Enabling mash-up data

Bournemouth tide gauge placemark displayed on Google Earth
Bournemouth tide gauge placemark displayed on Google Earth ©

14 June 2007

Freely available geospatial applications provide an easy, cost effective method for communicating data to a wider audience.

The exciting element of such systems is their ability to simultaneously display diverse data from different sources to provide an integrated experience, known as mash-up data, thus revealing new information and knowledge that would otherwise be hidden.

Dr Roy Lowry, our Technical Director, participated in the recent National Institute for Environmental eScience (NIEeS) 'Google Earth and other geobrowsing tools' workshop. The workshop was aimed at people who wish to use these new technologies and has generated much interest. A selection of the items discussed formed the basis of an article in New Scientist — 'Virtual Earths let researchers "mash-up" data'.

Google Earth and BODC

To allow a display in geospatial applications, our first step was to write an application to generate Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files. The application uses the unique identifiers we assign to each of the data sets to interrogate our database and extract basic metadata (information about data), for inclusion in the KML file.

We are currently using these KML files and Google Earth in-house to provide

  • Spatial metadata screening — this allows easy identification of metadata errors such as points on land or spatial pattern anomalies
  • Data set detection — this enables the discovery of similar data sets within our databases that can be used for visual comparisons during data screening

The inclusion of a document server URL within the KML file has turned this screening tool into a browsing tool. Users can now view the full metadata report, containing additional metadata and data quality information.

Soon we will

  • Provide a KML file with each data request we handle, to enhance spatial information
  • Generate KML files automatically for user download, from within our dynamic online data delivery systems

To view an example

  1. If you do not already have it installed — download Google Earth Free (home use only) or Google Earth Pro (free trial available) as appropriate to your desktop
  2. Click on Stream the Bournemouth KML file into Google Earth to launch Google Earth
  3. Click on the Google Earth placemark 'pin' to view basic metadata
  4. Follow the link to the metadata report to access the full metadata report