API Business Models

Harvesting the sea of spatial data


What is spatial data?

By definition, (geo-) spatial data is data that contains a reference to a location directly, for example by coordinates, or indirectly, for example by an address or a municipality code. 

Can you give some examples of how it can be used to improve both decision making and daily life?

Spatial data is used for traffic, environmental and land use planning and for optimizing service networks in both the public sector and in industry. Studies show that there is still an huge, under-utilized economic potential in applying spatial data-based technologies in our society. The more widely spatial data is used, and decisions are taken based on the actual data, the more transparent and the better the decision-making in our society becomes. In our era of machine learning and IoT, spatial data can serve as a valuable source of information as most phenomena are place-dependent.

What are the latest technologies related to spatial data?

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is setting the course for the development of next generation of spatial standards, the so called OGC Application Programming Interface (API) specifications. To support this development, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has worked hard together with developers to develop and test reference implementations on the ‘OGC API – Features’, also known as WFS 3.0.  At a Hackathon in London in June 2019 draft Open API-based standards were tested also for coverages, map tiles and processes. 

What is National Land Survey of Finland’s strategy related to APIs and spatial data?

For several years now, the strategy of the National Land Survey of Finland (NLS-FI) for spatial data has been to provide high-quality open data under the CC 4.0 BY license. The present strategy is to make spatial data easier to use for developer communities, for example by supporting the provision of spatial data through the upcoming ‘OGC API – Features’. This will be done, for example, in GeoJSON encoding and as ready-to-use packages in GeoPackage format. 

What data and APIs are now available from you?

NLS-FI hosts a wide range of spatial data, such as addresses, administrative units, buildings, cadastral parcels, and other contents of topographical maps of Finland. To get an overview of the spatial data provided by data providers in Finland, you can visit the geoportal Paikkatietoikkuna (“The window to spatial data”). Recently NLS-FI has also published beta APIs according to the upcoming ‘OGC API – Features’ standard for the provision of topographic map features (so far API description only in Finnish) and geographic names (API description in English). Also the newly published geocoding service is described as an Open API in English. Check also out the beta-services providing vector tiles.

How can I co-operate and get to know others in the spatial data ecosystem? 

The NLS-FI is seeking to boost the development and use of API-based open spatial data in Europe by organising  the Inspire Helsinki 2019 event for approximately 150 developers, project managers and technical people on 22-24 October. The event is supported by the  Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The event will host keynotes, workshops and data challenges concerning the use of spatial data – now and in the future. The four data challenges have now been announced and are looking for enthusiastic teams to solve the challenges in September. Join the data challenges by signing up by 16 August on the data challenge website and if you don’t have a team of your own you can sign up to join one. By signing up you will get more information on the data challenges through webinars to be held in July. The best submissions will have a chance to present their results during the event and the best submission of each category will be awarded.

If you are interested  to know more and get involved in the geospatial community in Finland, and Finnish is not an obstacle, start following the Paikkatietoikkuna (@geoportal_fi) and the Geospatial platform project (@PTAhanke) on Twitter. 

Else follow #InspireHelsinki2019 on Twitter and join us at the Inspire Helsinki 2019 event on 22-24 October. Registration for the event is open now!

Vector tiles zooming in to the market square of Helsinki



Lena Hallin-Pihlatie
Lena Hallin-Pihlatie is Chief Specialist at National Land Survey of Finland

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