Raw highlights from INSPIRE report


European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Penninga, F., Lutz, M., Minghini, M., et al. (2021) INSPIRE, a public sector contribution to the European green deal data space : a vision for the technological evolution of Europe’s spatial data infrastructures for 2030. Publications Office of the European Union. https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2760/8563

Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs) must evolve from complex and highly specialised frameworks to more sustainable, flexible and agile data ecosystems, lowering the entry level to non-specialists and welcoming an increased participation from less traditional stakeholders (e.g. open source software communities, standardisation bodies and early adopters) in addition to data providers and users.

Sitting in-between the twin digital and green transitions, the INSPIRE experience provides a successful casestudy on how digitalassets are valuable to progress towards ambitious environmental policies.

A single market for data, would enable companies to innovate at scale, and also facilitate the decision and policy making process.
Flexible, open, agile, and self-sustainable data ecosystems
Collaboration between stakeholders can significantly be facilitated by contemporary platforms and open source technologies.
The spatial dimension of data remains a powerful means for an integrated and combined use of datasets which are otherwise very difficult, if at all possible, to use together.

INSPIRE builds on increased availability of data, mature ecosystems of software components, long-term relationships with standardisation bodies and early adopters, the healthy community and well-established governance structures, and existing legal frameworks.

simple licensing framework

Open Data Directive, high-value datasets

governance not top-down nor bottom up, but shared across multiple levels of governance.

INSPIRE good practices

continue working on improving the findability (through metadata) and accessibility of the data (through network services)

Avoid where possible custom extensions of existing standards

Applying well-known interaction patters of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to the exchange of spatial data, makes the power of spatial data and analysis available to all web and software developers.

Make spatial data indexable by search engines.

emerging trend of European technological sovereignty and the federated infrastructure provided by initiatives such as GAIA-X have the potential to provide a scalable environment, and provide out-of-the-box technological enablers such as authentication mechanisms and certification.


European SDI is to promote cross-border data sharing and put in place easy-to-use, transparent, interoperable spatial data services which are used in the daily work of policy makers and … businesses, science and citizens.

Alternative data sources such as digital sensors, Earth Observation platforms and citizen contributions are challenging the role of the public sector as the main producer and owner of geospatial information.

This twin challenge of a green and digital transformation must go together and direct us towards more sustainable solutions which are resource-efficient, circular, and climate-neutral. Data is at the centre of this transformation.

[People] need powerful digital decision support systems. Such systems demand the efficient and obstacle free access to many diverse types of data (e.g., data on critical infrastructures, industrial facilities, population and health data, vulnerable and protected areas, on the meteorological and atmospheric conditions, on transport networks, buildings and cadastral parcels, etc.), that are all in the scope of the INSPIRE Directive.

Furthermore, the development of the Green Deal data space goes along with the introduction of data and services for reusable data, setting up a European data ecosystem for the circular economy.

• Data should be collected only once and kept where it can be maintained most effectively;
• It should be possible to combine seamless spatial information from various sources and share it with many users and applications;
• It should be possible for information collected at one level/scale to be shared with all other levels/scales; detailed for thorough investigations, general for strategic purposes;
• Geographic information needed for good governance at all levels should be readily and transparently available;

p 22: Figure 2 and p23: Figure 3

geoportal enables cross-border data discovery


ELISE (European Location Interoperability Solutions for e-Government) Action of the ISA2
(Interoperability solutions for public administrations, businesses and citizens) Programme.

description of our project can use these categories:
1 data availability,
2 governance mechanisms,
3 technological stack,
4 standardisation and regulation, and
5 community engagement.

Text box p32
“There is massive opportunity and need around environmental data. Environmental data is going to influence day-to-day decision making of everybody.” – Thorsten Reitz, Wetransform GmbH

p40 Table 1


It is important to align technical requirements as much as possible to functionalities that are already supported (out-of-the-box) by existing tools.

p49 Figure 17

The recent update to the 2020 New Industrial Strategy (European Commission, 2021a) points to the twin ecological and digital transitions and the role of innovative technologies in supporting a sustainable transition. The Industrial Strategy also indicates the need for investment and innovation to deliver these innovative technologies. It also illustrates the significant business opportunities in these areas.

European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Updating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy: Building a stronger Single Market for Europe’s recovery, COM
(2021) 350 final, 2021a, pp. 1–21 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/communication-industrial-strategy-update-2020_en.pdf)
(accessed 12 August 2021).

We are on a turning point in the digital transition where the way we work with data is changing rapidly. The old practices of preparing dedicated packages of information for dedicated processes is increasingly being replaced by more active data sharing through data services.

