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June 20, 2011
The Vast Reach of the European Environment Agency
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

The Vast Reach of the European Environment Agency

By Susan Smith


 European Environment Agency main building, Copenhagen

While in Copenhagen in late March of this year GISWeekly met with Stefan Jensen, head of information services group, SEIS support program that supports the implementation of INSPIRE and develops and maintains the EEA SDI related to user needs, metadata and data licensing and Jan Bliki, project officer, GIS system development for the European Environment Agency (EEA), an agency of the European Union.

The EEA has 32 member countries and is tasked with providing independent information on the state of the environment, information which is used by those who are developing adopting evaluating or implementing environmental policy, as well as the general public.

According to the website, the
regulation establishing the EEA was adopted by the European Union in 1990. It came into force in late 1993 immediately after the decision was taken to locate the EEA in Copenhagen. Work started in earnest in 1994. The regulation also established the European environment information and observation network (Eionet).

EEA's mandate is:
  • To help the Community and
  • member countries make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies and moving towards sustainability
  • To coordinate the European environment information and observation network (
  • Eionet)

    The main clients of the EEA are the European Union institutions which include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council as well as member countries. Other  EU institutions such as the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions are also served. Important users of EEA information include the business community, non-governmental organizations, academia and parts of civil society.

    Every five years the EEA publishes its report on the environment state and outlook. Most recently it has released its fourth Environment State and Outlook report — SOER 2010 — a comprehensive assessment of how and why Europe’s environment is changing, and what we are doing about it. SOER 2010 concludes that a fully integrated approach to transforming Europe to a resource-efficient green economy can not only result in a healthy environment, but also boost prosperity and social cohesion.

    Shared Environmental Information System

    The EEA produces its own products and does not take the role of dictating to other agencies. In conjunction with the European Commission and member companies of the Agency, they have developed the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) which provides governance and provides information to INSPIRE and makes sure the information in the system is covered under INSPIRE.

    According to Jensen, the SEIS maintains a three person staff, works with three consultancies. They maintain the entire GIS database – 3 terabytes of data - at their location in Copenhagen. The database covers land, air, water, biodiversity and climate change and maintains near-time data which feeds in hourly from various sources on ozone, weather, air quality, etc.

    To maximize the use of this information, the shared environmental information system (SEIS) aims to interconnect existing databases and make data easily accessible to all.

    Currently European countries collect environmental data and report them to international organizations such as the European Environment Agency (EEA), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Data are delivered at intervals set by relevant legislation and commitments.

    SEIS is a collaborative initiative of the European Commission, the EEA and the member countries of the Agency. It aims to
  • improve the availability and quality of information needed to design and implement the European Union’s environment policy,
  • streamline data handling by connecting existing information systems and providing online information services,  
  • modernize environmental reporting to reduce the administrative burden both at national and international level, and
  • foster the development of information services and web-based applications.

  • Jensen’s role is to collect and prepare data from other countries and provide that data to experts and to the public. The European Commission has scientific agencies that support political systems, and have statistics offices in Copenhagen.

    Many countries have already started connecting their local and national databases and are publishing their data online. A good example is the German environmental portal
    PortalU. A number of European initiatives are also contributing to the creation of SEIS. Examples are
  • the
  • initiative to build an infrastructure for spatial information in Europe (INSPIRE),
  • the 
  • global monitoring for environment and security (GMES) initiative,
  • the
  • water information system for Europe (WISE), and
  • the
  • EEA portal for sharing ozone information (OzoneWeb).

    The breadth of SEIS data is vast:

    For land cover and data mining – there are 32 classes that explain the use of forests, and types of forests, and surfaces used in the country, and historical background of these data sets. Users can compare them and assess data cover changes. The original data comes from satellite imagery.

    The urban atlas is at 1:5,000 meters. Cities are highly detailed and described by how much is living area, parks, industrial, etc.

    Interpreted data sets come in yearly “on the fly.” All data is publicly available. Indicators come from the data sets.

    The benefits of SEIS as a decentralized information system based on data-sharing offer Member States and EU institutions a modern and efficient electronic system to fulfill their reporting obligations related to EU environmental policies. The process by which environmental information is made available will be simpler, more flexible and more efficient.

    SEIS will also allow the information requirements currently contained in thematic environmental legislation to be streamlined.

