OpenSearch - Simple formats to share environmental information
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ISSN der Zeitschrift
Integration of Environmental Information in Europe
Environmental Information Infrastructure
Data infrastructures and responsibilities of public authorities in Germany are still very heterogeneous. eGovernment initiatives to enhance technical and semantical interoperability between different data and information providers exist in some fields though, on the whole, public and private information systems for citizens and experts are still monolithic. Diverse data, formats, and information models are widely spread over all levels of public administration ranging from local authorities to federal states and government organisations. In the field of environmental information, new challenges for data publication and interchange arise from national and international regulations, particularly the EC Environmental Information Directive (2003/4/EC) and the EC INSPIRE directive (2007/2/EC). The former tempts with a very broad definition on what environmental information is and the public duties in terms of its publication. The latter challenges with very detailed obligations on how to set up a technical infrastructure to share digital spatial information, specifically environmental information. In Germany, PortalU and the technical infrastructure behind it is one approach to meet those challenges. A set of connectors, both open and proprietary, allow easy integration of web and data base contents in the PortalU information space. Open machine interfaces grant remote access to this information pool by external clients. For metadata, an OGC compliant catalog service (OGC 2007) provides access to environmental data described in catalogue systems. The interface is of particular importance in the INSPIRE context. However, the underlying data model is thick and complex and interoperability between different implementations of the ‘standard’ is still an issue in a technical as well as a semantical sense. OpenSearch defines a couple of simple formats which are well established in the web search community for the exchange of result sets. Through exclusive use of the http protocol, OpenSearch is robust and easily deployable even in restrictive security infrastructures. Recent PortalU software developments make use of OpenSearch technology. In our paper, we give a brief overview over the components and describe some first use cases.