The INSPIRE directive is a legal requirement within the European Union to publish spatial data in a way that makes it accessible, interoperable, and above all useful.
Many organisations, from large institutions to small municipalities, gather high-value geospatial data. Each of these organisations manages that data according to their own requirements, rather than to common specifications.
The data itself could be incredibly valuable to aid in disaster prevention and the fight against climate change. However, in its current structure is too difficult to access, find, and process.
INSPIRE is the open standard that allows us to bridge this gap.
Implementing INSPIRE goes beyond a one-off project. The infrastructure needs to be set up to support long-term operation.
The first step is to verify which datasets qualify for INSPIRE. Typically, a national contact point or other legally mandated organisation should be able to provide guidance in this matter, as certain requirements are regional.
Once the correct datasets have been identified, up-to-date descriptions and metadata need to be created and published.
Methods: Manual, Automated (e.g. with hale»connect)
Provide the data in its original file format (e.g. Shape files). At this stage the data does not need to comply to the INSPIRE data specifications, but does need to be accessible as a View- and Download Service.
Methods: Cloud/SaaS (hale»connect), on-premise solutions (e.g., GeoServer, deegree, hale»connect)
This is where the data harmonisation comes in. At this stage, the original data sets need to be transformed in order for them to become interoperable INSPIRE data sets.
Method: ETL tool (e.g., (hale»studio)
Provide the newly harmonised INSPIRE data sets, again ensuring that they are accessible as a View- and Download Service.
Method: Cloud/SaaS (hale»connect), on-premise solutions (e.g., deegree, hale»connect)
With the initial part of the project completed with the publishing of the INSPIRE data sets, this is where maintenance comes into the picture. Ensure that the data and metadata remain current and that the services comply with the QoS criteria as defined in the INSPIRE network services specifications.
Methods: On Premise, PaaS, Public Cloud (SaaS), GAIA-X (2022+)
Now that the INSPIRE data sets are accessible, users can provide feedback. Based on this feedback, the data can be made even more useful by adding more formats and by extending the scope of the data sets.
Methods: INSPIRE Extensions, building on what was chosen in earlier steps
It is impossible to claim that a single method of implementing INSPIRE is the best. Out of the options laid out on this page, some will suit one organisation better than the other. The “right way” will always depend on organisation-specific requirements and conditions
An organisation with a large, experienced IT team will have little effort picking and choosing between the various INSPIRE implementation methods and tools. Smaller teams may be lacking expertise and bandwidth, necessitating the contracting of external service providers.
It is always good to look at which data standards are already in place. Certain standards, such as the German XPlanung, are well-aligned with INSPIRE and make the implementation a lot easier.
Many organisations tend towards individual or heavily customised solutions to implement specific business processes. However, if all that needs to happen is the publishing of INSPIRE data sets, an off-the-shelf solution will work. If data models and infrastructure need to be customised and expanded upon, a more flexible setup may well make more sense.
Another important thing to consider when deciding between a ready-made solution or a custom one. Accessing the database backend or integrating SSO are common, whereas integration with deeper infrastructure such as existing workflow systems can be a lot more work and more suitable for a custom solution.
Depending on the domain in which the organisation operates, requirements such as the use of high precision, non-standard algorithms may lead to increasing implementation effort significantly.
Having to adhere to the INSPIRE Quality of Service requirements is a given, but depending on the organisation there may be national, regional or other international standards that could complicate an implementation.
As with any project, it is important to keep in mind how much use the final product will actually get and how likely it is to have to scale up in the future. With INSPIRE, this particularly hinges on the amount of data sets and users.
Deadlines are often a complicating factor, particularly in relation to the availability of people and resources. The more complex the integration, the more time and expertise it will take.
One advantage of out-of-the-box software is that the costs are transparent from the start. More customised solutions leave more room for surprises and will usually have a much steeper entry and maintenance fee.