Why we focus on spatial data science

Blog post
edited by
Matt Tricomi

The I in Information Technology is so broad – why is our first integrated data science problem focus on spatial data? It doesnt fit when looking on face of our Services Catalog . We get asked this a lot and this is our reason, and like Geospatial, its multi-dimensional spanning different ways of thinking, audiences, maturity, progressions, science, modeling, and time:


In green, x-axis, is the time progression of public web content. The summary point is data took the longest period – about 10-15 years. And data can only get better as it matures into being popular 25 years old on the web. We are in the information period now, but moving swiftly into the knowledge period. Just see how much more scientific data visualizations, and dependence we are on the internet. Just think how much you were on the web in 1998 compared to 15 years later – IT IS IN YOUR POCKET now. 

This isn’t just our theory.

RadarNetworks put together the visual of progressing through the web eras. Web 1.0 was websites or Content and early Commerce sites. Web 2.0 raised the web community with blogs and the web began to link collaboratively built information with wikis. Web 3.0 is ushering in the semantic direction and building integrated knowledge.

Even scarier, Public Web Content progression lags several business domains, but not necessarily in this leading order: Intelligence, Financial, Energy, Retail, and Large Corporate Analytics. Meaning, this curve reflects the Public maturity, and those other domains have different and faster curves. 

The recent discussions on intelligence analysis linking social/internet data with profile, Facebook/Google Privacy and use for personalized advertising, level of detail SalesForce knows about you and why companies pay so much for a license/seat, how energy exploration is optimizing where to drill in some harder to find areas, or the absolute complexity and risk of the financial derivatives as the world market goes – these technologies usually lag in how we integrate public content for googling someone, or using the internet to learn more and faster. Reason: Those do not make money. Same reason why the DoD invented the internet – it was driven by security of the U.S. which makes money which makes power. 

So, that digression aside (as we have been told “well, my industry is different”), the public progression does follow a parabolic curve that matches Moore’s Law driving factor in IT capability – every 2 years, computing power doubles in power, at same cost (paraphrasing). The fact that we can do more faster at quality levels means we can continue to increase our complexity of analysis in red. And there appears to be a stall not moving towards wisdom, but as we move toward knowledge. Its true our knowledge will continue to increase VERY fast, but what we do with that as a society is the “fear” as we move towards this singularity so fast. 

Fast is an understatement, very fast even for logarithmic progression as its hard to emote and digest the magnitude of just how fast it is moving. We moved from

  • The early 90s simply placing history up there and experimentation and having general content with loose hyperlinking and web logs
  • to the late 90s conducting eCommerce and doing math/financial interaction modeling and simulations and building product catalogs with metadata that allowed us to relate and say if a user found that quality or metdata in something, it might liek something else over here
  • to the early 2000s to engineering solutions including social and true community solutions that began to build on top of relational and the network effect and use semantics and continually share content on timelines and where a photo was taken as GPS devices began to appear in our pockets
  • To the 2010s or today where we are looking for new ways to collaborate, find new discoveries in cloud, and use the billions and billions on sensors and data streams to create more powerful more knowledgable applications

Another way to digest this progression is via the table below.

Web VersionTimeDIKWWeb MaturityKnowledge Domain Leading WebData Use Model on WebData Maturity on Web
.9early 90sDataContentHistoryExperimentalLogs
1.01995+Info HistoryExperimentalContent
1.11997  MathExperimentalRelational
1.21999 +CommerceMathHypotheticalMetadata
1.32002  EngineeringHypotheticalSpatial
2.12010s  EngineeringComputationalSemantic
3.02015 and predictable webKnowledge+CollaborationScienceData as 4th paradigm notTempoSpatial (goes public)
4.02020 -2030Wisdom in sectorsAdvancing Collaboration with 3rd world coreAdvancing Science into Shared Services – Philsophical is out yearRobot/Ant data qualitySentiment and Predictive (goes public/useful) – Sensitive is out year

Now, think of the last teenager that could maintain eye contact in a conversation with an adult while holding phone in their hand and not be distracted by the pavlovian response of a text, tweet, instagram, etc. Now imagine, ten years from now, when its not tidbits of data, but as a call comes up, auto-searching on terms they arent aware of come up in augmented reality. Advice on how to react on the sentiment they just received – not just the information. The emotional knowledge quotient will be google now – “What do I do when?” versus critical thinking and live and learn.

