Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Australian National Environmental Information Infrastructure pilot

 LISAsoft has recently supported the Australian Bureau of Meteorology set up a National Environmental Information Infrastructure pilot.
The natural environment plays an important role in Australia’s economy and way of life. To manage it effectively, governments, industry and the community need comprehensive, trusted and timely environmental information to make sound environmental decisions. To support this need, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau) is leading the National Plan for Environmental Information initiative that will deliver improved quality, coverage, usability and access to environmental information. As one element of the initiative LISAsoft has supported the Bureau in piloting parts of a National Environmental Information Infrastructure (NEII).  This pilot has demonstrated the process of modelling and publication of environmental information from atmosphere, ocean, land and water domains.

There are multiple challenges involved in achieving an effective infrastructure. First, the source data, which is continuously updated by multiple agencies, needs to be dynamically collated into aggregated datasets to facilitate macro analysis. This requires development and agreement upon standard data formats, processes and tools which source agencies can use to publish the source data. Once aggregated, the data requires distribution and publishing in a manner that can easily be accessed and manipulated by end users. This requires a robust and reliable publishing infrastructure, built upon standard interfaces, which can be used easily and efficiently by existing or provided tools. Furthermore, the infrastructure developed needs to be both feasible and sustainable. As such, the Bureau has selected a distributed design, based upon OGC standards based services and formats.
This early NEII pilot has focused on the development of standard information models, and a reference implementation of a source data node. LISAsoft has helped the Bureau by:
  • Consulting on and documenting the NEII architecture design.
  • Defining some of the information models required.
  • Developing pilot implementations of an NEII node. The NEII node publishes data via a Web Feature Service (WFS) interface using the GeoServer spatial data server.  GeoServer has been the target of recent CSIRO development efforts to create a service capable of supporting the complexity of data models required for projects such as NEII.
  • Configuring a web based catalogue which can be used to find datasets. This is based upon the Catalogue Service for the Web (CSW) interface, and implemented using the Open Source GeoNetwork application.
  • Testing of the conformance of the services within the pilot.
To support the Bureau, LISAsoft has drawn upon years of relevant experience, including:
  • Domain Modelling during international, OGC standards development testbeds
  • Co-authoring a Domain Modelling Cookbook with CSIRO
  • Testing conformance of Web Feature Services in both Australian Spatial Data Infrastructures as well as in OGC testbeds.
  • Deploying, configuring and optimising GeoServer for multiple projects.
The NEII pilot has completed successfully and has validated the feasibility of the proposed design, and provided valuable feedback into the practicality of the approach and tools. These valuable lessons will be fed into the greater National Plan for Environmental Information initiative.