    It is critical for the European Union to have an information system based on the latest information and communication technology that will provide decision-makers at all levels (local to European) with real-time environmental data, thus allowing them to make immediate and life-saving decisions.

    Biodiversity, Water, Air, Emissions

    Over the last 25 years the EU has built up a vast network of 26.000 protected areas in all the Member States and an area of more than 750.000 km2, which is 18% of the EU’s land area. Known as
    Natura 2000, it is the largest network of protected areas in the world. The CDDA is an annual collection of national designated areas in the Natura 2000 viewer which is an agreed upon
    EIONET Data Priority Workflow.

    The Article 17 dataset shows the number of species protected on the European level, monitoring to tell if the species is extinct, where they are located, habitat, etc.

    The water dataset includes a river network, bathing water dataset for every body of water, which designates whether it is safe to bathe there. They have Blue Flag country reporting on many beaches in Europe which is built on Bing Maps, OSM and Google

    European Transport Register (EPRTR) monitors factories exposing pollutants into air and water, and tracks what pollutants, where, and how much emissions.

    Geospatial Technologies Employed

    Esri products such as ArcServer are used mainly for the GIS at the EEA. Esri is also setting up the INSPIRE program. They not only link to INSPIRE, but EEA uses Bing, OGC, Google and try to serve in many ways in order to offer a broad span of products that can be offered to many in open formats.

    For cataloguing INSPIRE data the EEA use GeoNetwork, an open source catalog application to manage spatially referenced resources and metadata editing and search functions.

    The European Commission (EC) strongly advocates open standards, and uses cloud computing from Microsoft and Esri, and merges technologies with Esri products.

    Open source helps environments link with member states’ software. Map services are exposed with open source through WMS, WFS and WCS. Bliki said sometimes they can’t expose through WMS because of the size of the database. 

    XML and RDF are used and they are moving towards sensor web technology. GEORSS is used to submit simple spatial information. GeoRDF formats are used for large spatial datasets that are hard to implement and push back into one format.

    “A lot of innovation happens outside open standards,” said Jensen.

    In support of the EU INSPIRE Directive, a company named Compass Informatics has combined its suite of technology options into an INSPIRE ISO Compliance Toolkit. The Toolkit provides a complete solution for ensuring compliancy with ISO 19xxx and INSPIRE metadata, data and service standards, using largely open source technologies, integrating where required with proprietary solutions, branded to user organization's look and feel.

    Eye on Earth
    http://www.eyeonearth.eu/ is the EC’s creation which is model data that shows a spread of substances in air, and tracks air quality. This allows the end user to report back and has a specialized ozone map. This technology tracks thresholds of air quality that people shouldn’t be exposed to such as small particulates coming from car emissions, and the ozone layer. Nitrogen from cars and factories are mainly a health issue. Smaller countries have been using this web service.

    The EEA is not mandated to collect nuclear or radioactive information, but did include an information item on their website for those interested in information from the Japanese tsunami and earthquake which had just taken place before my visit.

    GeoRDF – RDF focuses on tabular data which allows ontology on top of datasets. Systems can interrelate that information that is similar to information coming in from somewhere else. It makes data interrelated. RDF is a way of structuring near real time data flows and handles it in geospatial infrastructure.

    A big question for the EEA is: how can you assign ontology of top of spatial data?

    As there is so much disparate data coming in today, such as crowd sourcing, citizen data and scientific data, there is a need to structure it. The EC is pushing the OGC and industry to handle it.

    EEA has partner organizations in all countries and the 27 member countries are all EU. Extra arrangements are made for other members such as Balkan, Nordic, Mediterranean, North Africa, Russia, and Caucasus. Because environmental issues are trans-boundary issues, there is a great need for information exchange among nations.

    Top of the News

    Optech Incorporated announced the release of the world’s first compact shallow-water mapping solution for its innovative line of ALTM Airborne Laser Terrain Mappers.

    Esri  released the Esri
    File Geodatabase API. This API allows developers to work with file geodatabases outside ArcObjects (the library of software components that make up the foundation of ArcGIS). With this API, developers can now create independent applications to view or modify data stored in a file geodatabase. Geodatabases comprise the native structure for ArcGIS to store, manage, and use geospatial data. With the Esri File Geodatabase API, developers can now create independent applications to view or modify data stored in a file geodatabase without having to rely on ArcObjects.

    PCI Geomatics has been working closely with Esri to make imagery more accessible to a broader user community.

