Management

Welcome to GISWeekly! Spatial data management has become a hot topic for geospatial and IT. This week Laser-Scan changed its name to 1Spatial to better reflect its focus on the spatial data marketplace. Although the company originated in 1969, when it built laser plotters, it has evolved from that through the scanning of paper maps to its present iteration as the creator of digital databases. This includes spatial database management and most specifically spatial data quality control. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

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Industry News
1Spatial Addresses Hot Topic of Spatial Data Management
by Susan Smith

This week Laser-Scan changed its name to 1Spatial to better reflect its focus on the spatial data marketplace. Although the company originated in 1969, when it built laser plotters, it has evolved from that through the scanning of paper maps to its present iteration as the creator of digital databases. This includes spatial database management and most specifically spatial data quality control.

CEO Mike Sanderson said the company produced its own object oriented database environment in the middle 90s. They have done numerous large projects such as OS MasterMap® for Ordnance Survey Great Britain, which has replaced the LandLine® product. In addition to their work in the UK and Europe, 1Spatial has previously done work for U.S. government agencies such as NIMA, NGA and NOAA.

Generally, 1Spatial has worked with organizations that are using large volumes of very complex data. "I joined 1Spatial five years ago to start what was called the Radius program and that was to take some of this technology that had been proven in our own database environment and move it into a mainstream IT environment," said Sanderson. "At that time it seemed that Oracle was the way to go because they were the market leader and also technically provided the functionality we needed to provide our next product, which was Radius Topology."

After years of testing features in their own environment and most recently in an Oracle Spatial environment, 1Spatial had the geometric and topological processing ability to put topology into their engine. In 2002, Radius Topology launched as a transparent, interoperable solution that would work with a standard Oracle spatial data type.

"One of the things we started to find was that with Radius Topology we detected a lot of geometric errors," said Sanderson. "Depending on how you set up your rules, you can automatically fix something like 85% to 90% of the data. But for many organizations, they don't necessarily want to automatically fix the data, they want to determine or resolve why the errors are there, or maybe there aren't errors, maybe they are valid exceptions to the rule."

Sanderson said they saw from this that there was a real lack in the marketplace for some kind of meaningful data quality certification; a way to not only identify patterns and rules, but then to discover the reasons behind this and then to find ways to check rule conformance with data and provide fix up tools. "So Radius Studio was born."

Radius Studio is a pure web browser application that runs on the application server. It is IE and Firefox supported with no downloads and no applets, and so anybody in the organization who has access to the internet on their desktop can access Studio and access the available data in the organization or anywhere else on the web through FDO and WFS. It is standards based, supporting W3C, OWL, OASIS and OGC.  Studio can be used to develop rules in an interface and it is not necessary to be a developer to define these rules. People can quickly build their business rules, comment on them, and make them available for others to comment on them. There is also a Data Quality Steward that makes sure the rules repository is being used to check the quality of data, that it is current, and has only authorized and verified rules inside the repository. There can also be nodes and elements inside rules, with complex conditions and queries. There is a wide spectrum of different user types for Studio, according to Sanderson.

Using Oracle Fusion Middleware allows the use of Oracle MapViewer for data portrayal, as well as full compliance with Service Oriented Architecture principles and integration into BPEL workflows.   In addition, support for the Oracle Database by both Radius products allows advanced data storage and management along with potential transaction management capabilities with Oracle Work Space Manager (WM). "We are leveraging the whole Oracle technology stack to provide solutions that operate seamlessly in the modern mainstream IT environment," noted Sanderson.

Sanderson said that 1Spatial was one of the first companies to address these spatial data quality issues that were not just translating formats and exchanging data, but providing a meaningful way to quantitatively measure the data quality. You can then check the rules and conformance against the data you have. This extends to managing data quality levels throughout an organization's lifecycle management. Spatial data management is such a hot topic that OGC has proposed a working group on the subject and its formation will be debated at the forthcoming Technical Committee meeting in San Diego in December 2006.

Large organizations such as IBM, TeleAtlas and Ordnance Survey Ireland, who are all part of 1Spatial's beta program, have extensive rule bases that they wish to manage and have extremely high quality data that they need to maintain. Generally organizations have enormous investments in data, but many of them don't know how to describe their data quality level. "We're trying to get people to think more about data quality." Sanderson said they offer more "business intelligence" than GIS, as they focus on things like data profiling and data mining.

"Some companies have spent over 1 million pounds to produce data that they're just using as digital wallpaper," explained Sanderson. "They're not harnessing the value of that spatial data for analysis and decision making, and a lot of the reason for that is data quality. The data is not fit for purpose so they can't harness it effectively. We find departments have either captured the same data or want to access the data they want to use in decision making but didn't know it was available (at their company), so went ahead and purchased it themselves. We use Studio for what we call ‘collaboration platforms.' People can see what data are available, how it was captured, when it was captured and what standards it was captured to, and it gives people a window into that data to see if it's useful for them. If they think it is useful, they can then assess how relevant it is for effective decision making and they can add their own comments and review the data rules that are inside Studio to measure the data quality and add their own rules as well." This is called the Knowledge Collaboration Platform.

One of the big topics at 1Spatial's conference this year was the spatial data supply chain. "We think this topic is not adequately addressed," maintained Sanderson. "There's a whole host of things like GPS inputs, RFID sensors, whatever is coming in as a location source, and we are starting to address this by offering solutions to fill gaps within the spatial data supply chain, then taking data and turning it into knowledge. RFID sensors are just data. How does this data become critical in an emergency situation, how does it improve your business process, how do you harness the data?"

Top News of the Week

Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave and Assistant Commissioner for Citywide GIS Marsha Kaunitz   announced the launch of the New York CityMap, available on NYC.gov . While offering everything the current NYC Map Portal does, including links to building information and violations, election poll site locations and census data, the new CityMap application also provides several features not previously available elsewhere, such as City Council district and Community Board boundaries, restaurant inspection results, subway station entrances and exits, and an aerial photograph-view of the City.

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