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Michael Weisman

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About Data    |   February 11, 2009   |   By Michael Weisman

Open and Accessible Data

The geo-blogosphere has been abuzz in the last week or so about the release of a new RESTful service for spatial data distribution from the city of Nanaimo, BC. It’s an impressive service which gives users a huge amount of power over easily obtaining data from the city. Aside from being able to easily locate and download data about properties (change the “.html” in that link to “.kml”, “.xml”, or “.json” to get the actual data instead of the information page), users can query the data with JSONP.

Much of the talk over this service has focused on the implementation, and how great the RESTful interface is. While the tech is quite impressive and a huge step forward for the geospatial community, I saw another angle of this service: open data.

In a time when many organizations do not see the value of giving data to the public, The City of Nanaimo has taken the opposite approach, and actually gone beyond what anyone would expect a city to do. While many organizations provide online maps or static data, Nanaimo has taken it a step further by giving end users the ability to get to the data and implement their own applications with it.

Sometimes, in cases where data is not open, people take steps to make it open. Take OpenStreetMap, for example. They have collected geospatial data from people all over the world. The data is not only consumable through their web map, but can also be exported in several formats, including xml with attributes.

For example, FME has both GeoJSON and OpenStreetMap XML readers. This means we add an OSM XML dataset to a workspace using a url pointing to an OSM XML document, as well as a GeoJSON dataset with a url pointing to a property on the Nanaimo service and pull the two together into a single map.

Hopefully those involved in the various NSDI proposals will see the benefits of open data, and follow the lead set by the city of Nanaimo and OpenStreetMap.


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