Friday, July 24, 2009

What’s in a Geoname? Our world

(updated May 2010) Access to consistent, reliable and local geographic names information is essential for understanding communities and geosocial dynamics. In many situations, geographic names provide one of the most important keys for referencing and accessing a variety of other information. And Geonames databases, called Gazetteers, are an information resource for representing places, groups of people and cultures - and one of the best ways to maintain this resource is locally, closest to the people that know it, and then share it with others through online services.

Since this resource is so important, there's growing global interest in sharing and updating geographic names across a standard Web-based service interface that's not controlled by any one organization or group. In this environment an important way to ensure Geonames information is open and accessible is through the OGC Web Feature Service (WFS). The WFS standard defines an interface for specifying requests for retrieving and updating geographic features across the Web using platform-independent calls – and a profile of WFS is designed specifically to support Geonames.

The Gazetteer Profile of the Web Feature Service, or WFS-G for short, is the result of two major activities - an OGC Best Practice describing a Gazetteer Profile of the Web Feature Service Specification and an ISO draft standard for geographic identifiers (ISO 19112). The WFS-G profile traces its legacy to the OGC Geospatial Fusion Services (GFS) interoperability initiative where an OGC Gazetteer interface was defined, tested and implemented and eventually published as an OGC Discussion Paper. The standardization process in the ISO TC 211 led to a separate mature draft standard defining "Spatial referencing by geographic identifiers" (ISO 19112) that defines an abstract model to be implemented by a gazetteer service. The outcomes of these activities were consolidated into a Gazetteer Service implementation specification published as an OGC Best Practice (05-035r2). This document defines a Gazetteer Service profile of the OGC Web Feature Service Specification. The OGC Gazetteer Service allows a client to search and retrieve elements of a georeferenced vocabulary of well-known place-names.

Advantages of WFS-G include -

• Easy access to well-known place-name vocabularies
• Promotes real-time access and maintenance of Geonames
• Facilitates data currency of Geonames within WFS
• Enables collaborative maintenance of Geonames using transactions and geosynchronization
• Supports ISO 19112 information models
• Supports development of a variety of location-based applications

With growing global interest in sharing geographic names - and with the recognition that one of the best ways to maintain this resource is locally, closest to the people that know it - WFS-Gs like those coming online now are a key collaborative technology for representing places, groups of people and cultures.
- Jeff and Peter


At 8/06/2009 08:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article!


At 8/10/2009 07:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



At 8/19/2009 04:10:00 AM, Anonymous Robin said...

Excellent brief . What next ? Robin

At 8/19/2009 03:09:00 PM, Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I think there's growing global interest in sharing geographic names across standards-based services - so the next step is for the community to work together and make sure that capability is up-to-date and workable.

At 3/24/2010 09:25:00 PM, Blogger Monica said...

I liked this summary very much. I am preparing a brief on the requirements for a national gazetteer service to support the Australian Research Data Commons and the needs of eResearchers in general - particularly in those sectors which have not traditionally used GIS eg Social Sciences, Humanities and in the interdisciplinary research eg climate change adaptation

Do you have any information on implementations (I know about the USGS WFS-G prototype). Thinking about possible options to reuse software, and share experiences.

Monica Berko
Australian National Data Service

At 3/25/2010 07:10:00 AM, Blogger Jeff Harrison said...


Thanks for your comments. In addition to the USGS WFS-G Prototype there is work going on at defense agencies in the US, EuroGeoNames and others. Efforts should be ramping up through the summer - so now is a good time to engage and share experiences with the community.



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