By Kari-Pekka Karlsson, The Secretary of the KMTK Project, National Land Survey of Finland. Originally published in Finnish on (Read the original version here)

Do we realize how widely spatial data is used in our society? Might it be that not even GIS experts know how often we refer to geographical data, although Google and other widely-used map and spatial data services and products have increased the understanding of the importance of spatial data, or maps at least.

Topographical data, often called reference data, is spatial data in its most basic form. This reference data, typically complemented with other datasets, is used as a basis for most of the operations that are based on spatial data.

Some years ago, I did a small survey on the applications the reference data of the National Land Survey of Finland is used on. I was also surprised by the results. It felt like it’s much easier to list the fields where the reference data is not used.

What Needs to Be Improved and Why?

When the data is used widely, it’s important to put constant effort on ensuring good usability of the data. Furthermore, currently the potential of reference data is not fully utilized – partly because of usability issues caused by incompatible datasets.

National Topographic Database Project Focuses on Development Needs

National Reference Database (KMTK) focuses on the following development need: easy-to-access and relevant basic spatial data is needed to make operations in many areas of the society more efficient. KMTK does not solve all the problems but its mission is to create a basis for a better, more efficient future of spatial data usage that the applications of the future can be based on.

Once I heard a thought-provoking comment from a police officer: “The police car does not start driving unless the navigator is working”. That makes perfect sense. In addition to the security sector, reference data is used 24/7/365 for important purposes in many other applications as well.