So, taking it back to the “now”, though this blog is lacking the specific citations (blogs do allow us to cheat, but our research sources will make sure to detail and source our analysis), if you agree that spatial mapping for professional occurred in early 2000s and agree now that it has hit the public and understand that spatially tagging data has pass the tipping points with advent of smartphones, map apps, local scouts, augmented reality directions, and multi-dimensionl modeling integrating GIS and CAD with web, then you can see the data science maturity stage we are in that has the largest impact right now is – Geospatial.

Geospatial data is different. Prior to geospatial, data is non-dimension-based. It has many attributable and categorical facets, but prior to spatial data, that data does not have to be stored as a mathematical or picture form with specific relation to earth position. Spatial data – GIS, CAD, Lat/Longs, have to be stored in numerical fashion in order to calculate upon it. Further more, it hasnt be be related to a grounding point. Essentially, geospatial is storing vector maps or pixel maps. When you begin to put that together for 10s of millions of streams, you get a a very large complicated spatially referenced hydrography dataset. It gets even more complicated when you overlay 15-minute time-based data such as water attributes (flow, height, temperature, quality, changes, etc.) with that. Even more complicated when you combine that data with other dimensions such as earth elevations and need to relate across domains of science, speaking different languages to be able to calculate how fast water may flow a certain contaniment down a slope after a river bank or levy collapses.

Before we can get to those more complex scenarios, geospatial data is the next progression in data complexity .

That said, definitely check out our Geospatial Integrated Services and Capabilities

Delivering Open Data in Bulk on the Cloud

Blog post
added by
Wiki Admin

We just finished some work for a large National Government data provider who measures their number of files in the millions, records in the tens to hundreds of millions, and storage in sub-petabyte. Below is the obfuscated general requirements if you were to be looking to deliver your bulk data in the cloud : Storage requirements, access, methods, discovery, communications, and applications.

These requirements have been generalized or completely redacted or some cases, added to, to allow for all in Government Open Data delivery with large public datasets to consider. This is simply the business requirements, and not considering the technologies, vendors, cost models, capacity planning, etc. That was done separately.

1.    Storage – Storage supporting file form factors including

Investigate the free public data set clearinghouse areas like http://aws.amazon.com/publicdatasets/ or on Azure, etc. 

Consider  various form factors of files or services

  • Gigabyte Size Files
  • Medium Size Files, but totals more than Gigabyte Size Files
  • Many Terabyte or Gigabyte files that have been broken into medium files for transfer
  • Millions of small files usually delivered in buffered stream
  • Data-driven file delivery via services
  • Terabyte Files only deliverable via Sneakernet Import/Export

2. User Access – easy access for users to copy files to target environment

Public Read-Only Users should not be required to have to pay for access to end-solution (i.e. should not require user to have cloud account on hosted solution)

Internal Users will require access to private directories for files not or yet to be publicly released files (i.e. in response to emergencies, access to licenses data, interim work products)

Internal Users will benefit from lower-latency access than public users. Solutions such as cached volumes, integration with on-premise IT and cloud environment, and secure file transfer.

3.    Multiple Access Methods – Service, Download, Media, Cloud-to-Cloud

Users will look to have data provided in bulk one of three ways: Web Service, Bulk Media, or Cloud to Cloud

Admins should have access user traffic statistics for viewing, exporting statistics logs, and calling statistics logs via hosted applications.

User pulls a directory, set of directories, set of files or a mix via online web access via HTTP, REST, FTP, UDP, or SCP.

Learn about high-performance file transfer solutions are possible such as Edge Network publishing to move closer or supporting high-performance file transfer such as UDT (UDP-based data transfer protocol)

For faster and likely larger file requests, User requests a directory, set of directories, set of files or a mix to be put onto storage device by the service provider and the device is delivered back to user.

