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Portugal and Spain twin SDI’s

From national projects to an Iberian SDI

Rui Pedro Julião1, Sebastian Mas Mayoral2, Antonio Rodriguez Pascual3, Danilo
Instituto Geográfico Português (IGP), rpj@igeo.pt
Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), smas@fomento.es
Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), afrodriguez@fomento.es
Instituto Geográfico Português (IGP), dfurtado@igeo.pt

Portugal was one of the pioneer countries on SDI conceptual and operational
developments and Spain is at present one of the most active countries on this type of
Both countries are very actively involved in developing their own National SDI,
focusing, like every nation, on meeting INSPIRE requirements and national needs.
However, there is a common vision assumed by IGN and IGP, that a SDI cannot be
developed considering only the European and national needs. There is a natural
obligation to work together with the neighboring countries, shaping policies,
coordinating activities and implementing tools jointly.
According to the principles mentioned above, and based on several actions, in this
paper it will be described how Portugal and Spain are moving from two successful
SDIs to a new concept of fully integrated Iberian SDI.

Keywords: IDEE, SNIG, guidelines


1.1 Portuguese National SDI

SNIG is the Portuguese Spatial Data Infrastructure, launched on the Internet in

May 1995, which enables users to identify, visualise and explore Geographic
Information accessible by a geoportal (http://snig.igeo.pt). It is also an area of contact
that allows articulate and organizes activities related to this subject in Portugal and in
the European directive INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe).

The Portuguese geoportal has the following implemented components:

- Catalogue
- Viewer
- Applications
- Geocommunity

Through these four main components of SNIG, the user has public and free
access data, applications and services about Portuguese spatial data.

Our metadata catalogue has more those 10 000 records about data, data
services and applications. These records are increasing every day, mainly due to the
creation of a specific tool (ISO and OGC compliant) to support metadata production
called MIG Editor. The MIG Editor is a geographical metadata editor that implements
a subset of the 19115, 19119 and 19139 ISO formats, based in the Portuguese
Metadata Profile and INSPIRE requirements. The new version of MIG editor was
entirely developed using Java 6 technology, relying on the Swing toolkit for
presentation components. This made multiple operating system integration possible,

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so each user can edit their metadata in virtually any java virtual machine
implementation such as Windows, Linux or even Mac OS X!

The Catalogue interface enables users to create a set of multi-options queries. It

is possible to select based on free text, keywords, temporal and spatial frames, and
also geographic names using a detailed gazetteer.

The Map Viewer provided data visualization for all SNIG data services and also
other providers, as long as they support OGC standards like Web Map Service
(WMS), Web Feature Service (WFS) and Web Coverage Service (WCS). SNIG is
currently delivering several OGC Web Services (WMS and WFS), most of them
provided by IGP, like CAOP (Official Administrative Boundaries Map), CRIF (Fire
Risk Assessment Map), Atlas (a set of maps produced for the Atlas of Portugal),
MDT50m (Digital Elevation Model with 50 meters pixel), RGN (Portuguese Geodetic
Network) and SC500k (National Cartographic Series at 1:500 000).

Figure 1: SNIG geoportal

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In Applications area users can search the catalogue applications that provide
national thematic interactive maps, geoprocessing tools or free software (such as
MIG Editor or m@pas on-line service).

The Geocommunity space is the meeting point for users and knowledge
exchange, namely at Forum SNIG, as well as the entrance for some specific thematic
networks, like RISE (Risk Network) or RGN (Geodetic Network) and SNIG Education.

Training in Metadata Editor (MIG) and OGC web services is one of the priority
areas to support all public organisations that wish to create metadata or implement
OGC Web Services.
1.2 Spanish National SDI

On the other hand, the geoportal of the Spanish National SDI (www.idee.es) was
opened in July 2004, to provide a basis for spatial data discovery, evaluation, and
analysis oriented to all kind of users and providers, taking into account the three
levels of Spanish government (national, regional and local), the private sector,
academia and citizens in general.

Nowadays, a set of nine different services following OGC specifications, ISO

standards and INSPIRE principles has been implemented in the national node:
WMS, CSW, Gaz, WFS, WCS, WMC, SLD, WCTS and WPS. The IDEE viewer
allows to access to more than 450 Web Map Services and 6 000 layers. Through the
national Geoportal is possible to access other Spanish SDI geoportals, to consult
documentation about the project, and a new approach is being implemented to offer
client applications to access to the whole set of available services in all the nodes
integrated in Spanish NSDI.

From the organizational point of view, the National Geographic High Council
(NGHC), and advisory body with representatives of all has defined in 2004 the
Working Group for the IDEE (WG IDEE), open to all actors involved from public
sector, private sector and Universities. It has more than 300 individual members and
more than 100 organizations, holds three meetings per year and one annual SDI
Workshop. Its main objectives are: to share experience and knowledge in the area of
SDIs; to define technical recommendations based on consensus.

