GIS Expo: Laying the foundations for Interoperable Geospatial data in Finland

Finnish GIS Expo has been thriving for 31 years now, and the event still brings the local geospatial community together annually. Climate Change and Interoperability were the big topics this year and Spatineo had a special part in this years expo!

Laying the foundations for Interoperable Geospatial

As most people in Finland already know, the geospatial sector has been shifting towards more interoperable dataflow and usage within the last few years. Finnish Geospatial Platform and Geospatial Policy Report (Paikkatietopoliittinen selonteko) have been few of the drivers towards effective usage of geospatial data. Several different presentations were held on these two, such as Sakari Jäppinen’s “Towards Digital Decision Making in Land Usage” and “Work together or Die” presentation from Antti Jakobsson.You can see some of the recordings from here.

We were also on the stage several times during the conference. First our very own Riitta Vaniala had a presentation about the Impact of geospatial data. The topic has been hot lately, and we have been working quite hard here at Spatineo to showcase the impact of open data. You can read and download the Impact whitepapers, of which Riitta’s presentation was based upon, from our Impact page.

Riitta is also hosting a webinar on the topic of Impact Assessment. You can register to the webinar for free.

Besides Riitta presenting at GIS Expo, Jaana Mäkelä took a strong stand at moderating panel discussions.

She was the main moderator in two major panel discussions. First being the “Future of Geospatial industry” on monday. Participants were Teemu Virtanen from Sitowise, Ville Alasalmi from Aalto University and Researcher Pyry Kettunen from NLS of Finland . Panel recording can be viewed from here.

One of the most important program numbers was Geospatial Grill, in which Jaana was the moderator and valued guests were literally grilled on the premise of how they are going to make geospatial data better and more available. 

The panelists were Antti Vertanen from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Sami Suomalainen from Emergency Response Centre Agency of Finland, Päivi Nerg from Ministry of Finance, Tommi Karttaavi from Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, and Vesa Ilmarinen from Platform of Trust. 

We will not go down to the details on the discussions here, but summarizing everyone on the panel agreed that data should be even more available, and easily reachable. Private companies must be backing up the public sector, and innovation has to be formed in both private and public organisations.

One of the most delightful things in GIS Expo was seeing how people meet their old colleagues and friends. Most people have worked in several companies within the industry, and cooperation between organisations is common.

Huge thanks to everyone who made GIS Expo possible this year, and shoutout to everyone who visited our stand! We had great conversations with people there, and in case some of you want to keep those discussions going, don’t hesitate to contact us at your convenience.


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Inspire Helsinki 2019 was a success – what is the future of data challenges?

Inspire Helsinki 2019 Epicenter

After last year’s INSPIRE conference in Antwerp, a lot of the regular visitors to the conference asked themselves where will the next INSPIRE conference be held. The answer turned out to be Helsinki, but it was not going to be the typical yearly affair. Inspire Helsinki 2019 was a change to the long running tradition of yearly INSPIRE conferences. This time the focus was more on technology and data users and based on the feedback, the event was well received. So what was different and what did we learn from Inspire Helsinki 2019?

Data Challenges and technological approach

The event was organised by the National Land Survey of Finland, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry along with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Spatineo was part of the local organisation committee and lead the organisation of the data challenges. 

Usually topics and presentations in INSPIRE conferences have been about policy related matters, information and updates on technical guidance, and news about progress in implementation. While technology has always been a part of the conferences, this time it was decided the event should focus on both technology and data users.

The event hosted a number of workshops and data challenges. Challenges were hosted by our challenge partners who designed challenges where data was to be used to solve a problem or help people in their day to day lives. There were four challenges ranging from testing INSPIRE infrastructure to improving day to day commuting:

More information and the webinars related to the challenges can be found from the links above.

Why Data Challenges?

INSPIRE Conferences have been hosted by and for the people working on INSPIRE policy and implementation. This format has worked well, and was especially important in the early days of INSPIRE implementation, but as more and more data has been published, more and more people have been asking about presentations on how the data is actually used. In the Inspire Helsinki 2019 event we specifically set  out to address this issue.

Five teams who had produced submissions to the challenges presented at the event and they showed their solutions. Their works ranged from identifying landslide hazards to bike route planning while avoiding bad weather to analyzing best vacation areas using machine learning methods. You can read more about all five submissions on the challenge website.

