Publication Date: 2021-05-27

Approval Date: 2021-03-30

Submission Date: 2021-03-05

Reference number of this document: OGC 21-013

Reference URL for this document:

Category: OGC Public Engineering Report

Editor: Robert Thomas, Josh Lieberman

Title: Modernizing SDI: Enabling Data Interoperability for Regional Assessments and Cumulative Effects CDS

OGC Public Engineering Report


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This document is not an OGC Standard. This document is an OGC Public Engineering Report created as a deliverable in an OGC Interoperability Initiative and is not an official position of the OGC membership. It is distributed for review and comment. It is subject to change without notice and may not be referred to as an OGC Standard. Further, any OGC Public Engineering Report should not be referenced as required or mandatory technology in procurements. However, the discussions in this document could very well lead to the definition of an OGC Standard.


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Table of Contents

1. Abstract

Report: Modernizing SDI: Enabling Data Interoperability for Regional Assessments and Cumulative Effects

OGC Modernizing SDI Concept Development Study (CDS)

by OGC

This engineering report (ER) presents the results of a Concept Development Study (CDS) on Modernizing Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, executed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The focus of this study was to understand how to best support the modernization of SDI(s) by enabling increased data interoperability for Regional Assessments (RA) and Cumulative Effects (CE), to advance the understanding of stakeholder issues, and serve stakeholders’ needs in these contexts. The study was completed through stakeholder engagements including an open Request for Information (RFI) that gathered external international positions and opinions on the optimal setup and design of a modernized SDI. In addition, a stakeholder Modernizing SDI Workshop was also employed providing in depth information on requirements and issues related to stakeholders, architecture, data, and standards of current and future SDI.

The RFI and workshop also gathered information and provided insight on the current state of SDIs to better support governments, agencies, non-governmental organizations and citizens, unlocking the full societal and economic potential of the wealth of data at national, regional and/or local levels.

The ER presents an analysis of the RFI and Modernizing SDI Workshop responses and interactions, providing in-depth information on requirements and issues related to stakeholders, architecture, data, standards of current and possible future SDI modernization. All RFI and workshop responses will contribute to SDI modernization efforts moving forward and help to assess interoperability, availability and usability of geospatial Web services and tools across different types of spatial data uses. In addition, the report identifies gaps, and defines core components of a possible future SDI.

The outflow of this report may be used to help define reference use-cases and scenarios for possible future research and follow-on OGC Innovation Program activities.

2. Executive Summary

Multiple jurisdictions across expansive regions are spending increasing time and resources to assist communities and citizens to analyze environmental data and their associated cumulative effects.

Cumulative Effects (CE) are defined as changes to the environment, health, social and economic factors caused by multiple interactions between human activities and natural processes that accumulate across space and time. The analysis of CE has become increasingly necessary to predict and possibly mitigate effects of climate change and natural or human-induced disasters.

In Canada, approval of major development projects now requires an impact assessment that analyzes all possible CE that could impact the environment and the people who live and work in it, both over time and in combination with other existing or future projects.

The current objective is to determine what can be done to modernize current spatial data infrastructure (SDI) to better serve stakeholders involved in CE analysis.

This concept development study (CDS) seeks to specifically identify emerging standards-based solutions and overall recommendations that can better enable an SDI to provide increased data interoperability of key environmental data. The CDS evaluates the current state of spatial data infrastructures, assesses the availability and interoperability of geospatial data across various regions and explores practical means to achieve an improved SDI with efficient geospatial data interoperability.

Business Value

The establishment of a modernized SDI is expected to offer the following benefits when implemented:

  • Users will have easy access to relevant and updated geographic and thematic information covering the entire region of interest;

  • Improved information management practices through the adoption of commonly accepted policies and technical standards;

  • Improved accessibility of SDI across borders, thereby allowing for cross-border solutions to be established to solve shared regional problems;

  • A distributed infrastructure consisting of interlinked servers offering high quality geospatial data.

To realize these benefits, it is necessary to maintain an understanding of the users, their needs and their roles in the overall picture of relevant stakeholders.

This engineering report is important because it advances understanding of the use cases and architecture from which the aforementioned benefits will be derived.

2.1. Concept Development Study Overview

This CDS seeks to specifically identify standards-based solutions for SDIs that enable data interoperability of key environmental data, from multiple jurisdictions, using emerging Internet-based technology like machine-learning/reasoning, data fabrics, data lakes, cloud services, OpenAPIs, and other evolving standards, technologies and tools. This was accomplished through the use of:

  • A Request for Information (RFI) that was widely distributed to the geospatial community.

