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DM-66 - Spatial Indexing

A spatial index is a data structure that allows for accessing a spatial object efficiently. It is a common technique used by spatial databases.  Without indexing, any search for a feature would require a "sequential scan" of every record in the database, resulting in much longer processing time. In a spatial index construction process, the minimum bounding rectangle serves as an object approximation. Various types of spatial indices across commercial and open-source databases yield measurable performance differences. Spatial indexing techniques are playing a central role in time-critical applications and the manipulation of spatial big data.

DM-62 - Database Administration

Organizations with a responsibility for maintaining large-scale, multi-user spatial databases often turn to server-based relational database management systems to achieve their goals.  The administration of such databases has many dimensions.  Industry standards in the areas of data storage and services should be researched and applied to ensure a sound, comprehensive database design as well as to promote interoperability with external entities.  Data validation tools should be implemented to improve the accuracy and efficiency of data maintenance activities.  Metadata should be maintained according to industry standards to protect the organization’s investment in data and to increase the likelihood of the data being located by clearinghouse and portal search tools.  Database security strategies can prevent unauthorized access to data and lessen the chances of data loss due to accidental data corruption.  Database performance should be monitored and strategies implemented to ensure that data can be retrieved from the system with acceptable response times.  Finally, trends in the field such as the increasing need to manage large volumes of data call for spatial database managers to be knowledgeable of non-relational data models as well, such as NoSQL data models.

DM-16 - Linear Referencing

Linear referencing is a term that encompasses a family of concepts and techniques for associating features with a spatial location along a network, rather than referencing those locations to a traditional spherical or planar coordinate system. Linear referencing is used when the location on the network, and the relationships to other locations on the network, are more significant than the location in 2D or 3D space. Linear referencing is commonly used in transportation applications, including roads, railways, and pipelines, although any network structure can be used as the basis for linearly referenced features. Several data models for storing linearly referenced data are available, and well-defined sets of procedures can be used to implement linear referencing for a particular application. As network analysis and network based statistical analysis become more prevalent across disciplines, linear referencing is likely to remain an important component of the data used for such analyses.

DM-90 - Hydrographic Geospatial Data Standards

Coastal nations, through their dedicated Hydrographic Offices (HOs), have the obligation to provide nautical charts for the waters of national jurisdiction in support of safe maritime navigation. Accurate and reliable charts are essential to seafarers whether for commerce, defense, fishing, or recreation. Since navigation can be an international activity, mariners often use charts published from different national HOs. Standardization of data collection and processing, chart feature generalization methods, text, symbology, and output validation becomes essential in providing mariners with consistent and uniform products regardless of the region or the producing nation. Besides navigation, nautical charts contain information about the seabed and the coastal environment useful in other domains such as dredging, oceanography, geology, coastal modelling, defense, and coastal zone management. The standardization of hydrographic and nautical charting activities is achieved through various publications issued by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). This chapter discusses the purpose and importance of nautical charts, the establishment and role of the IHO in coordinating HOs globally, the existing hydrographic geospatial data standards, as well as those under development based on the new S-100 Universal Hydrographic Data Model.

DM-03 - Relational DBMS and their Spatial Extensions

The relational Database Management System (DBMS) is widely used in modern business systems. Entities and relationships from a data model are presented as relational tables. To store data in a relational database, a relation schema should be defined to specify the design and structure of relations. The schema design generally uses database normalization to reduce data redundancy and maintain data integrity. Users can retrieve and manage data in a relational database using Structured Query Language (SQL). To make spatial data fit the relational model, spatial vector geometry or raster data type can be customized by extending basic data types in relational databases. This further helps derive the so-called spatial object-relational DBMS, by manipulating vector geometry and/or raster data types as spatial objects using SQL queries. The performance of queries is improved by adding spatial indexes in relational databases.

