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Has Geospatial Data Sharing Changed Over the Years?

Has data sharing changed much over the last few decades in Canada? Some have and some have not.

Dr. Barry Wellar, Professor Emeritus (Geography and Environmental Studies), at the University of Ottawa is organizing an Automated Cartography (AutoCarto) Six Conference Retrospective Book. I was asked to contribute to this Retrospective that covers a seminal conference held nearly 30 years ago. Back then, I was still new to geomatics so I did not attend the conference but my boss at the time, Dr. David Goodenough, now Emeritus Senior Research Scientist at Natural Resources Canada, did. We submitted a paper, which I coauthored, related to data sharing. After reviewing our 30 year old paper, it surprised me to see how far the industry has come in some areas and how little progress has been made in some other areas.

The primary goal of the research discussed in the original paper was the integration of remote sensing data into a GIS. Since those promising early days, little progress has been accomplished in this area. The remote sensing community still primarily works in their raster world and the GIS community still works primarily in their vector world. The vision of an artificial intelligence based methodology for updating GIS data automatically and accurately from remotely sensed images still eludes us. Developing such a methodology is a challenge even today.

Anyways, we had a few chuckles while reviewing our paper, such as when we saw that we’d indicated an example of high resolution space imagery was 10 meters. Today, high resolution satellite imagery is sub-meter. We did however indicate that in order for GIS data to be useful, it needed to be periodically updated. This statement most definitely holds true today as it is still hard to effectively make decisions when the data used in the decision making process is out of date. It’s almost like trying to decide what you are doing this week by looking at last week’s calendar.

Figure 1.1: Geospatial data sharing is still not as easy as pushing the share button.

The Esri Canada Community Maps Program is developing some modern technology that will help automate the process of updating data from various diverse sources. Esri Canada’s GeoFoundation Exchange Project, partially supported by the Natural Resources Canada GeoConnections Program, is developing a prototype system for the speedy and efficient exchange of geospatial data.

So the original vision of sharing data to keep everyone’s databases as up-to-date as possible is still being developed and an operational GeoFoundation Exchange for Canada will move the country and the industry a big step closer to better geospatial decision making.

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About the Author

Gordon Plunkett is the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Director at Esri Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in both the public and private sectors. He currently sits as a member of the Community Map of Canada Steering Committee, GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board of Directors, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Committee on Geomatics, the University of Laval Convergence Network Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board to the Carleton University Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre. During his career, Gordon has worked on projects in more than 20 countries and has contributed to numerous scientific conferences and publications. At Esri Canada, he is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s SDI vision, initiatives and outreach, including producing content for the SDI blog.

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