Archive for February, 2015

Facilitating open exchange of data and information: New article published

February 22, 2015 1 comment

A new article entitled “Facilitating open exchange of data and information” published in the January 2015 issue of Springer’s Earth Science Informatics journal has strong ties to the discussions we have had on this blog and in our book, namely to developments in and implications of open data.  In the article, authors James Gallagher, John Orcutt, Pauline Simpson, Dawn Wright, Jay Pearlman, and Lisa Raymond are clear that while open data offers great value, there are “a number of complex, and sometimes contentious, issues that the science community must address.”

In the article, the authors examine the current state of the core issues of Open Data, including interoperability; discovery and access; quality and fitness for purpose; and sustainability. The authors also address topics of governance and data publication.  I very much like the approach that the authors take–they don’t sugar coat these issues, but acknowledge that “each of the areas covered are, by themselves, complex and the approaches to the issues under consideration are often at odds with each other.” Indeed, “any comprehensive policy on Open Data will require compromises that are best resolved by broad community input.”

The authors’ research stemmed from the activities of an Open Data Working Group as part of the NSF-funded OceanObs Research Coordination Network, and hence has an ocean and atmosphere focus.  On a related note, in this blog, we recently wrote about crowd sourcing coastal water navigational data.  However, the open data implications that the authors describe span all disciplines that care about location.

The authors cover many topics germane to the purpose of our book and blog, and cover it so well, from their treatment of copyright and creative commons to their down-to-earth realistic recommendations that the community must do to move forward, that I consider this article “required reading” for anyone interested in open geospatial data.

Facilitating open exchange of data and information

Facilitating open exchange of data and information – excellent new article from some of the leaders in the field.

GovPond: An Australian Public Sector Data Portal

February 16, 2015 1 comment

Billed as a stop-gap solution on the path towards emulating some of the larger data portals (such as and, GovPond is an Australian public sector data portal providing access to over 3,600 hand-curated datasets and 11 Government catalogues, including:

  • Landgate SLIP
  • Australian Ocean Data Network


The motivation to develop the site stemmed from a previous exercise to collate public sector data sets after the site hosts discovered ‘an enormous number of tables and tools and maps and spreadsheets that were tucked away in dark, dusty corners of the internet, near-impossible to find with a quick search.’

For all the recent advances in liberating public sector data, it seems there’s still a niche for initiatives like these to get to those corners of the Internet and provide access to data resources that might otherwise elude all but the most determined data tracker.

USGS National Elevation Dataset (NED) moving to Lidar-based elevation model

February 8, 2015 1 comment

The USGS National Elevation Dataset (NED) is transitioning to a Lidar-based elevation model. This transition is part of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative, whose goal is to systematically collect enhanced elevation data in the form of Lidar data over the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories, with data acquired over an 8-year period. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IFSAR) data will be collected over Alaska, where cloud cover and remote locations preclude the use of Lidar over much of the state (yes, physical geography still matters!).

This initiative was born in response to a study funded by the USGS named “The National Enhanced Elevation Assessment.”  The study documented business uses for elevation needs across 34 federal agencies, agencies from all 50 States, selected local government and Tribal offices, and private and not-for profit organizations. Each need was characterized by the following:

  • Data accuracy.
  • A refresh cycle for the data.
  • Coverage for geographic areas of interest.

Conservative annual benefits for flood risk management alone are $295 million; for infrastructure and construction management, $206 million; and for natural resources conservation, $159 million.  Results are detailed in the Dewberry report on the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment, which details costs and benefits, how the data will be collected, standards and specifications, and organizations involved in the effort.  An additional report details how the data could help in terms of taking action for climate change.

How will this affect us in the geospatial data community?  The NED activities and website will continue until a full transition to 3DEP is completed. 3DEP planning and research is underway at the USGS to transition to a unified service that will provide both gridded bare earth data products and point cloud data, along with capabilities to produce other derived elevation surfaces and products from 3D data.  When the data does appear, data users should notice the difference in resolution and quality.  In our book, we detailed the rise of Lidar data, and since its publication, these data sets have greatly expanded in quality and availability.

High-resolution lidar image of Mount St. Helens, Washington

High-resolution lidar image of Mount St. Helens, Washington.

Categories: Public Domain Data Tags: , , ,

Why does a calculator app need access to my location?

February 2, 2015 5 comments

I recently purchased a new tablet device and was a little surprised to see it didn’t have a calculator app installed. Undeterred, I headed off to the online store, selected what seemed like a reasonable solution and started to install it. No sooner had it touched my device than it asked me was it OK to access my location information.

Why would a calculator app need access to my location information? Is subtraction optimised at sea-level, is addition better at altitude? There was no attempt to explain why the app wanted access to this information or what use the information would be put to. It felt decidedly ‘creepy’. The only two possible scenarios I could think of were:

  • The location information would be harvested and sold on to pay the ‘free’ app I’d just downloaded.
  • Or by tracking my location were the app developers hoping to profile my behaviour and send other app or service recommendations my way based on where I’d been?

Our location histories says so much about what we do, what we like, where we work and so on, that to marketing companies and other interested parties, location data seem to be the holy grail of consumer metrics. Any opportunity to gather that information is not to be missed.

I said No to the calculator app to using my location data but if I had been given more information, I might have been prepared to say Yes.