GEOGRAMA - Fundamentals and applications of the INSPIRE directive

Fundamentals and applications of the INSPIRE directive

Borders disappeared from the European Union many years ago. Unfortunately, for geographic information, borders do still exist. These “borders” are technical aspects that don’t allow the homogeneous treatment of geodata. This means that one country can’t extract the exact same value from the data generated by other countries and, when possible, it requires a lot of time and investment. The INSPIRE directive put an end to this situation.

What is the INSPIRE directive?

INSPIRE stands for Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe. The purpose of this initiative is to shape a spatial data infrastructure in Europe, based on the SDIs of each country.

The INSPIRE project has a clear environmental focus. Its main original goal was to make quality geographic information publicly available, which is important for the generation and control of environmental policies.

However, its scope of action has been extended to several environments where geographic data is relevant.

INSPIRE defines a series of technical standards and protocols that promote the standardization of geographic data to achieve its goals. These rules are made to be followed by each national SDI geoportal.

In this way, the reuse of information, its access and collaboration among member countries are facilitated, homogenizing and eliminating incompatibilities and interpretation problems.

INSPIRE was introduced and approved on March 14, 2007, by the European Commission and is embodied in Directive 2007/2 EC of the European Parliament. The reuse of information, its access and collaboration among EU member countries have greatly improved since then.

In the Spanish legal framework, the INSPIRE principles have been developed by Law 14/2010, of July 5, on infrastructure and geographic information services in Spain (LISIGE).

The 5 principles of the INSPIRE directive

INSPIRE is based on the following 5 key pillars:

  1. Data is collected only once (to avoid duplication), and managed by the entity that can handle it more effectively
  2. It allows combining geographic information from different sources, without spatial discontinuities and allowing shared data
  3. Geographic data can change its resolution and scale depending on project needs
  4. Easy access information is a must
  5. Data must be easy to locate and its use and acquisition conditions must be clarified in advance

Technical standards for the application of INSPIRE

To comply with the INSPIRE requirements, there are mandatory technical standards applying to different areas as follows:

  • Metadata
  • Data specifications
  • Network services: location, visualization, download, schematic transformation
  • Access to spatial data sets and services
  • Access to spatial data sets and services.
  • Monitoring and reports

What spatial data does the INSPIRE directive process?

For a set of geographic data to be applicable by INSPIRE, they must meet the following requirements:

  • Refer to an area a Member State has and/or exercises jurisdiction
  • Be in electronic format
  • Belong to one of the following entities, or an entity acting on their behalf:
    • A public entity
    • A third party who has been given access to the network according to the provisions of Article 12 of the Directive
  • They deal with one or more of the topics listed in annexes I, II or III of the Directive;

These annexes contain the following 34 topics:

Annex I: reference data:

  • Reference coordinate systems
  • Geographic grid system
  • Geographic names
  • Administrative units
  • Postal addresses
  • Cadastral plots
  • Transport lines
  • Hydrography
  • Protected areas

Annex II: basic data:

  • Elevations
  • Land cover
  • Orthoimages
  • Geology

Annex III: thematic data:

  • Statistical units
  • Buildings
  • Ground
  • Land use
  • Human health and safety
  • Public and state services
  • Environmental observation facilities
  • Production and industrial facilities
  • Agricultural and aquaculture facilities
  • Population distribution – demographics
  • Areas with conditions in their management, restrictions or regulations and notification units
  • Natural hazard areas
  • Weather conditions
  • Geographical aspects related to meteorology
  • Oceanographic geographic characteristics
  • Marine areas
  • Biogeographic regions
  • Habitats and biotopes
  • Species distribution
  • Energetic resources
  • Mineral resources

What tools does INSPIRE offer?

INSPIRE has made a series of very useful applications available to Public Administrations, companies and citizens.

First of all, there is the INSPIRE portal, which contains all the relevant information about the initiative, including the technical standards named before.

There is also the INSPIRE Geoportal, which allows access to the geographic data provided by each country, as well as validate web services and metadata.

Using the INSPIRE Registry, it’s possible to centrally access the registries defined in each State to meet the conditions of the directive.

INSPIRE also has a virtual discussion forum for professionals to exchange knowledge and opinions.

Finally, the INSPIRE Thematic Clusters platform goes a step beyond the forum discussion, dividing the debate into various thematic areas.

INSPIRE is a great European commitment to the unification of geospatial information. The technical issues that limited data use outside the borders of a country will disappear when completely implemented, which is expected to be very soon.

At Geograma we have been working on projects and initiatives related to the INSPIRE directive since 2009. In fact, we have contributed to the development of the technical implementation guides and the official validator of the geoportal.

Another project that’s worth mentioning is the development of a study about the relationship between the Copernicus project and INSPIRE.

Geograma is also part of a co-financed project by the European Commission providing the knowledge and tools needed to implement INSPIRE in Turkey.

And you, are you working on a project based on INSPIRE? We are here to help you with it. Contact us!