Paikkatietoikkuna at the Core of the Finnish SDI
More than an overview of spatial data sets is available at the Finnish national geoportal, Paikkatietoikkuna. In addition to the basic services of geoportals, the Finnish portal enables the design and publishing of embedded maps by building on the web service interfaces of many data providers at the national and local levels. GIS is transforming little by little from systems to services.
The roots of the Finnish geoportal date back to the 1980s when the first spatial data directory service was released. In the mid 1990s, the MapSite offering the browsing of topographic maps was opened on the Internet, and since then the service has been one of the most popular web sites in Finland with 100 million map searches annually.
The National Geographic Information Strategy 2005-2010 set the target for the implementation of a national geoportal. The National Land Survey of Finland started a pilot project in 2008 and the pilot portal was opened in July 2009. The pilot portal was available for about one year while the national geoportal, currently known as Paikkatietoikkuna in every language, was under construction.
Paikkatietoikkuna was introduced on 1June 2010. The portal is composed of open source components and its development continues by agile system development methods so that several new functions have been released after the initial opening.
In November 2010, the portal won the Quality Innovation of the Year award in a competition organized by Excellence Finland.
The latest version of Paikkatietoikkuna, released autumn 2012, features a completely redesigned user interface with an integrated easy-to-use tool for designing embedded maps.
Map window for viewing data
Paikkatietoikkuna provides spatial data discovery and view services as well as guidelines for implementing the INSPIRE directive and for building the national spatial data infrastructure. In addition, the portal enables the publishing of embedded maps. All the services are free of charge which limits the supply of data sets to some extent.
Today, the map user interface is the most popular part of the portal offering for browsing approximately 200 different map layers provided by 20 data providers. They include both national agencies and major cities. The maps are available in various categories, such as terrain, real property, soil, land use, and transport networks. In addition to ordinary functionalities, the maps can be viewed as transparent layers on top of each other.
The viewing services are based on standard web map service interfaces (WMS). In addition, the portal enables standard web feature services (WFS) and browsing of features in an integrated view where data are visualised as maps and tables of attributes. It will soon be possible to download data for reuse, although the availability of data products will depend on licenses and user profiles.
The map window client running in a browser is supported by the spatial data service platform that takes care of rights management and visualisation of features, for example.
Metadata is available for discovery
Metadata of spatial datasets have been collected in Finland at the national level since 1985. Today, the creation of metadata is based on international standards and the European implementing rules. Now the metadata covers not only over 200 datasets but also some 30 service interfaces.
In Paikkatietoikkuna, the browsing of the metadata is based on the standard Catalog Service for Web (CSW) interface, which allows all queries listed in the INSPIRE guidelines. The national metadata service is implemented by applying the GeoNetwork open source code library designed for the purpose. In 2010 in the Nordic cooperation project, GeoNetwork was developed further in order to reach better flexibility and modularity.
To users, the spatial data infrastructure manifests itself as data products available for reuse. The geoportal hosts a scheme service that allows the browsing of data product specifications including their xml-schemes.
Embedded maps bring benefits
Paikkatietoikkuna allows users to design embedded maps. Using the map publisher wizard, the user can choose background maps or orthophotos and other map layers to be included in the embedded map. Moreover, publishers can customise the map size and even select tools such as an index map, scale bar, address search etc. Usability follows the reliable principle of 'what you see is what you get'.
The development of the design interface for publishers of embedded maps becomes increasingly challenging as the number of alternative map layers increases. It is even more challenging to integrate in the interface some functionality for analysis and visualisations that a publisher may want to offer to end users.
An easy-to-use map design service may stimulate partners to benefit from the spatial data infrastructure. Depending on the national data policy the benefits are available to a minor or a wider audience. Today technology is no longer a barrier to spatial data applications.
Open source portal
Paikkatietoikkuna is implemented by applying and extending open source code libraries and the results of the development are available as open source code under EUPL or MIT licenses.
You can download the source code at oskari.org.
Location: the Unifying Factor
Finnish National Spatia Data Strategy 2010-2015.
Positio ICC 2011 Special Issue
Special Issue reports some of the progress made in Finland in the geoinformation field and gives an insight into development of SDI in Finland.