COINAtlantic Chain of Information Access
COINAtlantic has implemented a system that is truly distributed in that it harvests no data, stores no geospatial information in a warehouse or portal, yet provides clients with the ability to effectively search, locate and present geospatial information from anywhere on the Internet that is published as Web mapping services (WMS) or Keyhole Markup Language (KML) Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards.
The advantage of this approach is that it does not duplicate data from data providers. It makes use of the data that is published by providers in the format and scale of their choosing. The providers have full control over how they wish their data to be provided. There is no need for users to develop and support additional server capacity to duplicate the data that is readily available online.
The COINAtlantic Chain of Information Access shown in Figure 1 is the philosophy underpinning the development of the COINAtlantic spatial tools, and can be described as a five-step process. The goal of this process is to provide tools that allow users with little technical knowledge, using only a computer, an Internet browser and an Internet connection, to find and access spatial information, data and maps published by others. COINAtlantic has achieved success through the development of the COINAtlantic GeoContent Generator (CGG) and the COINAtlantic Search Utility (CSU) that address the key steps in the chain.
One of the most important steps to improve success in this approach is to improve the initial availability of products in step one of the chain: geospatial information in WMS or KML format that is distributed using standard OGC techniques. COINAtlantic works with its members and other relevant organizations to make this type of information available for use on the Internet either through use of OGC WMS or, for the less technical, using the CGG. When metadata text is embedded in the WMS and KML files (step two), and the metadata text is then indexed by search engines such as Google (step three), it is then ready for searching through a Web interface: the CSU (step four). The CSU then allows the user to view, overlay and output information, with processing a function planned for the future (step five).
Figure 1: The COINAtlantic process. Geospatial information shared through open standards such as WMS and KML are discovered through standard Internet text search engines, and displayed in the COINAtlantic Search Utility.
Figure 2 shows the COINAtlantic concept graphically as a means of connecting users with the various well-managed silos published and maintained by the information providers. The CSU is an online tool that builds on the power of existing text search engines to allow users to find relevant data wherever it is published.
Figure 2: Managing information "silos". Data administrators publish spatial data to the Internet through OGC standards, using descriptive metadata that can be effectively searched through external applications.