Geoportti brings refined geodata and high-performance geocomputing within reach of researchers

Text: Juha Oksanen and Laura Puranen

Geoportti.fi is a new portal for oGIIR research infrastructure services. It helps researchers access to data and metadata services of the national spatial data infrastructure, to CSC’s high-performance geocomputing services and to lecture and other training material created in the oGIIR Project. Geoportti’s goal is to expand the use of geospatial data to different fields of research.

An illustration.

 

Research that makes use of geospatial data and develops methods of geographical information science is in a state of constant flux. The amount of open spatial data has increased exponentially, while material collected by means of crowdsourcing, sensor data collected using various platforms and completely new kind of data, such as geotagged social media contents, have arisen alongside officially collected geospatial data.

What is more, the availability and usability of data have improved significantly because of the developed spatial data infrastructures (SDIs). Commercial software solutions are now accompanied by high-quality and free open source geospatial tools. Even though the general situation in the field is good in this respect, scientists continuously voice how research could gain more benefits from geospatial data and geoinformatics methods and how they could be used in more effective and usable ways.

These needs were fulfilled in spring 2019 when the Geoportti.fi site was opened for all researchers in Finland who use geospatial data. The site brings together value-added material available in the national SDI, key tools for processing geospatial data and a group of instructions and training material users can find suitable for their geospatial data processing needs. The site will also include instructions on how geospatial data included in the Taito supercomputing environment of CSC – IT Centre for Science Ltd can be processed using tools already installed in the environment. The Geoportti.fi website has been built by the Open Geospatial Information Infrastructure for Research (oGIIR) project. Its participants include research institutions and universities.

The goal of the oGIIR project is to build a structure based on user-friendliness and open access to support the Finnish research community and to boost research in the geospatial sector. Its target group consists not only of researchers of geoinformatics, as the goal is to expand the use of geospatial data to different fields of research. What makes the project highly significant is that it works beyond university- and educational institution-specific boundaries.

As part of the ground-breaking project, CSC’s computing resources were made available for the research institutions that belong to the oGIIR consortium. Universities have already had access to these resources before. In 2017, the Ministry of Education and Culture, together with research and innovation parties, confirmed the 2017–2021 development project for research infrastructures for data management and computing (DL2021).

This opened access to CSC’s computing resources for all research institutions and has increased the significance of oGIIR in providing seamless national geospatial data and analytical tools in a high-performance computing environment. As a result of the DL2021 programme, the opportunities of oGIIR will improve even further as, for example, CSC’s supercluster will be updated in 2019–2020. After the update it will be the most powerful system in the Nordic coun- tries, with a theoretical peak performance of 11 PFLOPS (1 PFLOP = 1,000 billion floating point operations per second) and a storage capacity of 12 PB (1 petabyte PB = 1,024 terabytes).

In addition to the Geoportti.fi site, key products and services of the oGIIR project by the end of 2019 include the material of the Paituli service of CSC mirrored in the Taito supercomputing environment and a group of seamless country-wide geospatial data, such as the 2013–2015 national forest inventory of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), all open access data of the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and the National Land Survey’s LIDAR point clouds, elevation models defined as virtual rasters and the monthly updated topographic database that is grouped according to themes.

The Taito supercomputing environment also includes a group of regular pre-installed processing tools for geospatial data, such as GDAL/OGR, GRASS GIS, PDAL, Proj. 4, QGIS, SagaGIS, SNAP, TauDEM and Zonation, as well as R and Python with general geospatial libraries. In the project, the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute has also developed the GeoCubes Finland, which pilots the management, analysis and visualisation of spatial data by means of data cubes.

It contains a number of technically harmonized multi-resolution country-wide geospatial datasets, as well as application and service demonstrations for the use of data cubes. In addition to CSC’s supercluster, the infrastructure provides access to the cPouta cloud service, which enables setting up of complete computing environments and online services to be built for research purposes. With regard to training, oGIIR offers ready-to-use lecture material, documents of best practices and tools for the evaluation of geospatial expertise. ESRI has provided full ArcGIS licence packages for members of the con- sortium. In addition to geodata, geocomputing and training services, oGIIR will offer UEF Drone Labs services, headed by the drone mapping unit of the University of Eastern Finland. The content of the service will be specified during 2019.

The oGIIR project is funded by the Academy of Finland and the members of the consortium. The Academy of Finland offers specific funding for research infrastructures which can be applied for in order to establish nationally significant research infrastructures or to strengthen and expand already existing infrastructure services. The oGIIR project has been on the Academy of Finland’s FIRI roadmap since 2014, under the status of a potential infrastructure. The Geoportti services are intended for free use within the scientific community. The only condition, in addition to the licence required for the CSC environment, is that the oGIIR project is mentioned in conjunction with scientific results (e.g. “We made use of geospatial data/comput- ing resources provided by the Open Geospatial Information Infrastructure for Research")

Open Geospatial Information Infrastructure for Research (oGIIR) is a research infrastructure project for which the Academy of Finland has pro- vided FIRI funding. Members of the consortium are professor Juha Oksanen (coordinator, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute in the National Land Survey of Finland), professor Risto Kalliola (deputy coordinator, University of Turku), Pekka Lehtovuori (CSC – IT Centre for Science Ltd), professor Kirsi Virrantaus (Aalto University), professor Alfred Colpaert (University of Eastern Finland), Sirpa Thessler (Natural Resources Institute Finland), Saku Anttila (Finnish Environment Institute), and research professor Vesa Nykänen (Geological Survey of Finland). Until December 2018, the consor- tium’s coordinator was professor Tapani Sarjakoski (Finnish Geospatial Research Institute). Research infrastructures are large systems that consist of tools, equipment, data networks, databases and other material, as well as support services built around these.

 

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