For faster and likely larger file requests, User requests a directory, set of directories, set of files or a mix to be put onto storage device by the service provider and the device is delivered back to user. Bulk Media minimum specifications for external hard drives

Users who have existing cloud accounts for storage or who have virtual machine processing points on the cloud, will make requests or will pull a directory, set of directories, set of files or a mix Data pushed to the users cloud point

4.    Discovery – increased visibility and discovery of staged products in catalogs and search engines

Data Products are usually downloaded via keyword, geospatial or temporal product discovery applications based on filtering their search, creating an order, and downloading the products in small group.

Public file directory listing should be discoverable and optimized for discovery by search engines

Public collections should be discoverable and optimized for discovery by search engines

Explicitly demonstrate how bulk data registrations will be discoverable and registered in both Sciencebase.gov and data.gov

Catalogs should be able to pull or push harvest public FGDC, ISO-19115, or RDF metadata of files in the directories for transaction or bulk loading into their catalog.

File Directory Listing can be queried via open-standard discovery service to assist in developing a download filter list.

The National Map can be discoverable in proposed service provider catalog, but the catalog reference needs to follow the metadata provided along with each file with at minimum presenting source, created date, updated day, title, basic description, and the provided DOI link for the file or directory.

Service Provider should be able to be support being called via a Digital Object Identifier

5.    Publishing– support batch file release updates for thousands of files monthly.

Consider if publishing and updating files within datasets incrementally, and will require service or bulk media methods to update the datasets.

Files published will be stored in original formats.

Updates are expected to be updated monthly at no more than on average 10% of files or file storage.

Updates to files should be logged to trigger notifications to subscribed users.

File updates should be able to maintain success and parity check status.

Offline File transfer should support processing of delivered storage devices with clear instructions

Online upload transfer per storage unit (i.e. per gigabytes) should not have transfer charges akin to transactional charges to bulk download area

Online upload should have high performance data transfer capabilities such as UDT (UDP-based data transfer protocol) for between on-premise data and cloud.

Moving from cloud to cloud, i.e. if moving from transactional area to public dataset hosting area, should have very high-speed transmission speeds and should consider location proximity issues.

6.    Notifications – providing ways for users to subscribe to staged product files update notifications

Users can subscribe to changes to directory, sub-directory, or specific files

Users can be notified of such changes via push notifications via such ways as per change, daily changes, RSS updates, or other notification techniques.

Users can use the notifications as ways to request the bulk file updates

7.    Download API  – Supporting applications or including applications that help the user download in bulk

Have a download API that can be controlled by api.data.gov which can uniquely identify, provide HTTP access to via GET parameter in a URL query, support an hourly limit of number of requests per hour based on API Key settings. If api.data.gov rate limit is exceeded, an HTTP status code of 503 should be returned.

3rd party applications should be able to support HTTP, REST, FTP, or SCP calls.

Software Development Kit access (java, python, .NET, PHP, etc.) access should be allowable as well.

The file download should be able to support multiple file requests, allow for parallel downloads, handle restarting partial download file requests, and governor anonymous volume requests

Peer-to-Peer solution support (i.e. such as BitTorrent) must comply with Federal Regulations.

Identify what, availability, and cost for User Training and Sanctioned or third-party consultants for Software Developers is available

8.    Applications – Support the end user experience for unzip files and load into geospatial database

If the user will received multiple zipped files that will require the user to click each link to download, unzip each file, and then load each file using the provided metadata manually into a database, can this be automated

Vendor can create premium either accelerator, increased access or additional formats are part of the delivery if branded separately as a vendor branded product and as long as there is one version that is published clearly marked as Authoritative Government as published and controlled by such in its original published form.


Ten thoughts on fixing search on our opendata catalogs

Blog post
edited by
Wiki Admin

If you go to any data catalog: academic publication catalogs, Government agency opendata clearhinghouses, and federated catalogs, marketing lists, metadata search sites, or even popular sites, most have actually a lot of great data, but it is extremely hard to make sure you are pulling down data that can actually be informative – that truly information – without spending an increasing amount of time.