    PCI’s GeoImaging Accelerator (GXL) technology is currently being used to support the processing of GeoEye data into ortho-corrected and color balanced image products that will be made available for free through ArcGIS Online. PCI’s high performance, automated GXL Satellite image production system will be used to process high resolution GeoEye imagery.


    RapidEye announced that it has filed for insolvency under German insolvency laws, the equivalent of Chapter 11 protection.

    Wolfgang Biedermann, the CEO of RapidEye commented that this move was necessitated by recent actions of the financing banks. The intention of the banking consortium is to allow the company to use the Chapter 11 protection to resolve certain contractual and financing issues. This action will not affect the delivery of products and services to existing and future customers nor will it affect marketing and sales activities. It is expected that RapidEye will emerge from Chapter 11 after a short time as a stronger and healthier company fit to compete successfully in the global remote sensing market.

    RapidEye announced that Cambodia and Laos-based Aruna Technology is now part of its growing distribution network. As part of the agreement, Aruna's territory will be Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.

    Pictometry Online, a web-based technology offering a vast library of 3-D-like, high resolution aerial images,  announces a partnership with the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) that offers its members aerial imagery and risk assessment technology at a discounted price.

    Topcon Positioning Systems (TPS) has purchased a significant ownership interest in DynaRoad Oy, a software company located in Helsinki, Finland.

    DynaRoad develops project management software for civil engineering and infrastructure construction. 


    The Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference has just announced the lineup of presentations that features more than 140 individual talks with noted plenary speakers. FOSS4G is the premier international conference focused on open source geospatial software. The selection of presentations was very competitive, with 300 submissions for roughly 150 session slots.

    The five-day event includes two days of workshops followed by three days of sessions that cover a broad range of technical topics, tool-specific tutorials, application case studies, lightning talks, panel discussions and overviews.  The breadth of content address a full range of technical expertise, applications, regional interests, and business purposes.

    As remotely sensed data becomes more and more ubiquitous, organizations are looking for ways to correctly use and manage this information. Lawrie Jordan, director of imagery for Esri asks organizations to discuss how they are improving access to imagery by weighing in at the
    Spatial Roundtable.

    CoreLogic released its April Home Price Index (HPI) which shows that home prices in the U.S. increased on a month-to-month basis by 0.7 percent between March and April, 2011, the first such increase since the home-buyer tax credit expired in mid-2010. However, national home prices, including distressed sales declined by 7.5 percent in April 2011 compared to April 2010 after declining by 6.8 percent* in March 2011 compared to March 2010. Excluding distressed sales, year-over-year prices declined by 0.5 percent in April 2011 compared to April 2010 and by 1.6* percent in March 2011 compared to March 2010.  Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned
    (REO) transactions.

    GeoEye, Inc. announced that its Board of Directors has adopted a Shareholder Rights Plan. Under the plan, one preferred stock purchase right will be distributed for each share of common stock held by stockholders of record on June 22, 2011.

    Juniper Systems’ Mesa Rugged Notepad is the newest device to be certified by TerraGo Technologies for use with the mobile solution of its widely adopted geospatial collaboration software.

    At its face to face Board of Directors meeting on May 23, 2011, the GISCI Board of Directors continued consideration of the proposal submitted by the GISCI Core Competency Workgroup and the public response collected during February concerning that proposal. In March of 2011, the Board adopted a resolution recognizing the role that the current portfolio based process has played in recognizing the professional attainment of those certified.

    The "GISP Certification Update" proposal is available for
    public review. The public comments will be available for review through the end of June.


    AeroMetric is pleased to announce the addition of  Andrew Beck, PSM, PLS as an account manager. Beck will assist clients directly with project definition, approach, scoping, estimating, and schedule coordination.

    New Products

    NAVTEQ previewed its industry-leading traffic services in the TPEG standard format.

    Short for Transport Protocol Experts Group, TPEG is a family of protocols that promise to significantly reduce costs of delivering traffic and other dynamic content to cars and mobile devices.

    OnTerra Systems and announced that Global Dispatch has subscribed to OnTerra's RouteSavvy Web Service, and achieved significant improvements to company operations and cost reductions as a result. RouteSavvy is an affordable, Web-based route optimization tool. Global Dispatch is using Route Savvy to optimize routes traveled by its fleet of trucks that deliver missing or lost suitcases to travelers using LaGuardia and JFK Airports. In the process, RouteSavvy has helped Global Dispatch dramatically improve its productivity, as well as reducing fuel costs and the distance and/or time traveled by its fleets.

