Have you heard of ‘Linked Data’? It’s a computer science term that’s been buzzing around for about a decade, and while lots of people have heard of it, they’re still not entirely sure what it means. Linked Data is becoming increasingly important in the geospatial industry, so here are 5 things you should know about it…
Linked Data is data that has been published in a particular format
Linked Data is data that is structured in a way that enables computers to read it automatically and understand how different pieces of data ‘link’ to one another. So, not only can computers read Linked Data automatically, they can establish context about the data by understanding how it relates to other data.
Linked Data will enable your computer to more ‘thinking’ on your behalf
Because computers can gain a contextual understanding of Linked Data, they can process more complex queries and generate more useful output. In other words, Linked Data enables the computer to do more ‘thinking’ on your behalf.
Linked Data will make life easier
We have a lot to gain from making our data available as Linked Data, for example data will no longer be separate and static across the internet – instead all data will be connected. Data will be maintained at source and automatically updated across the network, so you’ll always have access to the most up-to-date version.
You must publish Linked Data using a set of best practice principles
To convert your data to Linked Data, you must ensure that every object in the dataset is identifiable, retrievable, and machine-readable. You can do this by following a set of best practice principles:
- To make it identifiable: Assign a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) to every conceptual thing in the dataset, e.g. cities, motorways, dwellings.
- To make it retrievable: Start the URI with the same letters that appear at the beginning of a web address, ‘HTTP’, so that each item can be ‘looked up’.
- To make it machine-readable: Provide further information about each object in the dataset (e.g. price, colour, time) using RDF (Resource Description Framework).
Learn more about the principles of Linked Data by attending the EFGS conference.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee said we should do this
The best practice principles outlined above were developed by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. This innovative computer scientist completely reframed the way we share information with his invention. Then, 20 years after inventing the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee said it was time for “a new reframing” of the way we share information by making our data available as Linked Data. In doing so, we will unlock the true potential of our data.
Governments are shifting towards Linked Data
Governments are encouraging the publication of Linked Data, for example the Irish national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey Ireland, recently joined forces with a research centre in Trinity College Dublin (ADAPT) and together they paved the way toward Linked Geospatial Data in Ireland.
Together they converted Irish geospatial data into Linked Data and made it available on a dedicated data platform. Then, they delivered Linked Data training seminars to various Irish government organisations, academic institutions, GIS professionals, and commercial bodies so that the data could be leveraged for enhanced decision making.
You can learn more about Linked Data at the EFGS
Berners-Lee invented a star rating for sharing data openly on the web. The highest star rating (5 star) is awarded when you “link your data to other data to provide context”, i.e. make it available in Linked Data format.
Ireland’s geospatial Linked Data has ‘5 Star Data’ status therefore learning about how this particular body work was carried in Ireland would be a good opportunity to learn more about Linked Data. At this year’s EFGS conference, Dr. Declan O Sullivan of the ADAPT Centre will be presenting how Irish geospatial data was made available as Linked Data and you can attend: request an invite to EFGS 2017
Register to attend this year’s EFGS conference here.