Beyond SDI – Rob Atkinson (Web Mapping Pioneer)

SDIs deliver authoritative foundation spatial data, but in the same way that transport infrastructure supports transport networks (delivering value to transport users, the economy, and society),  the next step is to use SDIs to create effective data networks to support better analyses, monitoring, evaluation, and decision-making.

Standardisation of technical interfaces was an enabling driver, but the real value of today’s SDIs is vested in improved governance, and standardisation of identifiers and data models.  Tomorrow’s SDIs should provide relationships between objects that are not trivial to reproduce – such as topological relationships, and links to observational data about an increasing set of properties of interest.  The data network needs to use mainstream web approaches to interconnect data.  Linked Data techniques can carry semantic annotations, allowing SDIs to provide interoperable spatial context to mainstream Web APIs, using JSON-LD,, OpenAPI, etc., with little technical overhead.

Increasing use of sensors (IoT) and ongoing investments in data aggregation networks mean more data to address the critical challenges we face as a species. Climate change, biodiversity loss, health, and the need to adjust economic models means more data spanning wider realms of time, space and subject. Such “Big Data” includes concentrations of data generated by activities (for example, phone and social media usage). SDIs can leverage techniques to index data such as Discrete Global Grid Systems (DGGS) and combine this with semantic scalability to provide a means to turn the explosion of data into an effective network of global information and knowledge, contextualised for local applications.

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