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Figure 2: IDEE Geoportal

The legal framework defined by INSPIRE Directive 2007/2/CE is complemented

by R.D. 1545/2007, defining a new composition and role for the NGHC. There are
different initiatives to legislate on SDIs at Regional level; three Regions (Cataluña,
Andalucía and Castilla y León) have approved their specific laws establishing
Regional SDIs. To complete the framework, the text of the Spanish law transposing
INSPIRE Directive is finished from the technical point of view, it has been agreed in
WG IDEE and it is expected to be approved during 2009.


There is a common vision assumed by IGN and IGP, that a SDI cannot be
developed considering only the European and national needs. There is a natural
obligation to work together with the neighbouring countries, shaping policies,
coordinating activities and implementing tools jointly.
An SDI has always a global character and international aspects need to be
If an SDI can be considered as a set of interoperable and standardized geospatial
resources supported by an organized community of actors, opened via Internet to a
global arena, it is clear that an SDI cannot be restricted to a single and isolated
The natural tendency of such type of infrastructures is to overflow national
boundaries to constitute a sort of virtual international SDI integrated by the set of
available resources implemented in several countries.

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We think horizontal collaboration and harmonization among SDIs in Europe is
very important to contribute to the strength and cohesion of the European SDI
defined by INSPIRE, to spread good practices, to create links between the different
communities of national stakeholders, and to enhance interoperability among
different projects.
In this sense, the experience of collaboration between National SDI of Spain and
Portugal is that it is possible to have a relevant level of mutual integration based only
in a good spirit of collaboration, a background of technical cooperation of the two
bodies responsible for the coordination of NSDI in both countries, IGN and IGP, an
open mind to think not only in domestic requirements and a very few informal
agreements to work in coordination.
One of the benefits of this kind of collaborative approach is that it gives the
opportunity of testing technical and organizational solutions in different contexts.
As a result of this common vision both NSDI, SNIG and IDEE, have been
collaborating from 2007 progressing in the direction of having a virtual Iberian SDI,
based on the interoperability of the Spanish and Portuguese initiatives.


Interoperability is defined as the ability of a system to provide information sharing

and inter-application co-operative process control (EN ISO 19101:2003 Reference
Model), or in other words, the possibility for spatial data sets to be combined, and for
services to interact, without repetitive manual intervention (Directive 2007/2/EC).

In order to describe and plan the interoperability of SNIG and IDEE it would be
convenient to take into account some of the available interoperability models defining
some levels as independent and different categories of aspects and factors
determining interoperability.

The levels of interoperability considered in the Metadata Based Interoperability

Model (MBIM) (M. A. Manso and others, 2007), which has been defined as a
synthesis of the main and more known models of interoperability, are:

I) Technical Interoperability (TI), taking into account the interchange of data and
messages by mean of protocols at the lowest level, at level of bits.

II) Syntactic Interoperability (SNI), dealing with the available standardized format
to interchange data and messages (XML, JPEG, PNG, GIF,).

III) Semantic Interoperability (SMI), allows the interchange of information using

common and standardised vocabularies, terms and definitions to have a common
understanding of the data and messages interchanged.

IV) Pragmatic Interoperability (PI), making possible that systems can exploit and
use other system services (services metadata and specifications).

V) Dynamic Interoperability (DI), focused on the ability of systems to react to

errors and miscommunication in a dynamic way.

VI) Conceptual Interoperability (CI), covering all the aspects needed to know and
reproduce the functionality of system, normally based on engineering standard
descriptions (UML schemas, CASE tools, DescribeFeatureType operation).

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VII) Organizational Interoperability (OI), considering the business objectives,
business model, data and services policy, legal framework, organizational structure
and others aspects related.

Technical Interoperability is covered by W3C standards and protocols; Syntactic,

Semantic and Conceptual Interoperability are considered by ISO 19100 standards
and INSPIRE Implementing Rules, but there is some room for transborder
harmonization and coordination in some practical aspects; Dynamic Interoperability
aspects are faced in practical implementations and is included as a key-issue in
choreography and orchestration of services (WS-BPEL, RestFUL and other

Pragmatic and Organizational Interoperability are the two main levels where
some significant progress can be made as far as they are not directly addressed by
INSPIRE Implementing Rules because they includes a lot of practical issues that
need to be managed by ad hoc specific actions.

Splitting the mentioned levels, a set of practical and concrete sublevels can be
described when dealing with interoperability between two NSDIs, followed by a short
description of the interoperability actions executed or planned:

0) Collaboration, covering all aspects related to the sharing of experiences,

knowledge and good practices between both communities of technicians and
decision-makers, at technical level as well as organizational level.
- In this sense, there is an excellent collaborative atmosphere and there have
been a lot of contacts and actions of consultancy and interchange of information. A
very active cross participation has been taken place at several national workshop,
seminars and events in Spain and Portugal.
- A representation of Portuguese SDI has been integrated into the WG for the
Spanish SDI (WG IDEE) and this WG is opened to all Portuguese actors.
- We have celebrated a WG IDEE meeting in Lisbon (February 2009) combined
with an SDINet + Workshop to share experiences and good lessons learnt in
implementing SDIs in both countries.
- The Spanish national annual event in this field, the Spanish IDE Workshop
(JIDEE for Jornadas de la Infraestructura de Datos Espaciales de España) has been
redefined as an Iberian Workshop on SDIs (JIIDE for Jornadas Ibéricas de
Infraestructuras de Datos Espaciales) and it is going to be held two years in Spain
and the third year in Portugal.