DM-07 - The Raster Data Model

The raster data model is a widely used method of storing geographic data. The model most commonly takes the form of a grid-like structure that holds values at regularly spaced intervals over the extent of the raster. Rasters are especially well suited for storing continuous data such as temperature and elevation values, but can hold discrete and categorical data such as land use as well.  The resolution of a raster is given in linear units (e.g., meters) or angular units (e.g., one arc second) and defines the extent along one side of the grid cell. High (or fine) resolution rasters have comparatively closer spacing and more grid cells than low (or coarse) resolution rasters, and require relatively more memory to store. Active research in the domain is oriented toward improving compression schemes and implementation for alternative cell shapes (such as hexagons), and better supporting multi-resolution raster storage and analysis functions.

DM-91 - Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure

Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI), the extension of terrestrial Spatial Data Infrastructure to the marine environment, is a type of cyberinfrastructure that facilitates the discovery, access, management, distribution, reuse, and preservation of hydrospatial data. MSDIs provide timely access to data from public and private organizations of marine related disciplines such as hydrography, oceanography, meteorology and maritime economic sectors, to be used for applications such as the safety of navigation, aquatic and marine activities, economic development, security and defence, scientific research, and marine ecosystems sustainability. This chapter discusses the main pillars of a MSDI, its importance for facilitating public processes such as Marine Spatial Planning and Coastal Zone Management, the wide range of stakeholders, implementation challenges, and future developments, such as the FAIR design principles, new data sources and services.

DM-36 - Physical Data Models

Constructs within a particular implementation of database management software guide the development of a physical data model, which is a product of a physical database design process. A physical data model documents how data are to be stored and accessed on storage media of computer hardware.  A physical data model is dependent on specific data types and indexing mechanisms used within database management system software.  Data types such as integers, reals, character strings, plus many others can lead to different storage structures. Indexing mechanisms such as region-trees and hash functions and others lead to differences in access performance.  Physical data modeling choices about data types and indexing mechanisms related to storage structures refine details of a physical database design. Data types associated with field, record and file storage structures together with the access mechanisms to those structures foster (constrain) performance of a database design. Since all software runs using an operating system, field, record, and file storage structures must be translated into operating system constructs to be implemented.  As such, all storage structures are contingent on the operating system and particular hardware that host data management software. 

DM-79 - U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure

Spatial data infrastructures may be thought of as socio-technical frameworks for coordinating the development, management, sharing and use of geospatial data across multiple organizational jurisdictions and varying geographic extents. The United States was an early adopter of the SDI concept and the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) is an example of a country-wide SDI implementation facilitated by coordination at the federal-government level. At the time of its establishment in the early 1990s, a unique characteristic of the NSDI was a mandate for federal agencies to establish partnerships with state- and local-level government. This entry summarizes the origins of the NSDI’s establishment, its original core components and how they’ve evolved over the last 25 years, the role of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), and the anticipated impact of passage of the Geospatial Data Act of 2018. For broader technical information about SDIs, readers are referred to GIST BoK Entry DM-60: Spatial Data Infrastructures (Hu and Li 2017). For additional details on the history of the NSDI, readers are referred to Rhind (1999). For the latest information on recent and emerging NSDI initiatives, please visit the FGDC web site (  

DM-71 - Geospatial Data Conflation

Spatial data conflation is the process of combining overlapping spatial datasets to produce a better dataset with higher accuracy or more information. Conflation is needed in many fields, ranging from transportation planning to the analysis of historical datasets, which require the use of multiple data sources. Geospatial data conflation becomes increasingly important with the advancement of GIS and the emergence of new sources of spatial data such as Volunteered Geographic Information.

Conceptually, conflation is a two-step process involving identifying counterpart features that correspond to the same object in reality, and merging the geometry and attributes of counterpart features. In practice, conflation can be performed either manually or with the aid of GIS with varying degrees of automation. Manual conflation is labor-intensive, time consuming and expensive. It is often adopted in practice, nonetheless, due to the lack of reliable automatic conflation methods.

A main challenge of automatic conflation lies in the automatic matching of corresponding features, due to the varying quality and different representations of map data. Many (semi-)automatic feature methods exist. They typically involve measuring the distance between each feature pair and trying to match feature pairs with smaller dissimilarity using a specially designed algorithm or model. Fully automated conflation is still an active research field.