So, we are on this great opendata train. The phrase du jour is too much information, I say too much data.  Data is different from information:

Data are values or sets of values representing a specific concept or concepts. Data become “information” when analyzed and possibly combined with other data in order to extract meaning, and to provide context. The meaning of data can vary according to its context (Source: Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model).

These sites are more like an eHoarder of data in hopes of being an information destination. There is a lot of junk, while at same time, it all started because some things had value, and well, we are losing perspective.

I think part of the problem is that the metadata is bad. But even when good, it sits beside data that is bad. The internet “click” folks rely on this and hijack data discovery on search engines for this exact purpose. They hijack typo’d web site names like netfix.com or the like. They hijack keywords. The manipulate with SEO techniques to get their sites higher on search engines.
In closed communities, its not intentional manipulation, but there is a lack of incentive to fix discovery.
What are ways we can fix our open catalogs? Here are ten ideas:
  1. Make searching more fun – Take facets, like in tools like CKAN and do more like kayak.com jquery filters, time-based, charts that pop-up with context of record counts. Look kayak, is a site scraper hitting APIs, then simply re-presenting it in simple ways, then they get referral fees (in a nutshell). All because they made it easy, but more important, made travel searching sort of fun.
  2. Make Separate Search Components from your WebMIS– Stop fronting MIS systems with advanced form search engines. Keep that if you are required or need for your 5% users, but Instead make a SOLR or NoSQL or fast search that allows you build in search signals as you get data on users. NodeJS feeds to the search database/index are fast, and millisecond updates fast enough for 99% of cases
  3. Use Enterprise Search instead of rolling your own – Try to take search functions in standalone sites in your organization, and make enterprise service, where the standalone group can control or have input on their search signals
  4. Feed Schema.org for SEO with a virtual library card – Beyond traditional SEO tuning, broker relationships or invest in patterns for search engines like google so they can build good signals/rules on top of your data – do this by putting schema.org tags on your data which can be extracted from your inputted data. 
  5. Register to be harvested – Get registered on multiple harvesting sites, as maybe they can find ways to get your data more discoverable, and when they find you, they see the details on your site or your site pushes that as well, but point being, its still authoritative.
  6. CrowdSource and Gamify Search Signal Tuning – Can we get crowdsourcing going to dogfood site usage and help build in better search engine rules signals. Whether crowd from your own organization with corporate awards, or gamify. Or crowd from true external stakeholders? Bonus: More Student Power – Can we get STEM or university systems involved as part of curriculum, projects, etc. as a lot of search signal improvement is really about person-power or machine2machine power.
  7. Make Events to force data wrangling – In Colorado, we (our team is doing the data side) just did gocode.colorado.gov, as a way to get application developers to build apps off OpenData Colorado – the reward was essentially a reverse contract which made it legal to give monetary award, create various set-aside, and incent usage. That usage in turn got more opportunities for exposure as a time-based event, which got data suppliers more engaged to put things up.
  8. Find ways to share signals? This is more of a perspective theory, but could we feed things like Watson, Google, etc. for a brain of search patterns, tell it our audience differences by having it scan our data and some stereo equalizer tweaks, and figure out what rule expression patterns to take from and share signal libraries?
  9. Learn more what our librarians do. Look, our librarian 20 years ago did more than put books back on shelves and give you mean looks on late returns. They also managed what went into the library, they helped on complicated inquiries to find information, even helping in curating across other libraries. Our network of organic capital or public sector driven meta-sites grew up out of computer science and IT, and not Library science. We need to get computer science/MIS/IT, and Library science to start dating again. Get to know each other again. Remember the good times when we used to be able to find things, and help each other out. 
  10. Can we score OpenData sites? We have watchdogs on making data open, which is great. This helps make sure organizations provide what they are suppose to provide and keep as openGov. But, this approach would be more on scoring the reality for discovering what you have provided. For example, we know the lawyer trick when they want to make problems with discovery – they provide their opposing side with so much information that they are inundated and their is not enough time to do discovery, and yadda, yadda, legal gamesmanship. Can we find ways to score or watchdog sites on data discovery as either a part of transparency, or a different type of consumer report?