1) Interoperability of national geoportals, including all actions and adaptations in

the contents of the geoportals static web pages, done in order to allow and easier
their usage by users from the other country.
- There is a version of each geoportal in the other country language, and all the
contents has been translated and checked in collaboration with the other part.
- Crossed links has been included in the two geoportals for the services,
resources, geoportals and projects of the other part.
- A banner has been included in both cases to have a more direct and visible link
to the other geoportal.
In future, news and events are going to be interchanged via RSS.

2) Transborder SDI projects:

2.1) OTALEX (www.otalex.eu), the Territorial Observatory of ALenteixo (Portugal)

and Extremadura (Spain), defined as a transnational, multilingual SDI based on the
collaboraton of ten public bodies from Spain and Portugal.

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Figure 3: OTALEX Geoportal

2.2) SIGN II (www.proyectosign.org), an SDI project involving seven partners

and covering the are of 56 municipalities from Galiza and the Norhern part of

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Figure 4: SIGN II Geoportal

2.3) Terra Douro (www.sitcyl.jcyl.es/sitcyl/infodloc.sit), a transborder territorial

observatory for the definition and evaluation of policies of sustainable developement,
defined as an SDI project, involving seven partners and covering the area of 4 NUTS
III, Salamanca and Zamora in Spain, and Alto Trás-Os-Montes and Douro in

The three projects have been developed under the umbrella of INTERREG III A

3) Client applications interoperability, allows the exploitation of services of a NSDI

for the users community of the other part in combination of their own resources.
- Translation of the client applications running in both sites, devoting special
attention in first place to WMS, CSW and Gaz clients.
- Configuration of the WMS client (viewer) to have a non-limited extent to cover
both countries and to have the WMS of the other part included by default as available
- We plan during 2009 and 2010 to experiment and check the two available free
software clients for multiple Catalogue and Gazetteer services. The first one, named
Catalogue Connector, has been developed by IDEC technical team, leaded by Victor
Pascual. It is able to make the same standard petition to a set of previously
registered Catalogue services, independently of the standard they are using. The
second one is being developed by Zaragoza University and it is an application able to
query at the same time several gazetteer services conformant to WFS-MNE, WFS-G
and others.

Figure 5: Portuguese and Spanish WMS in snig viewer

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4) Transborder Services implementation, specially: Web Coordinate
Transformation Services transforming coordinates among the official Spatial
Reference Systems and the most commonly ones used in Spain and Portugal; and
transborder Web Map Services made of national WMS by integration of the services
in one unique service..

5) Data harmonization further than INSPIRE Implementing Rules conformance,

specially geometric and semantic edge matching at large scales, Feature Catalogues
mapping and multilingual metadata implementation.

6) Metadata harmonization, including multilinguism, national metadata profiles

harmonization, adoption of common criteria and guidelines to document resources.
All this actions can be applied for data as well as services metadata.

7) Services harmonization, to offer two similar sets of services, including as far as

possible the same type of services at both sides of the border to be chained and
used to create added-value services.

8) Business models interoperability, which is now sensibly solved as far as we

think that INSPIRE Directive spirit and SDI philosophy are compatible with most data
policy. Nevertheless, there are some very interesting points to be solved: how to deal
with different data licenses and make them compatible for specific transborder use
cases; the harmonization of measures related to DRM,

Figure 5: Portuguese and Spanish WMS in IDEE viewer


Spanish and Portuguese NSDI has performed some actions to be actually

interoperable in the four first levels described, technical and organizational

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collaboration, Geoportal interoperability, transborder projects and clients

We have the intention of collaborate and get results in the other levels during next

All those actions and initiatives have been performed without signing a formal
collaboration agreement and without any specific budget assigned to them, but in an
excellent collaborative atmosphere of good spirit of cooperation and sharing

Therefore, the result is a virtual Iberian SDI integrated by a set of integrated

standard services supported by a transnational community that share experiences,
knowledge and information.

We think the Portuguese-Spanish environment can be considered a good testbed

for study how INSPIRE principles can be put in practice regarding NSDI pragmatic
and organizational interoperability, to test different solutions, identify problems and
find further interoperability requirements.

It is clear for us that a SDI must not be limited in any way to an isolated country,
because it would imply a strong contradiction: to apply open system philosophy to
digital resources, and not paying enough attention at the same time to the practical
barriers precluding the effective exploitation of those services in an international

We think that more attention need to be paid to NSDI interoperability because

horizontal interoperability can be play the role of the glue that create cohesion and
makes possible the effective virtual Global SDI.


Rodríguez, A., Mas, S., Abad, P., Alonso, J. A., and Sánchez, (2008) “IDEE:
Towards a National IDEEv2.0 Offering GIS Functionality on the Web“
Proceedings GSDI 2008,St. Augustine, Trinidad, February 25-29 2008.
JULIÃO, Rui Pedro (2008): “Building a SDI for small countries – the Portuguese
example”, ESRI User Conference, ESRI, San Diego, USA.

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