The aim of the European Strategy for Data is to create a common European data space – a genuine single market for data, open to data from across the world – where personal as well as non-personal data, including sensitive business
data, are secure and businesses also have easy access to an almost infinite amount of high-quality industrial data, boosting growth and creating value, while minimising the human carbon and environmental footprint.

p58 a cloud-to-edge infrastructure

Two main initiatives have been selected under the DIGITAL for the first two years (2021-2022): Destination Earth and the local data ecosystem for climate-neutral and smart communities.

To safeguard the rights of the data providers, this data space should be governed by a principle of EU-wide data sovereignty. It means that users only get access to the data in line with the ruling reuse conditions and for the use as intended.

The Open Data Directive introduces the notion of high-value datasets, i.e. datasets whose reuse is associated with important benefits for economy and society. To facilitate the reuse of such datasets and maximise their impact, the Directive requires Member States public authorities to make high-value datasets available free of charge, in machine-readable formats, under standardised open access licenses that allow generous reuse conditions (including e.g. for commercial purposes). Such datasets are to be made accessible through both Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and bulk download. The Open Data Directive does not yet provide the full list of high-value datasets, but only the 6 thematic categories they belong to (included in Annex I of the Directive), i.e. Geospatial, Earth observation and environment, Meteorological, Statistics, Companies and company ownership, and Mobility.

p63 Technology trends
1 new data sources that can complement and even in some cases substitute data that is traditionally provided by the public sector,
2 modern means for exposure of the data in a developer-friendly manner,
3 the impact of platforms on the architectures of data infrastructures, and
4 the role of analytics and location intelligence built on top of existing data.

New data sources:
1 Internet of Things
2 Citizen-generated geospatial data
has become a major producer of geospatial information, thus challenging the traditional role of the public sector.

The most popular citizen-driven project to date is certainly OpenStreetMap (OSM). Started in 2004, it consists of a crowdsourced database of vector data (points, lines and polygons) covering the whole world and available under the open access Open Database License (ODbL). To date more than 1.6 million contributors have performed at least one change to the database, with about 50 thousand active contributors performing approximately 120 million edits every month.

Private companies, including tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Amazon, exploiting (but also contributing to) OSM for their business purposes (Anderson et al., 2019); and even governments, using OSM to integrate, complement or update authoritative data. The latter case represents one of the most fascinating examples of adaptation of the public sector to the current data landscape.

3 Satellite data

Copernicus services target six key areas (atmosphere, marine, land, climate change, security and emergency)

4 Open research data
FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, Reusability) guiding principles
To concretely allow researchers to make their data FAIR several specialised repositories were created, including some specific to certain disciplines or institutions and some global and general-purpose. While an example of the former is the JRC Data Catalogue73, among the latter, FigShare, Dataverse, Zenodo and DataHub.

5 Private data
The role of private data for public good is not fully harnessed. One of many examples, illustrating the potential for privately-owned geospatial data are those collected by mobile network operators (Iacus et al., 2020). Such data can act as a proxy for population data of relatively high spatial resolution.

The emerging issues relating to privacy and ethics are to be accounted for.

Additionally, if personal data are to be shared, specific measures for their anonymisation shall be put in place, while ensuring that companies which contribute them retain their competitiveness.

From data collection to data connection (APIs):
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provide a means for developers to easily create value-added products with limited preliminary knowledge.

Modern web-based APIs support modern SDIs by going one step further as they
1 provide a simple approach to data processing and management functionalities,
2 possibly offer different encodings of the payload,
3 can easily be integrated into different tools, and
4 can facilitate the discovery of data through mainstream search engines.

p68 Novel architectures
Data intensive use-cases, or when data is needed only as result of the occurrence of a particular event, for example when a threshold value is reached, or when new data is made available. Standards such as the Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) are well established and fit for such purposes. That is why Rieke et al. (2018) recommend the establishment of “Event-driven SDI’s”.
MQTT is an OASIS standard messaging protocol for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Depending on the concrete use case, computing can also take place in 1 the network edge (e.g., on sensors devices), 2 fog (e.g., on network gateways), or 3 cloud.

It is expected that the rapid growth of the IoT will cause most processing to take place close to the network edge.

Today, network latency, leading to a slow transfer of data, poses a limitation for the uptake of edge and fog computing, which will be overcome by the fifth-generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks (5G). Despite the different architectural setting of edge, fog and cloud computing, a shared characteristic of the three approaches is the coupling of data and algorithms.

