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CGDI Interoperability Pilot Demonstration - Video


[…Let’s go back around again. But we have enabled that and we have enabled that very quickly and very easy…]

Over that last 10 years or so, in Canada, we have worked at developing all the partnerships in order to create the GeoBase initiative which is our effort to bring together provinces, territories and the federal government in working together towards a common goal, a common database of quality data available for everybody. When we started that ten years ago, we recognize that the technology wasn’t really ready for us in order to have the distributed database and implement the full vision of data collected once, closest to source and available for everybody and be used many times. Today, what we have seen is the technology and action that enable us to implement the full vision. So the GeoConnections program is very pleased to be part of this effort and enabling Canada to move to the next level.

People who use data in different offices and at different levels of government have often found it very difficult to share information and to ensure their databases have the latest updates. This problem is significant, because data can change frequently.

After six years of work developing standards and products, a group of public and private sector participants came together in the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure or CGDI Interoperability Pilot Project. This Open Geospatial Consortium project culminated in a nation-wide demonstration of standards-based products that allow immediate access to current data. The project showed how municipal, provincial and territorial authorities can now update data and automatically make their data available online in real time to those who need it, anywhere across Canada.

Maps are most important at the local level. Changes to local map features are made by local, provincial or territorial officials. Before the Internet, making partners aware of each small change required transferring whole datasets. Data was transferred on hard media like tapes and CDs. The Internet brought us FTP transfers, which were easier, but they still required transferring whole datasets for every change. Today, the Web connects many servers running software that uses CGDI endorsed standards for data encoding, discovery, visualization and access. Now, an update can propagate automatically from one server to another. Many different configurations are possible. For instance, the local server does not have to handle national traffic. Typically, the local system just needs to automatically notify the designated remote server whenever an update occurs.

Real-time updates make it much easier to keep data current, which is critical to the success of many applications. Local data producers can manually invoke a notification. They can also set up the local server to do this periodically or whenever an update occurs. This means no more waiting for the latest version of the database!

Being in the position to have data up to date and have this data available at the time when you need it, that’s data currency. That’s exactly, in my opinion, what was the essence of this project.

Provincial and territorial servers get updated almost daily by local data servers. A real estate developer who has just completed the roads in a new subdivision may need approval from the city. A home buyer may have questions about proximity of schools or shopping centres. These questions can be answered with software that uses the national roads database. Or perhaps a logging road has been added to a local roads database. Once the local data provider adds this information to the national roads database, it can be used by fire truck drivers from surrounding counties to get to the scene of a forest fire. In these cases, data that’s just a few days old may be too old to help decision-makers. Until recently, many databases were only updated yearly. Using this new distributed architecture ensures continuous updates.

For my colleagues within the government of Alberta, particularly in the transportation group, I see tremendous opportunity for using this technology in keeping the national road network up to date and as well as receiving feedback from stakeholders in terms of issues related to attribution.

Standards can be used with any device, such as handheld devices used in the field to update databases in applications running on an office computer. This kind of workflow efficiency requires different applications to communicate via standard interfaces and encodings. Informed customers expect this kind of interoperability. Major providers of online data servers are complying with these CGDI endorsed standards, so mashups or ad hoc applications are easy to build using CGDI data. And thanks to these open interfaces, other locally created data that may not be published for CGDI can also be shared easily.

It’s very easy for local agencies and provinces to publish their data through the CGDI. All they need to do is stand up a Web Feature Service with the right information on it that they want to publish and people get then access that information from anywhere on the Internet using a variety of different tools anything from a web browser to a desktop GIS client to a stand-alone client. They can start pretty quickly.

The CGDI project architecture supports timely event responses and action alerts. Public safety activities require analysis, communication and response on the basis of shared information. Here is how it could work... A sour gas well blowout in Southern Manitoba emits a toxic plume. A regional emergency response agency maps and predicts the progress of the plume and does an ‘intersect’ with boundaries and roads. This presentation of data gets published locally and then nationally, using the GeoRSS feed. These feeds trigger alarms and responses in the systems of first responders and emergency managers.

We find that the growing expectation and need to provide up to date and accurate geomatics information about emergency is increasing. This pilot allowed us to investigate that and to look at what we can bring to the emergency management community and to examine the benefits which we can bring from it.

The CGDI Interoperability project represents an important step in the evolution of the CGDI. It demonstrates interoperability among a large number of participants over vast distances using a wide array of technologies.

GeoConnections and the Canadian federal government, I think, for a long time have been in the forefront of work with OGC and standards and interoperability. I think there are some good reasons for it. There is a good mix here of decentralisation, a need to work in a distributed way and also a spirit of collaboration.

People need to have the most up to date data, most up to date content.

I firmly believed that the standards that we have implemented here will serve the Canadian public for a long time to come.

CGDI continues to improve the currency, authoritativeness and availability of its data and services. The CGDI Interoperability Project demonstrates how standards and partnerships can build a vital national information system – the CGDI!


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