Linked data on web could be used to fight future floods

8 Dec 2015

As cities and towns around Ireland fight a losing battle against floods researchers are discovering ways predict future natural disasters.

As cities and towns around Ireland fight a losing battle against floods, researchers at Trinity College’s ADAPT Centre and the Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) are working to combine geospatial information as linked data on the web to predict and mitigate the impact of natural disasters such as floods.

Linked geospatial data benefits scientists, industry, government decision makers, public service providers and citizens, and it is an increasingly important category of government data resources.

Today, much of the data we access on the web is published in HTML format.

Linked data marks a shift from human-readable HTML documents that are connected via hyperlinks to machine-readable documents that allow for rich connections of data between web systems across the globe.

Lorraine McNerney, general manager for Geospatial Systems at OSI, said that the adoption of linked data enables third parties to explore and consume rich data in a meaningful manner via a combination of simple, standardised technologies (e.g. RDF and URI) that operate over the web’s existing HTTP infrastructure.

Data modelling and real obstacles

In 2014, OSI delivered a newly-developed spatial data storage model known as Prime2. With Prime2, OSI moved from a traditional map-centric model towards an object-oriented model from which various types of mapping and data services can be produced.

Prime2 and the associated workflows also designed governance practices to cope with the evolution of spatial objects in their model. The system currently holds information on more than 45,000,000 spatial objects, including road segments, buildings, fences etc.

“We have been undertaking linked data research for a number of years now within ADAPT,” said Declan O’Sullivan, professor of computer science at Trinity College Dublin and one of ADAPT’s principal investigators, .

“The collaboration with OSI will allow the publication and interlinking of rich geospatial information from a wide variety of information sources on the web and advance the state of practice in the area.

“This type of data is critical for planning, policy making and delivering innovative location-based services in domains, including public health, agriculture and disaster mitigation,” O’Sullivan said.

Road flooded image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years