Informatics team launch geospatial web services

Staff from the Informatics team have been working behind the scenes for some time  to make Land Resource Inventory data and other environmental data accessible publicly through open geospatial standards based web services. The first of these web services, a suite of web mapping services, have recently been made available for public use. (Go to maps.scinfo.org.nz for more information on how to use the services).

The W3C defines a “web service” as “a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network”. Web services reflect a new service-oriented architectural approach to building computer software, based on the notion of building applications by discovering and organising smaller more focused network-available web services into larger more powerful systems.

Web mapping services provide a simple HTTP interface for requesting geo-registered map images from one or more distributed geospatial databases. The request to the web mapping service defines the geographic layer(s) and area of interest for the map. The response to the request is one or more geo-registered map images (returned as JPEG, PNG, etc) that can be displayed  in browsers or suitable desktop applications.  Web mapping services are the simplest form of open geospatial interoperability. Internationally it is by far the most popular and widely implemented of the open geospatial standards.

Sample base map from OGC WMS. (Contains data sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright Reserved.)

The first set of services provide access to a topographic base map of New Zealand and layers from the New Zealand Land Resource Inventory (NZLRI).  Currently two types of Web Map Services are provided: OpenGIS® Web Map Service Interface Standard (WMS) Version 1.1.1 and WMS Tile Caching (WMS-C).

These web mapping services can be used by third party application developers or by users directly through suitable desktop applications e.g. QGIS, Arc10.  The Informatics team is also using them internally as part of the deployment of on-line web browser services. For example to provide background maps for the New Zealand’s Virtual Herbarium and in the in development S-map Online and Our Environment portals.

Sample land use capability map from OGC WMS. © Landcare Research 2011 CC-BY NZ License

Further information on the services is available at maps.scinfo.org.nz.  These services are still in beta while we get feedback from potential users and improve performance of the services. The data provided by the services is licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY New Zealand.

Informatics also now provide an OGC Catalogue Services for the Web (OGC CSW) service which allows third party web applications and suitable desktop clients to discover and view information about Landcare’s geospatial data.

The OGC Catalogue Services specification establishes a general framework for access to metadata through web services. The service Informatics has launched supports OpenGIS® Catalogue Services Specification 2.0 – ISO19115/ISO19119 Application Profile for CSW 2.0 of OpenGIS® Catalogue Services Specification (Version 2.0.2, Corrigendum 2 Release, Date: 2007-02-23). You can find out more about the CSW service here.

Using the OGC CSW service, the New Zealand Geospatial Office has been able to harvest our records for presentation in their new Catalogue of Environmental & Geospatial Data.

The web service has also been registered with the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) Component and Service Registry Publication Portal and Landcare’s geospatial data is now discoverable through the international GEO Portal (http://www.geowebportal.org).

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