  • An intensive Modernizing SDI Workshop that collected input from subject matter experts. A stakeholder workshop summary is included as Appendix A.

  • Secondary research of other recent, relevant material.

2.1.1. Scope:

The scope of this CDS includes:

  • Characterizing the current state of SDIs and their use of current or emerging standards and advanced technology to enable data interoperability, and understanding current gaps and challenges;

  • Assessing the availability and interoperability of geospatial data across various regions or jurisdictions, specifically those needed for regional environmental assessments or CE analysis, as well as the technologies and services currently leveraged;

  • Exploring and articulating practical means to achieve modernized, intelligent, inferential, machine-driven solutions that support and enable improved, efficient geospatial data interoperability.

2.2. The Issue and Objective

In CE analysis, data is sourced from a range of jurisdictions, governments, sectors, domains, over time, and social/community contexts. The primary question or issue for a modernized SDI in this context is:

How can an ocean of environmental, foundational/framework, biological, socio economic and other data, from multiple different sources, collected over time, and with varying levels of standardization, be readily consumed and integrated by scientists and citizens alike?

— Natural Resources Canada
Government of Canada

The overall objective of this CDS is to consult the community and inform federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations/Indigenous stakeholders, concerned with cumulative effects and regional assessments, how best to establish consensus and implement common, open standards-based, approaches that leverage emerging technological capabilities, leading to new levels of digital geospatial data interoperability. Consultation outcomes will provide insight into what is required to implement a modern SDI to best meet stakeholder needs in the CE context.

2.3. Key Conclusions and Recommendations

In addition to secondary research, an RFI, and a Modernizing SDI Workshop were used to collect the views of the SDI community to provide for future SDI modernization with a focus on CE, governance and future directions.

These key conclusions and recommendations are summarized below. A more comprehensive description and list is presented in Chapter 10, Conclusions and Recommendations.

  • For any modernization of an SDI to be considered successful, “FAIR” guiding principles should be adopted (i.e., Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable).

  • Coordination of SDI modernization related activities, and collaboration among the various organizations involved, is a critical success factor for an SDI modernization effort.

  • An SDI modernization should be community-driven, fostering links across existing data initiatives, and gaining commitment and support from local, regional, Indigenous, national and international governments and umbrella organizations.

  • From the CDS needs analysis, five high level, overarching requirements can be applied to any SDI modernization. A modernized SDI should:

    1. Foster data integrity and provide stakeholders with security-based, appropriate access to the spatial data they need. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

    2. Allow access of data on a variety of devices and platforms including mobile, e.g., smartphones and tablets.

    3. Allow different stakeholders, at different locations, to access the SDI.

    4. Allow for data exchange in an interoperable, appropriate, efficient and secure way that respects the rights of data owners (e.g., the First Nations principles of OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession)).

    5. Require the continued and increasing use of OGC and other open standards to achieve the four requirements listed previously.

  • The modernized SDI Reference Architecture must find the right balance between being prescriptive while remaining agile to allow for easy integration of upcoming technologies.

  • The increased use of OGC Application Programming Interface (API) Standards is recommended for any SDI modernization effort. The OGC API family of standards makes it easy for organizations to provide geospatial data to the web. This may aid in more effective discovery and distribution of geospatial information.

  • Machine Learning and Cloud Services may be leveraged against data mined from web services, Open APIs, and other sources, to provide valuable solutions in resolving interoperability challenges.

  • Improved Geospatial/Health integration maybe possible using improved analytics to bring together digital health records and health trends with geospatial data (e.g. clusters, hot spots, etc.).

  • Outreach and awareness activities will help attract new stakeholders and raise awareness of the importance of modernizing an SDI among stakeholders already involved or at least aware of the relevance of an SDI modernization.

These conclusions and recommendations listed here may provide a focus for a future modernized SDI and a possible pilot initiative following the CDS. Additional conclusions and recommendations and analysis are presented in Chapter 10.

2.3.1. Future Work

Building on this CDS and the conclusions and recommendations for future SDI development, e.g., pilot actions, the OGC will produce a strategy to achieve this goal. As an ongoing activity, the OGC will seek the support from potential sponsors and the community by building a communications strategy to inform SDI modernization developments. The conclusions and recommendations should not be regarded as a definitive list. Instead, these conclusions may provide a focus for a future modernized SDI and a possible pilot initiative following the CDS.