    Trimble introduced  Trimble RealWorks version 7.0, the first commercially available software suite that incorporates the newly approved ASTM International E57 E2807 data exchange standard for 3D imaging systems. Trimble RealWorks version 7.0 allows 3D laser scanning professionals to use their design software of choice, depending on their applications and workflow.

    Blue Marble Geographics announces the upgrade of their developer tool GeoTransform. GeoTransform is available within GeoCore, Blue Marble’s all in one geospatial developer tool kit. GeoTransform 6.1 is the latest raster image file transformation and manipulation tool kit from Blue Marble Geographics.   

    The GeoTransform Class Library (GeoTransform) is a raster transformation "engine" that performs coordinate system and raster format conversion. When used within any spatial analysis, image processing, engineering, or mapping system, GeoTransform provides highly accurate and dependable geodetic and data transformations.

    Avenza Systems Inc. announced the release of MAPublisher 8.5 for Adobe Illustrator that has the ability to import geospatial PDF documents. This is the first time spatially-aware PDF documents can be opened in the Adobe Illustrator environment and have all of its contents assigned to MAPublisher layers.

    geojsp is a project developed by Inventis (
    inventis.ca) at the initiative of the UNHCR (

    geojsp is an opensource (GPL) component written in Java that adds geography to business intelligence systems.

    With geojsp you can connect to a postgreSQL database containing geospatial features (with PostGIS), query the data via MDX queries and encode the geometries in GeoJSON format in order to display it in a OpenLayers web-mapping interface.

    PolicyMap is now making available 2010 Census data free on its website. These data, combined with the 2005-2009 American Community Survey data, makes PolicyMap your one-stop online resource for visualizing and understanding the latest geographic Census information.

    At the Hexagon 2011 Conference, ERDAS and Intergraph are unveiling plans for streamlined geospatial data revision and update workflows in ERDAS IMAGINE and Geomedia.  Part of Hexagon AB, ERDAS and Intergraph are working together to leverage joint strengths in geospatial innovation. At the conference, this technology is being showcased in the TechExpo Hall, as well as through various breakout sessions and keynotes.

    Around the Web

    GISCafe Today Blog

    Google Voice Search offers natural user input June 14, 2011, Cnet News.com

    Ignore Geo-spatial and Geographical Analysis of Your Supply Base at Your Own Risk, June 14, 2011, Spend Matters

    VSolvit wins Business of the Year awards from USDA June 14, 2011, Digital Journal

    Intel agencies aim to automate secrecy June 13, 2011, Federal Times

    Website gives access to state’s climate change data June 10, 2011, The Daily Californian

    Projects Use Phone Data to Track Public Services June 5, 2011, The New York Times (registration required)

    ABB signs $85m deal for Haramain railway project June 12, 2011, Construction Week Online


    Date: June 19 - 25, 2011
    Place: Albena sea-side and SPA resort

    The SGEM conference considers the questions concerned to the geology and mining, oil and gas, geodesy, photogrametry, remote sensing, cartography and GIS, informatics, geoinformatics, micro and nanotechnologies, water resources, air and climate, ecosystems, soils, renewable energy, environmental protection, environmental economics. Accepted papers will be published into the SGEM Proceedings (ISBN 13: 978-954-91818-1-4) indexed by ISI Web of Knowledge, Web of Science.
    Date: June 21 - 22, 2011
    Place: Centre for Geospatial Science

    University of Nottingham , USA

    The OSGIS conference series has a strong international focus and takes a holistic approach in bringing together speakers and delegates from government, academe, industry and open source communities. High profile speakers from all over the world are invited for giving presentations and running hands-on workshops for the conference series.
    Date: June 26 - 30, 2011
    Place: The Sagamore Resort

    110 Sagamore, Bolton Landing (Lake George), NY USA

    The MAPPS Summer Conference is a unique event brining the leading private geospatial firms together for business education and networking. MAPPS meetings bring owners, principals and senior level executives together for education on the latest business and technical trends in the geospatial profession. Additionally, MAPPS host sessions with government agency partners for briefings on the latest activities.
    Date: June 27 - 30, 2011
    Place: Atlanta, GA USA

    URISA is pleased to present this specialty conference, to explore the many uses of GIS for public health access, processes, and decision-making. The conference was developed as a result of a high level of interest in the 'public health program track' at URISA's annual conference for several years. A dedicated committee of well-known and respected professionals in the field has spearheaded this effort to create a specialty conference to promote sharing of information and networking within the discipline.
    Date: June 27 - 29, 2011
    Place: Newton

    MA USA

    Caliper Corporation invites you to attend training for Maptitude Geographic Information System for Windows. The classes will be at our training center in Newton, Massachusetts.