Agile standards
The emergence of platforms that leverage on tools for co-creation of content such as wiki and git, a new breed of de facto standards is rapidly being established. In contrast to the top-down approach, those standards are co-created online by multiple actors, including the future users of those standards, in an agile and iterative manner. Capturing all possible use cases is no longer the primary objective of the standardisation activity. On the contrary, tweaking the developments to the needs of users, thinking of simplicity, and lowering the entry level are the primary objectives.

As far as data encoding is concerned, several new standards with excellent client support should be mentioned. Those include
1 the GeoPackage standard, which is fast, efficient and provides multiple advantages over text-based formats, in particular relating to the sharing of complex geometries and big volumes of data,
2 the Cloud Optimized GeoTIFF (COG) format, which is a modern and effective solution to make satellite imagery, and in general big raster data, easily consumable through the web,
3 GeoJSON, which is the de facto standard for sharing geospatial data on the web through modern APIs, and
4 the SpatioTemporal Asset Catalogs (STAC)90, which is not yet a full OGC standard but provides a powerful way to expose collections of spatio-temporal data (including satellite imagery, data cubes and point clouds).


p74 Vision
Avoid overspecification in legislation
Use a simple licensing framework
1 ensuring that the approach is harmonised through an existing licensing framework such as Creative Commons,
and 2 exposing the license in a machine-readable manner together with the datasets.
Embrace co-design by default
An agile approach based on extensive experimentation (sandboxing) is desirable, which would respect the overall principles and concepts but can easily and inclusively be tailored to the needs of different stakeholders.

Open and Agile Smart Cities (OASC) international network

Adopt an ecosystem approach
The role for governing the infrastructure should ideally blend into the broader data ecosystems, defined as an environment where a number of actors interact with each other for a specific purpose, generating value from the network by producing, exchanging and consuming data in a collectively governed and operated way
(is that a DAO?)

p77 Figure 22 Data ecosystem actors, incentives and enablers.

Optimise data for search engines
By making spatial data indexable by search engines, discovery of data is no longer limited to those who are aware of the existence of web-based catalogues. According to Best Practice 2 of the Spatial Data on the Web Best Practices (World Wide Web Consortium, 2017) this can be achieved by publishing an HTML webpage for a spatial dataset and each spatial thing that it describes and by ensuring that these pages are crawlable.

Leverage on the developments of federated European cloud infrastructures
The opportunities for exploiting the emerging trend of European technological sovereignty and the federated infrastructure provided by initiatives such as GAIA-X provide a scalable environment, but also to provide out-of-the-box technological enablers such as authentication mechanisms and certification. A first pilot to test the use of GAIA-X for INSPIRE-related purposes is starting by the end of 2021.

APIs will become the de facto interface for the majority of users to enter the INSPIRE data ecosystem, including accessing, analysing and processing data, with
ultimate possible applications – favoured by the emergence of digital twins – addressing a range of domains much broader than the environmental one and a set of use cases with a geographical scope no longer limited to Europe.

p83 Figure 23. Updated reference architecture of INSPIRE

References to look up, contact authors?
Coetzee, S., Gould, M., Mohamed-Ghouse, Z.S., Scott, G., Kmoch, A., Alameh, N., Strobl, J., Wytzisk, A. and Devarajan, T., Towards a sustainable geospatial ecosystem beyond SDIs, in press. – ask their view on the role of blockchain?

Craglia, M., Scholten, H.J., Micheli, M., Hradec, J., Calzada, I., Luitjens, S., Ponti, M. and Boter, J., Digitranscope: The governance of digitally-transformed society, EUR 30590 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2021, doi:10.2760/503546. – ask their view on the role of blockchain?

European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Updating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy: Building a stronger Single Market for Europe’s recovery, COM
(2021) 350 final, 2021a, pp. 1–21 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/communication-industrial-strategy-update-2020_en.pdf)
(accessed 12 August 2021)

Keßler, C. and McKenzie, G., ‘A geoprivacy manifesto’. Transactions in GIS, Vol. 22, No 1, 2018, pp. 3–19, doi:10.1111/tgis.12305.

Nativi, S., Mazzetti, P. and Craglia, M., ‘Digital Ecosystems for Developing Digital Twins of the Earth: The Destination Earth Case’. Remote Sensing, Vol. 13(11), No 2119, pp. 1–25, doi:10.3390/rs13112119.

Vaccari, L., Posada, M., Boyd, M. and Santoro, M., ‘APIs for EU Governments: A Landscape Analysis on Policy Instruments, Standards, Strategies and Best Practices’. Data, Vol. 6(6), No 59, 2021. pp. 1–20, doi:10.3390/data6060059.

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