2.4. Document Contributor Contact Points

All questions regarding this document should be directed to the editor or the contributors:


Name Organization Role

Robert Thomas



Dr. Josh Lieberman



2.5. Foreword

Attention is drawn to the possibility that some of the elements of this document may be the subject of patent rights. The Open Geospatial Consortium shall not be held responsible for identifying any or all such patent rights.

Recipients of this document are requested to submit, with their comments, notification of any relevant patent claims or other intellectual property rights of which they may be aware that might be infringed by any implementation of the standard set forth in this document, and to provide supporting documentation.

3. Acknowledgements

The OGC expresses its gratefulness to the sponsor of this Concept Development Study: Natural Resources Canada.

The OGC further wishes to express its gratitude to all workshop panelists and participants (Appendix A) and to the following companies and organizations that provided excellent contributions in responding to the formal Request for Information that provide key content for this OGC Engineering Report.[1]

Table 1. Organizations and companies contributing to this report

Natural Resources Canada (Sponsor)

Arctic Institute of North America

Arctic SDI

CRIM, Computer Research Institute of Montreal (Canada)

CubeWerx (Canada)

Cyient Limited (India)

DFO – Flood Observatory, at the University of Colorado (USA)

Ecere (Canada)

Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment and Climate Change Canada) (INSPIRE)

Esri Canada (Canada)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Canada)

GeoCat (Netherlands)

Government of Alberta (Canada)

Government of Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment

Cumulative Impacts and Science (Canada)

Geomatys (France)

Health Solutions Research (HSR) (USA)

JRC (European Commission)

KU Leuven Be: Public Governance Institute (Belgium)

Meteorological Service of Canada (Environment and Climate Change Canada)

Natural Resources Canada (GeoConnections)

Netherlands’ Kadaster Land Registry and Mapping Agency (Netherlands)

Nunatsiavut Government (Canada)

PatternedScience (Canada)

SensorUp (Canada)

Skymantics Europe, SL (Spain)

United Kingdom Hydrographic Office

United States Geological Survey

4. Overview

This report presents the results of a concept development study on modernizing Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) that enables data interoperability for Cumulative Effects (CE), sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, and executed by the Open Geospatial Consortium. The focus of this study was to understand how to best support the modernization of an SDI as related to CE analysis and how to make existing SDI implementations better serve stakeholders’ needs.

The study included an open Request for Information (RFI) and a Stakeholder Modernizing SDI Workshop (Appendix A) that gathered external positions and opinions on:

  • the current state of SDIs,

  • the availability and interoperability of geospatial data, and

  • solutions that support and enable improved, efficient geospatial data interoperability.

A complete list of questions contained in the RFI are included as Appendix B.

The report begins with a background (Chapter 5) on the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) and continues with a description of the Federal Geospatial Platform, the Open Science and Data Platform for Cumulative Effects, Data Interoperability and Environmental Data. Responses to this RFI and workshop (Appendix A) have been integrated into this report and are examined in more detail (Chapter 6). This report discusses the various classes and types of stakeholders of an SDI examining their specific needs (Chapter 7) and then looks into currently used and emerging standards within current SDIs (Chapter 8). The report then discusses possible SDI architecture models, data, standards and interoperability leading to an interoperability reference architecture based on RFI responses and workshop (Chapter 9). The report concludes with conclusions and recommendations (Chapter 10).

Organization managing the CDS

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international consortium of more than 500 companies, government agencies, research organizations, and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available geospatial standards. OGC standards support interoperable solutions that "geo-enable" the Web, wireless and location-based services, and mainstream IT. OGC standards empower technology developers to make geospatial information and services accessible and useful with any application that needs to be geospatially enabled.


Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) seeks to enhance the responsible development and use of Canada’s natural resources and the competitiveness of Canada’s natural resources products. NRCan is an established leader in science and technology in the fields of energy, forests, and minerals and metals and use our expertise in earth sciences to build and maintain an up-to-date knowledge base of our landmass. NRCan develops policies and programs that enhance the contribution of the natural resources sector to the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

5. Background

This Engineering Report (ER) is a component of an OGC Concept Development Study (CDS) and a possible Interoperability Pilot with the goal of assembling ideas, technologies, and practices that may enable federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations/Indigenous partners concerned with cumulative effects and regional assessments to establish inter-jurisdictional consensus and implement common, open standards-based approaches that leverage emerging technological capabilities, leading to new levels of digital data interoperability.

To fully understand the scope and components of interest of this study, and its Canadian context, background and definitions are provided in the following sections.

5.1. The Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI)

Canada’s SDI, referred to as the CGDI, is the relevant base collection of standards, policies, applications, and governance that facilitate the access, use, integration, and preservation of spatial data.