The room where the teams presented their solutions was packed with standing room only and feedback from the audience sent a clear message that there is a need in the community to reach out and hear back from developers using open data. I feel there are two important factors here: 1) seeing how data is used is a real motivator for service providers – it is difficult to get excited about opening data if you don’t see how that work can impact society and people, 2) the developers using data benefit from a connection to the service providers – being able to ask questions and provide feedback, to have a dialogue between the provider and user, is crucial for developing a true ecosystem.

The winners were announced on the last day of the event and JRC sponsors one member of each team who presented at the event to attend the Dubrovnik INSPIRE Conference in 2020!

From Helsinki to Dubrovnik

As the dust settles in Helsinki, it is a good time to start thinking about how we can as a community, to make future INSPIRE Conferences even better. INSPIRE, while not complete, is ready for use and as such, should reach out to data users and developers. This requires dialogue: meeting people and getting the word out of the confines of the comfortable INSPIRE implementation bubble. The Helsinki Data Challenges were well received and I feel we were able to start the dialogue between data providers and users. We really hope that this good spirit and communication is carried over and continued in upcoming INSPIRE conferences as well!

Spatineo will be once again attending the upcoming event in Dubrovnik, and we’re thrilled to see how INSPIRE events can evolve over time towards a better more inclusive ecosystem.

Get Smart with Widgets – How to be transparent with your spatial web services?

Get Smart With Widgets

As more and more spatial web services and more and more data, are being opened to the public, it becomes vital to display more and more of transparency. How are your services working, and how is that information shared with your users? We have figured one very efficient way to relay that information for everyone to see!

Users and your IT can reach information easily

“I’m having trouble, I’m wondering if the service is working properly at the moment?”, “Is this service reliable enough to use in our application?”, “Is there any planned maintenance in the service I should be aware of?”

These can be questions your users and even your own employees might be wondering from time to time. These can be difficult to answer, and even with experienced IT personnel it can take quite a while to answer these relatively simple questions your users have. What if this information would be automatically and transparently available to everyone?

We think this kind of transparency of quality in spatial web service is vital. Your services might be used by for example first aid personnel who need that data to be reliably accessible. Achieving this kind of credibility is something you need to build slowly and maintain. Giving information about the quality of your services is one key factor when building this trust.

This is where the widgets in Spatineo Monitor can be an amazing solution for you.

Dashboard of your spatial web services

We are just going to jump to the awesome results we have witnessed our customers have been able to do. Informatie Vlaanderen from Belgium is one of our customers, who have taken the mission of transparency very seriously. They are really ahead of the game with this one. Their spatial web service dashboard (https://dashboard.informatievlaanderen.be/) is a prime example where the organisation displays openly the status of their services. The page shows the current status as well as historical availability and the information is there for everyone to see. Anyone can find this page and see themselves that Informatie Vlaanderen’s services are top notch. 

We have also noticed that the “dashboard format” is quite ideal for these widgets. The layout Informatie Vlandeeren made displays all services in a neat and compact format. You can check the availability and notifications of any service in mere seconds from single page. 

One of the reasons why widgets in Spatineo Monitor can be trusted is that the monitoring is performed by a third party. Spatineo tests the services by accessing the services exactly how users would access them. Therefore our monitoring gives very accurate information on how reliable those services are.

So, how to get smart with Widgets?

Displaying availability widgets is actually a really simple process with our tools. We’re not even exaggerating when we’re saying that the whole process can be done in few clicks. 

Log into Spatineo Monitor, select which service you want to show, go to the sharing tab and copy the “widget loader snippet”. See the animation below for how to do it.

Geospatial Availability Widgets

So now that you have the snipped copied, all you need to do is paste that into your webpage. The animation below you can see how easy it is to add the widget to a WordPress site.

Vóila, you can see the result below. This widget shows the availability of the Finnish Environment Institute’s INSPIRE Hydrography web map service.

The examples our customers have created for themselves are a little bit more complex, but anyone with basic HTML skills should be able to pull of similar layouts. Your imagination is the limit! 

We would love to see your availability widgets in action! If you have implemented our solution, please share that with everyone – Examples help everyone else to achieve better transparency and assist their goals to help their own users.

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