Posted: 24/07/19

Having access to on-the-ground information can help you plan more effectively and find richer answers to questions. Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) has a vast amount of geospatial information about Ireland, and now, through a collaborative project with the SFI Research Centre ADAPT, the organisation is ensuring that people, software applications and AI can use this data more effectively.

“OSi has over 50 million unique geographic identifiers (UGIs) in its database, including boundaries and buildings points,” says Professor Declan O’Sullivan, a co-Principal Investigator at SFI Research Centre ADAPT and an Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin. “OSi and ADAPT are working together to make this data accessible through a concept called 'Linked Data'. The idea is that you make the data available through the web, so people don’t have to invest in new technology to access it. Each piece of a data has a unique identifier on the web, so if a browser uses the address, the data is provided as a web page; and if a piece of software uses the identifier the data is provided in a way that it can be used directly.  This all makes the data much more accessible and information-rich both for humans and for AI.”

The collaboration between SFI Research Centre ADAPT and OSi began in 2016, first linking the data about county, local and electoral boundaries to make the information more openly accessible. The work has since continued with data about the location, form and function of buildings.

The high quality of the Linked Data provided by OSi will enable the development of a wide range of innovative applications. “OSi has the national mandate to ensure that the published, geospatial data is authoritative. This is critical for many applications especially those that use AI, such as services related to electricity and telecoms infrastructure and services that will enable innovative integration of data about a community or region with data about the physical environment. By carrying out this research, we have made OSi's high-quality geospatial data more available, so there is greater opportunity to use and innovate with it.”

The value of the work on linking the open data about geo-located objects in Ireland has quickly become apparent both at home and internationally, notes Lorraine McNerney, Chief Information Officer with OSi. “The project with ADAPT yielded the first five-star Linked Data the Irish Government has produced, and contributed to Ireland achieving 1st place in the European Open Data Maturity Index for 2017 and 2018. The research has also resulted in academic impact with published papers; it has seen many students train using the OSi data; and it has generated new collaborations.”

Open Linked Data also stands to streamline efficiencies in public and Government services. McNerney adds: “One of the key elements in the Irish Government’s Public Service Data Strategy is to remove or avoid duplicated data, and to manage data with good governance. Combining geospatial data with other data such as population statistics will continue to help Government make more evidence-based, well-informed decisions.”

Originally Featured by Science Foundation Ireland on www.sfi.ie

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