Koordinates is a New Zealand based company that provides clever platforms for hosting and viewing geographic datasets. Map layers are visualised online and can be downloaded as professional data in a way that has been described as ‘Google Earth for professionals’. Koordinates often relies on, and indeed encourages providers of its geographic datasets to be published under a Creative Commons licence to streamline reuse.
Koordinates currently provides datasets about things from feral goat distribution to Wellington windy zones, all sourced from outside parties like Government departments and independent business listing services.
The Koordinates website offers the information to us as ‘layers’ which we can visually layer together over a map as we choose. “When you add a map layer, the actual data is converted into a simple Google Maps view and displayed in your web browser” says Ed Corkery, co-founder and CEO of Koordinates.
A piece of information that can be associated with a geographic location comes alive when we work with maps. Property buyers, for example can pull together layers displaying high resolution aerial photos, building footprints, street locations, kerbs, school zone boundaries, parks and electoral ward boundaries to learn more about the context of their future house.
The sorts of useful datasets we would like to see layered on a map are often collated and updated by Government agencies and are subject to crown copyright. Although some datasets are of a commercial nature and retain an ‘all rights reserved’ status, most are provided for public reuse via Koordinates under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence. New Zealand councils and Government agencies are embracing Creative Commons for their datasets on Koordinates as encouraged by the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework and its strong endorsement of the CC BY licence for non-personal copyright materials.
But it’s not just policy that is driving early uptake of CC licences in this area. Koordinates has actively encouraged its providers to consider open access as part of their publishing practices.
According to Ed a “lack of clearly understood licences is a big road block to reuse of public data. We recommend the Creative Commons licensing system as an easy way for councils and Government agencies to avoid that road-block by using an off-the-shelf licence system reaching critical mass.”
If we’re given enough layers and enough access, the uses for this platform are endless.
It’s not just hobbyists or researchers who can benefit from this knowledge, but industry and professional practitioners gain value from readily available geographic datasets too. Upfront information about a location’s soil content, for example, can streamline planning and decision making processes for farmers, builders and civil engineers.
While Koordinates can host and make such information available as layers, it is providing commercial opportunities for third party application developers to package up certain information in user friendly ways for many different types of people.
“A developer can combine datasets from Koordinates and turn them into a more useful service such as iPhone apps.” Says Ed.
It’s foreseeable that a Government agency’s initial decision to release geographic data under permissible licences is not only benefiting nonprofit activities but is also stimulating healthy new business opportunities within our community.
The datasets themselves need to be be freed up from technical and copyright restrictions so that people can fully utilise the resources with fewer administrative burdens slowing it all down. Off-the-shelf copyright licences, such as Creative Commons, solve this problem.