GeoConnections is a national program with the mandate and responsibility to lead the CGDI through a baseline of consensus-based, internationally accepted standards-based technologies and operational policies for data sharing and integration.

5.2. The Federal Geospatial Platform

The Federal Geospatial Platform (FGP) is an initiative of the Government of Canada’s Federal Committee on Geomatics and Earth Observations (FCGEO), a committee of senior executives from 21 federal departments and agencies that are producers, consumers or stakeholders in activities, requirements and infrastructure related to geomatics. In 2017, the FCGEO community acted on an opportunity for federal departments and agencies to manage geospatial information assets in a more efficient and coordinated way by using a common “platform” of technical infrastructure, policies, standards and governance. The FGP fully leverages the standards, standards-based technologies and operational policies endorsed by the CGDI.

The FGP’s primary mission is to “Geo-enable the Canadian Federal Government”. The FGP intranet site provides a collaborative online environment where federal government employees can easily share, find, view and analyze the Government of Canada’s authoritative geospatial data holdings to support informed and insightful decisions and policy-making, and ultimately provide better service for Canadians. Overall, the FGP provides an enabling infrastructure to the public service and to Canadians, for access, visualization and analysis of trusted geospatial data, services and applications.

Under the basic premise, “build it once, use it many times,” the FGP leverages coordination efforts and utilizes best practices, new technologies, and open standards to provide more accessible data and services while realizing efficiencies through shared, cloud-enabled infrastructure and economies of scale. This approach allows FGP to supply its data and services to other government initiatives. The FGP makes all federal open geospatial metadata and web services available to Canada’s Open Government Portal - Open Maps. The FGP will also underpin the Open Science and Data Platform for Cumulative Effects.

5.3. The Open Science and Data Platform for Cumulative Effects

NRCan and Environment and Climate Change Canada have co-developed and launched the Open Science and Data Platform (OSDP) for Cumulative Effects. The FGP is a primary delivery partner for the OSDP initiative, with responsibility for making geospatial technologies, federal, provincial and territorial geospatial data and web services needed for CE analysis available to the OSDP.

The OSDP provides Canadians a single point of access to environmental data and scientific information that can be used to understand the CE of human activities. By looking at science, environmental data and information about development activities across the country, we can learn about potential impacts to support better decisions in the future. The scope of data and information planned for release through the OSDP highlights a critical need to collaborate with all partners towards greater data interoperability.

Figure 1 shows how the OSDP and its companions FGP and Open Maps integrate into and leverage the CGDI.

Figure 1. Relationships between the OSDP, FGP, Open Maps, and the CGDI (Source: Natural Resources Canada)

5.4. Data Interoperability

Data interoperability is generally defined as the ability for data held in one system to be compatible with other data products or systems and thus able to be integrated with other datasets across a number of different systems or analytical products. Data interoperability can be achieved by optimizing both the usability and reusability of data through the use of open standards.

5.5. Focus on Environmental Data

This CDS will focus research and discussion on the use case of geospatial data typically required for environmental Regional Assessments (RA) and/or CE analyses. NRCan’s current commitment to providing essential geospatial data via the FGP, to support initiatives such as the OSDP, is driving this context.

Additionally, the broad scope of geospatial data requirements for RA/CE, as well as climate change studies and science, make this use case particularly and widely applicable to many stakeholders.

The scope of data needed for RA or CE analysis confirms a critical need to collaborate with all partners towards greater data interoperability. An example of the wide variety and quantity of data required for a RA and CE analysis is demonstrated by the recently completed “Regional Assessment of Offshore Oil and Gas Exploratory Drilling East of Newfoundland and Labrador”. This assessment included the following data categories:

  • Boundaries and Basemaps - National/International boundaries, offshore areas, leases, etc.

  • Physical Environment - Bathymetry, Atmospheric Light

  • Biological Environment - Fish and Fish Habitat, Marine Birds, Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles, Special Areas

  • Socioeconomic Environment - Marine Fisheries including Domestic and International Commercial Fish Landings and Locations, Aquaculture Facilities, Indigenous Communities and Lands, Petroleum-related Activity, Shipwrecks and Legacy Sites, Other Marine Infrastructure (cables, etc.)

Other geospatial data commonly used in Regional Assessments and Cumulative Effects processes can include:

  • Data related to development activities,

  • Data on valued environmental components (VEC’s),

  • Data that describe environmental management frameworks,

  • Data drawn from Indigenous or traditional knowledge

A more comprehensive list is shown in Figure 2.