At the Location Business Summit, Director of Nokia's Ovi Places, Gary Gale, gave the talk “Geobabel and the Open Places Database”. After a long introduction in which Gary likened the the challenges facing the location based business industry to the four (4) horsemen of the Apocalypse, he got to the heart of the matter he wanted to address: the lack of a central database for place names. He bemoaned the current situation in which most major players in the location based business industry were building their own data “silos”, each with some mechanism to associate place names with a location and a unique identifier. Each player creating duplicate place name entries for these places.
What solution did Gary propose to this problem of duplication? An “open” database of place names. This solution would need to be supported, Gary argued, by the big players in the location based business industry, to be successful. Gary admitted that the Ovi Places Registry is currently a silo, but that he was interested in learning how to share a common registry of place names with other companies.
I believe that Gary was championing an excellent idea. A common, and “open” database of place names would be a valuable resource for all in the geospatial industry, not just location based business companies. Gary expressed concern that open licenses wouldn't be sufficient to protect an open place name database, but I disagree. I believe the correct license would prevent one company from exerting control over the database.
I was curious why Gary didn't mention the existing effort to create an open registry of place names.
I'd like to see the OSGeo or another organization that supports open source software and open technologies support a the creation of an open place names database and a file format for sharing place names. There are technical challenges and questions about an open registry of place names, such as how to handle multiple names for the same location, multiple locations for the same place, and how to represent the shape and location of places in the database (WKT perhaps?).
These challenges could be surmounted with the right type of collaboration between cartographers, surveyors, GIS professionals, and location based businesses.
The Sunburned Surveyor
Read More »