XML for geoscience data

A new protocol, GeoSciML underpins an international digital geological mapping initiative, OneGeology. Backed by the UN, the standards-based protocol already has 30 countries on board.

Speaking at the International Geological Congress in Oslo last month, Ian Jackson of the British Geological Survey announced the official roll out of a worldwide digital geological mapping system ‘OneGeology.’ Earth and computer scientists from all over the world have collaborated on the OneGeology project to produce the first digital geological map of the world. OneGeology is the flagship project for the UN International Year of Planet Earth 2008.

OneGeology was made possible thanks to the development of a new geological data standard, GeoSciML, a geology-specific application schema for the Open Geospatial Consortium’s (OGC) Geography Markup Language (GML). This has been combined with another OGC standard, the Web Map Service (WMS) to allow for a portal access to distributed geological data around the world.

The portal, a battery of virtualized servers, is located at the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM) in Orleans, France. François Robida, Deputy Head of Division, Information Systems and Technologies at the BRGM said, ‘Today you can go to the OneGeology website and get geological maps from across the globe; from an overview of the planet, to larger scale maps of individual nations. You can hop to higher resolution applied maps and data on national web sites.’

OneGeology is also a knowledge transfer exercise, accelerating the development and up take of the new standard for interoperable geological data. A OneGeology ‘cookbook’ is available to help organizations deliver data, register maps and test conformance. Thirty countries and already serving maps along with metadata. Map layers can be viewed with tools such as Google Earth.

Participating geological surveys can host data on their own servers or on a ‘buddy’ server of an associated geological survey. WMS-produced maps are generally rendered in an image format such as PNG, GIF or JPEG, or occasionally as vector-based graphical elements in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) or Web Computer Graphics Metafile (WebCGM) formats.

The OneGeology team is currently working on a Web Feature Service for cross platform geographical query. BGS’s own online geological ‘DiGMapGB’ is served through GeoSciML as a web map service in the OneGeology.

BGS is also developing a GeoSciML interface to its GSI3D geological field mapping toolset—and on using the new protocol to transfer borehole information and digital terrain models. We will be reporting from the BGS’ GSI3D conference in next month’s Oil IT Journal. OneGeology went live in August 2008. More from www.onegeology.org and www.youtube.com/OneGeology.

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