The national portal for geodata in teaching and research was launched recently. It offers easy access to licensed national and cantonal geodata for the academic community. SWITCH is hosting the web services for the HSR Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil.
Geographical data, or geodata for short, are gaining importance in teaching and research. The range of potential applications is huge: cartography, spatial planning, physical geography and geology, human geography, plant and animal biology, marketing, financial services, medicine and more. Many different sciences – social and economic as well as natural – are thus taking an interest in these data. Geoinformation systems (GISs) are seen as one of the key technologies of the 21st century, raising the question of how best to make national and cantonal data requiring a licence available to the community. Each university has organised its own access to the various data pools up to now, but their growing relevance has given rise to a need for improved distribution and infrastructure.
A joint project uniting the library of the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, the ETH Institute of Cartography and Geoinformation and the Competence Centre for Geoinformation at the HSR Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil recently led to the launch of geodata4edu.ch. Based on existing products, it describes itself as the national portal for geodata in teaching and research. Its two-year development was part-funded by swissuniversities under the “Scientific information” programme. The follow-up project running from April 2017 to December 2018 will aim to establish the service at Swiss universities and build up a customer base allowing it to become self-financing from 2019.
The web services offered by the HSR as sub-services of geodata4edu.ch and the search engine run entirely on SWITCH’s IT infrastructure. The SWITCHengines package includes redundant, scalable storage and computing power in combination with identity management (SWITCHaai), security (SWITCH-CERT) and the network (SWITCHlan). Dirk Engelke, Professor of Spatial Development at the HSR, is very satisfied with this technology partnership: “In this project, we’re serving the community’s national interest. SWITCH’s all-inclusive offering makes things less complex for us. In technical terms, we have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our web services deliver high availability as well as the desired level of performance. This means that geodata4edu.ch acts like a public service for the community’s researchers and students.”
The project partners are convinced that the new service will add considerable value for the community. Thanks to geodata4edu.ch, researchers and students alike can search the available geodata, view them directly in the browser and use the web services either to feed them into a GIS program or to download them for further processing. The service is only available to users at universities that have signed up to geodata4edu.ch who can authenticate themselves with a SWITCHaai login. The aim is to provide the community with the broadest possible range of geodata from the federal agencies and cantons. Talks with data owners for this purpose are ongoing. Roman Walt, head of the geodata4edu.ch management, is confident that they will have a positive outcome.
The advantage for the universities involved is that maintenance of the geodata infrastructure is centralised, so they no longer need to worry about it. Centralised licence management also makes life much easier for them.