Dutch Kadaster Tackles European INSPIRE Initiatives for Spatial Data Infrastructure

By Joe Francica

The Dutch Kadaster is the agency responsible for managing land records and a host of other duties for the Netherlands. It is also responsible for maintaining geospatial information for its participation in the European INSPIRE program, which is establishing a framework for the EU's spatial data infrastructure. Editor in Chief Joe Francica spoke with Arco Groothedde, executive board member of the Cadastre, Land Registry and Mapping Agency (Kadaster), to better understand how his organization is supporting INSPIRE.

Directions Magazine (DM): The Dutch Kadaster has a great deal of responsibility providing the government of the Netherlands with many services related to land registry, mapping and planning. Can you briefly describe the size of the Kadaster organization in terms of people, technology configuration (hardware and software), and geospatial data.

Arco Groothedde (AG):
Kadaster has approximately 2,000 full-time equivalents. Our head office is located in the center of the Netherlands, in the city of Apeldoorn. We have six branch offices throughout the country.
We have registered about eight million parcels, and 20 million information requests are handled every year. Our prime customers are the notaries, real estate agents, central and local governments, and more and more citizens are encountered as customers; especially with the information delivery service. Besides the typical cadaster and land registry functions, we create the 1:10,000 map and smaller, and register cables and pipelines.

In the last two years we've made enormous progress in delivering geospatial data in several different forms. Web services for base data delivery ease our customers' work. We expect this to grow exponentially over the coming years.

DM: How has the Kadaster worked with or adopted the standards put forth by the INSPIRE initiative to create a countrywide spatial data infrastructure? Did you have to change your data model to accommodate INSPIRE directives?

INSPIRE did not affect us in that way, needing to change our data models of infrastructure. We needed to create meta-data Web services and transformational Web services, for example, the transformation of address standards and the Dutch national triangular reference network toward ETRS89. In the early stages we provided expertise in drafting teams.

DM: What data sets are you required to supply to the INSPIRE initiative and what data sets are shared with the Kadaster to support your work? Please explain how you work with other countries to share data.

INSPIRE has its influence on all Kadaster datasets, for example, the topographic map, the cadastral map, transport networks, administrative units and the address register. A national geo portal (Georegister) was built where all meta-data Web services of the Netherlands come together.

All this work has been done in close relationship with other European agencies. EuroGeographics is the European organization of European cadasters and mapping agencies for standardization and international cooperation. A product created from EuroGeographics is EuroBoundaryMap.

DM: The world marvels at the engineering talent of the Netherlands, especially as it plans for and mitigates flooding problems. How much is the Kadaster involved in supporting these very large engineering projects and what specific spatial data needs do you have to accommodate to support these projects?

The Netherlands has a long history in fighting flood problems, as nearly 40% of our country lies beneath sea level. Only recently has the power of geographic data been seen as a key component in fighting and preventing floods. As Kadaster, we try to provide services to governments at the earliest stages of planning. The combination of enormous diversity of datasets can create decision support scenarios for strategic planning. Afterward, the true engineering skills and detailed planning processing is being performed by the private sector.

DM: Please explain your future plans in moving many geospatial services to a cloud computing environment. Will it require you to reconfigure your spatial database or client applications?

We are trying to create the geo part of the cloud. Our datasets don't need adaptation for the purpose of keeping all relevant data at their source and make them easily available for different purposes. For several years now, our strategy has been to create modern Web services. We used to copy all the data to one central organization that was creating the services; the modern way of moving forward is delivering the data through Web services. This is a more flexible and agile way to help and serve actual situations.

DM: One of the examples you gave in your presentation at the Intergraph User Conference was a water overflow scenario. What must be accomplished in terms of political and technical involvement to support identifying the land in which there may be flooding, and then moving people and land to accommodate the decisions?

From the political arena comes the first initiative to prevent future water floods. We provide them with several scenarios to help the central government to decide on the best way forward. Our job is to support them. Their job is to lobby and influence. We found out that with our scenarios the central and local governments were better prepared where difficulties lay ahead and this speeds up the process. But in a small country where there is only little space, these political puzzles remain difficult.

DM: Web services will be a big part of expanding services to various departments within the Kadaster. What services will you move entirely to a Web services environment and which ones will you keep as more robust clients, and why?

Our approach toward Web services is that this is an extra way of delivering the information, on top of the end-user services provided by our Web portal, MyKadaster. It is seen as our task to create easy access to society. A multichannel approach fits this purpose. We provide services for citizens visiting us at our offices, by telephone, by SMS services, by mobile devices and by Internet.

DM: What future software or hardware improvements will be necessary to support a move to cloud computing? Are you concerned about security, bandwidth or hardware issues? Please explain.

Images and other rich data will be the future for geoinformation. The growth in storage possibilities is met by the technological developments. The network capabilities are close to meeting the need of exchanging image data. Fiber optic infrastructures are rolled out in the Netherlands, so bandwidth will be less a problem than a couple of years ago.

Mobile bandwidth and graphics technology on small devices are still a bit of a problem. This will be a matter of time.

Next to this optimistic view of the future my experience is that in current projects with a heavy geoinformation and geotechnology component too often technical ICT [information and communication technology] performance is an issue. We decided to have special performance teams and performance specifications built up in the very early stages of projects. Too often geo projects are run as normal "administrative" ICT projects. In the end, the limits of technology (processing power of terrabytes of information within hourly time frames) create a lot of disappointment or at best, a lot of extra effort. So let "technical performance" in your new geo project be your top priority!

DM: You obviously have a vision for supporting more global initiatives utilizing geospatial technology. Will you or the INSPIRE program be able to convince government and other large European Union organizations of the value of geospatial information? Please give us your vision.

The use of geospatial information for societal challenges will create its own drive forward. Government and European Union efforts are only needed to support the initiatives. We ourselves are often not aware that geoinformation is entering all fields of current worldwide challenges. For example, looking at news broadcasts on television and having route planning features in our automobiles ... geoinformation has moved into the living rooms of families and is already a part of our lives. Who would have thought of this five years ago?

Published Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Written by Joe Francica

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