    The three days of classroom training cover materials valuable to both new and existing users of Maptitude. Day 3 provides time to work with your own data with a Maptitude trainer.
    Date: July 3 - 8, 2011
    Place: 2 Place de la Porte Maillot

    Paris , France

    In 2011, France will host the 25th Conference of the International Cartographic Association, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the first General Assembly of the Organization. During these fifty years, the ICA has skilfully remained true to its two fundamental objectives, namely, to maintain its position as the benchmark international conference for cartography and geomatics, thanks to its solid and progressively updated scientific content, whilst remaining a conference which is open to a variety of participating groups: researchers, decision-makers in the field of geomatics, teachers and lovers of cartography.
    Date: July 5 - 8, 2011
    Place: Salzburg, Austria

    The University of Salzburg
    Institute for GIScience at the Austrian Academy of Sciences offer an annual forum to the worldwide geoinformatics community, bringing together English-speaking researchers and practitioners across disciplines and industries. Simultaneously, the GI_Forum connects participants into a well established co-located regional symposium -  Applied Geoinformatics (
    AGIT) - sharing the state-of-the art AGIT-EXPO exhibit.
    Date: July 6, 2011
    Place: USA

    The reliability of any GIS depends on the caliber of its supporting imagery and basemap data.  ERDAS IMAGINE®, the world’s leading geospatial data authoring system, complements ArcMap by taking data quality to the next level.
    Date: July 7, 2011 - July 12, 2012
    Place: San Diego Convention Center

    CA USA

    Join Esri and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) for the premier Survey Summit, shaped by you and your colleagues in the surveying and geospatial professions. Designed with a value-packed agenda, this unparalleled event will explore the newest spatial technology and business opportunities in surveying and related industries.
    Date: July 7 - 12, 2011
    Place: San Diego

    CA USA

    Register today for the Esri and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) July 7–12 in San Diego, California, for the premier Survey Summit, shaped by you and your colleagues in the surveying and geospatial professions.
    Date: July 9 - 12, 2011
    Place: San Diego Convention Center

    Hilton Bayfront, San Diego, CA USA

     As mission requirements become more complex—with resources limited and public expectations high—now more than ever is the time to learn how to meet the mission and bridge these challenges with GIS.
    Date: July 9 - 12, 2011
    Place: Marriott San Diego Hotel & Marina

    San Diego, CA USA

    The EdUC is my GIS in education THINKFEST! If you're using GIS in education in any way or are planning to use GIS, this is the event not to miss.
    Date: July 10 - 11, 2011
    Place: Omni San Diego Hotel

    San Diego, CA USA

    The conference is an excellent venue for networking with other professionals in the commercial business space.

    Artie McDonough

    GIS Project Manager, SNL Financial
    Date: July 11 - 15, 2011
    Place: San Diego Convention Center

    San Diego, CA USA

    Join us for one week in San Diego where you’ll have everything Esri at your fingertips. It’s the ultimate event for anyone working with GIS. The breadth and depth of sessions for all types of professionals, the opportunities for hands-on learning, and the many ways to cultivate skills and relationships make it a must attend.
    Date: July 14 - 15, 2011
    Place: San Diego, CA USA

    Avenza Systems Inc., producers of MAPublisher cartographic software for Adobe Illustrator and Geographic Imager spatial tools for Adobe Photoshop, is pleased to announce the 2011 schedule for its comprehensive 2-day MAPublisher training course. This 2-day class offers in-depth MAPublisher training that will enable MAPublisher users to maximize their use of MAPublisher and fully exploit its features and power.
    Date: July 16 - 19, 2011
    Place: Northwoods Resort and Conference Center

    Big Bear Lake,, CA USA

    The theme for the 2011 Society for Conservation GIS Conference is "Building Strength." We will focus on the strength and capacity of individuals, communities, and organizations to achieve conservation by
  • Creating partnerships and support networks
  • Developing innovative applications and training
  • Improving access to resources in conservation science and planning
  • Building decision support systems

  • You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.