March 06, 2006
Quality Certification with Radius Studio
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| by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -
Welcome to GISWeekly! Just launched in the UK is Radius Studio from Laser-Scan, a component-based data integration and quality management tool that complements existing applications using Oracle Fusion Middleware, i.e. Oracle Database, Oracle Application Server and Oracle MapViewer. Read about it in this week's Industry News.
GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me
Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Quality Certification with Radius Studio
By Susan Smith
Just launched in the UK is Radius Studio from Laser-Scan, a component-based data integration and quality management tool that complements existing applications using Oracle Fusion Middleware, i.e. Oracle Database, Oracle Application Server and Oracle MapViewer.
Laser-Scan has a long history of providing their own object oriented software and database environment, and is well known for its role in reengineering projects, such as OS LandLine® to OS MasterMap® and the recent award-winning APS solution for No1. AIDU, Royal Air Force (RAF) UK.
Steven Ramage, Product and Marketing Director of Laser-Scan, said that when he joined the company, his role within the Radius Programme was to take some of this technology already proven in Laser-Scan's own database environment, and move it into a mainstream IT environment. “At that time we decided Oracle was the way to go as it was the market leader and technically it provided the functionality we needed to provide our first product, Radius Topology (launched in 2002), a transparent, interoperable engine that could do on-the-fly or batch mode data validation and processing.”
Radius Topology highlighted the fact that many errors could be detected and, depending on how you set up your rules, you could automatically fix 85-90% of the data errors. “Many organizations don't want to automatically fix the data, they want to maybe resolve or determine the reason why the error is there,” explained Ramage, “or maybe these are not errors, i.e. they are exceptions to the rule.”
This led to Laser-Scan's realization that there was a lack in the marketplace for some kind of meaningful quality certification process. This process would need to identify patterns in spatial data and provide data discovery tools to determine the rules behind them, and to then check rule conformance with data and provide fix up tools.
The end result was Radius Studio. It is a “meaningful” or “intelligent” data certification tool - you can quantitatively measure your data quality levels “because you can check data conformance against the rules that exist,” Ramage said. “We can do the certification on behalf of an end customer, or system integrators can also use the tool to certify spatial data quality levels.”
Chris Tagg, Product Manager, performed a demonstration of Radius Studio, using Internet Explorer 6 with no additional downloads. Starting with some data layers in Oracle that are currently being used for different purposes in different departments, the goal is to enable web access to multiple databases with centralizsed rule management.
The data came with some metadata that allowed you to see where the data came from, where and when it was captured and where it has been used.
According to the metadata, a couple of the data layers used - building and curblines - were both captured about 10 years ago using aerial photography. They have been used in different departments for that length of time and have been edited.
Tagg brought them together in Radius Studio to see how they will match up, i.e. conflated the data sets. “With Radius Studio we can bring these two layers together and analyze the relationship between them and identify potential data problems to see if the quality of the data is up to the standard that we need it to be, in order to make any sort of planning decisions in this example,” Tagg explained.
He continued: “Radius Studio has a number of different components to allow us to analyze the data, create and apply business rules and measure the data quality. For instance we have Rule Discovery (data mining), which will allow us to find dominant patterns in the data, and we have the Rule Builder where we can actually define spatial and attribute rules using a very simple rule builder. In both cases, we can obtain results without needing the knowledge of a software developer. We also have an Action Builder to fix up non-conforming data and bring it back into conformance.”
By going into Data Stores, Tagg saw a number of different stores that are essentially Oracle databases situated both locally and remotely. “I can view the data I am interested in on this particular Oracle server here,” he signaled on the demonstration. “Radius Studio gives me a snapshot of that data. On the left hand side are the layers as they are in the Oracle schema, so it is just Radius Studio presenting me the tables and the attributes that are available to me to carry out the rules-based processing.”
“On the right hand side, I can change the names of features and attributes as I'd like them to be in Studio. When I bring it into the Radius Studio cache, I can change that name to anything I want it to be, so if you have an Oracle database where you have features or table names that are meaningless to anyone else, you can actually bring them in here and define the rules based on the features and attributes you have defined.”
Not only can you change the names, you can change the data types internally. “Once I've got the data mapping, I go to sessions [a sequence of tasks that describe a workflow],” said Tagg. “I think of it as a shopping basket, where you can bring in any number of different tasks. I'm going to bring in an Open Data task that will allow me to bring my Oracle data into my session. This is just for me, a private session just for my user, and it will read in the data from the remote Oracle data server into my Radius Studio cache on the application server.”
“When I have the data there, I can start to create rules against which I want to check the validity of the data. First I'm going to run the Rules Discovery, which is basically an algorithm that allows us to identify the spatially dominant patterns within data. It's got a number of different parameters that we use to tune the algorithm, we can change it slightly so it will only show me things that are meeting the minimum criteria, the minimum support levels and rule probability levels. So if there are patterns below those thresholds it won't present them to me, it will just throw them away. We can change how much and how little we see in a Discovery algorithm.”
In the demonstration session, Tagg brings in a data Discovery task, all the data that was brought into his cache, looks at the building and curbline layers (for a user-defined number of objects, in this case 200 objects of each class in random areas) and tells what the relationship is between them. “It presents us with an html report, as it has found a couple of relationships. In this example it has found that 97% of the time there is exactly one curbline object where the building geometry is contained inside the curbline. We can now create that as a rule inside Radius Studio if we think it is a valid relationship that we should enforce throughout the data coverage. It makes sense to
me that buildings should be contained inside curbline objects and that there should be no overlaps.”
“Not everybody knows what their rules are and they can run the Rules Discovery component and get a good idea what the relationships are between the data layers,” noted Ramage.
In the Rules repository, there are a number of different folders, which are logical groupings of rules. The Radius Studio interface mimics that of the Windows Explorer interface by using a tree of folders and subfolders to store rules and actions. The demo folder that is created in a Rule Builder will automatically just come from the Rule Discovery. “The way we build up Rules in Radius Studio is via a number of different elements in this tree hierarchy, using things called conditions, values, relationships and spatial relationships. Through a combination of these things we can build up quite complex and powerful spatial rules using attribution checks as well. Using the rule that the
Rule Discovery has created, I can alter it very easily to now identify all curbline objects that have a building that overlaps it.”
Using the Rule Builder you can check for the existence or the non-existence of a particular condition(s). This can then be applied as a Conformance Check in a session to identify non-conforming objects. In this particular case, it contains numbers of how many objects passed the rule and how many failed (as numbers of objects and percentages), and it has object IDs of all the curblines that have a building intersecting them. Each object ID also has a link that drives the user to the non-conforming object using Oracle Map Viewer. This gives people the ability to quickly visualize the data without having to have a desktop GIS application installed, but it will work with existing GIS packages
This is what is meant by “meaningful and quantitative data quality measurement,” according to Ramage; the ability to measure data quality against a set of rigorous business rules is vital to ensure that the data is certified for a particular use.
It's also possible to drag and drop and quickly build up the repository of rules, i.e. by copying from one rule set to another rule set. You may also need to go back and refine your rules as you find out more about your data. Importantly, all changes to rules and actions are stored as metadata in Radius Studio so that they can be easily tracked. The number of non-conforming objects is reduced because rules can easily be fine-tuned depending on what is understood about the data in the process of certifying it.
Radius Studio has its own geoprocessing components, which allow you to not only identify and measure relationships and spatial relationships, but to also potentially fix data that is non-conforming. If we have buildings that overlap the curblines and we know that the curblines are the accurate “Gold Standard” data by which all things are measured, we can modify the non-conforming building geometries so that they are contained inside the curblines. This allows the automation of what would be a time consuming manual process. Obviously not everyone will want to automate the fix-up of data, but Radius Studio gives people the flexibility of either producing detailed reports on
non-conforming objects that a user can then quickly navigate to and manually correct, or offers an automated solution.
However the data is corrected, Radius Studio gives people the ability to measure the data quality in percentage terms throughout the data quality improvement cycle. At the end of the cycle it then allows the certification of data against a rigorous and accurate rule base.
The beauty of the system is that it allows you to rigorously check each object inside the cache of the Radius Studio geoprocessing environment. Once the data is in the cache, you can do a comparison on an object-by-object basis, depending upon what the rule is. It is possible to have a number of sessions open, reading from different databases and checking on them simultaneously.
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A summary of survey results are available for free
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Around the Web
Push to Create Standards for Documents
, by Steve Lohr, March 3, 2006, The New York Times
-(registration required) With government records, reports and documents increasingly being created and stored in digital form, there is a software threat to electronic access to government information and archives. The problem is that public information can be locked in proprietary software whose document formats become obsolete or cannot be read by people using software from another company.
Date: April 23 - 26, 2006
Place: Tampa, FL USA
GITA's Annual Conference and Exhibition is the most highly regarded educational event for professionals involved in geospatial information technologies.
Date: April 19-20, 2006
Place: Vienna, Austria
The event explores background, legislation, needs and technologies for farm advisory systems, as they are necessary to comply with the new situations like commitments regarding Cross Compliance, documentation needs to ensure food- and feed-traceability, to calculate, to map etc..
You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here
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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.