Linked Data: A Geographic Perspective

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  • Explains how to model Geographic Information using Semantic Web technologies and publish it as Linked Data
  • Addresses the needs of both geographers and Linked Data practitioners
  • Draws on the expertise of authors with practical industry experience in Geographic Information and the Semantic Web
  • Reviews currently available software tools for publishing and modeling Linked Data—and provides a framework to help you evaluate new tools that come to market
  • Gives an overview of key languages and syntaxes associated with the Semantic Web, including RDF, OWL, and SPARQL
  • Uses simple English to explain technical jargon and code examples
  • Contains numerous examples, including a worked-through example of publishing Linked Data and linking to other data sources using ontology engineering methods


Geographic Information has an important role to play in linking and combining datasets through shared location, but the potential is still far from fully realized because the data is not well organized and the technology to aid this process has not been available. Developments in the Semantic Web and Linked Data, however, are making it possible to integrate data based on Geographic Information in a way that is more accessible to users. Drawing on the industry experience of a geographer and a computer scientist, Linked Data: A Geographic Perspective is a practical guide to implementing Geographic Information as Linked Data.

Combine Geographic Information from Multiple Sources Using Linked Data

After an introduction to the building blocks of Geographic Information, the Semantic Web, and Linked Data, the book explores how Geographic Information can become part of the Semantic Web as Linked Data. In easy-to-understand terms, the authors explain the complexities of modeling Geographic Information using Semantic Web technologies and publishing it as Linked Data. They review the software tools currently available for publishing and modeling Linked Data and provide a framework to help you evaluate new tools in a rapidly developing market. They also give an overview of the important languages and syntaxes you will need to master. Throughout, extensive examples demonstrate why and how you can use ontologies and Linked Data to manipulate and integrate real-world Geographic Information data from multiple sources.

A Practical, Readable Guide for Geographers, Software Engineers, and Laypersons

A coherent, readable introduction to a complex subject, this book supplies the durable knowledge and insight you need to think about Geographic Information through the lens of the Semantic Web. It provides a window to Linked Data for geographers, as well as a geographic perspective for software engineers who need to understand how to work with Geographic Information. Highlighting best practices, this book helps you organize and publish Geographic Information on the Semantic Web with more confidence.

Table of Contents

A Gentle Beginning
What This Book Is About and Who It Is For
Geography and the Semantic Web
GI in the Semantic Web
Conventions Used in the Book
Structure of the Book
A Last Thought about How to Read This Book

Linked Data and the Semantic Web
From a Web of Documents to a Web of Knowledge
Early History and the Development of the Semantic Web
Semantic Web Benefits
How It Works
Recent Trends in the Field
Summing Up and Signposts to the Next Chapter

Geographic Information
What Is Geographic Information?
The Many Forms of GI
Representations and Uses of GI
A Brief History of Geographic Information

Geographic Information in an Open World
Applying the Semantic Web to GI
Important Observations

The Resource Description Framework
RDF: The Purpose
A Word about Identity
The RDF Data Model
RDF Serialization
Popular RDFS Vocabularies
RDF for the Thinking Geographer

Organizing GI as Linked Data
Identity: Designing and Applying Universal Resource Identifiers
Identity: Names
Topology and Mereology

Publishing Linked Data
Linked Data Principles
Making URIs Dereferenceable or Slash versus Hash
Linked Data Design
Linked Data Generation
Describing the Linked Dataset
Authentication and Trust
Licensing Linked Data
Software Tools
Testing and Debugging Linked Data

Using Linked Data
Business Models for Linked Data
Linking to External Datasets: Types of Link
Link Design Process
Link Discovery and Creation
Encoding Context: An Atheist’s View of Web Identity
Link Maintenance
Evaluating Link Quality and Avoiding Semantic Spam

The Nature of OWL
OWL Language Elements
Tools for Authoring

Building Geographic Ontologies
Types of Ontology
Building the Topographic Ontology of Merea Maps
Ontology Reuse: Aiding Third-Party Data Integration

Linking It All Together
The Wide Scope of Geographic Information
An Open World
The Simplicity and Complexity of the Semantic Web
The Technologies
Benefits and Business Models
Future Directions
Concluding Thoughts

Appendix A: OWL Species
Appendix B: OWL Constructs: Manchester Syntax and Rabbit


Author Bio(s)

Glen Hart currently leads the research group at Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency. Glen first began to investigate the Semantic Web in 2002, initially working to understand the relevance to data integration and then how to construct ontological descriptions of geographical objects. Mirroring his interest in vernacular geography (how people understand and refer to the landscape around them as opposed to official views), Glen was also determined to develop ways to make ontologies more accessible to domain experts, those people expert in a subject area but for whom ontologies expressed in formal logic were totally opaque. This resulted in the development of a syntax for the Web ontology language OWL called Rabbit that expresses OWL sentences using controlled natural language. More recently, Glen has been involved in the publication of Ordnance Survey’s Geographic Information as Linked Data. Glen sees the publication of Linked Data as an enabler towards more efficient and accurate data integration, and his research continues along these lines.

Dr. Catherine Dolbear is currently a link data architect at Oxford University Press (OUP), working on strategies for linking content across online academic and journal products within OUP’s discoverability program. Catherine is the author of several papers in areas of geographical ontology development, semantic data integration, and information filtering using structured data; a previous cochair of the OWL Experiences and Directions Workshop; and cofounder, along with Glen Hart, of the international workshop series "Terra Cognita" on geospatial semantics. While leading the geosemantics research team at Ordnance Survey, Catherine worked on the development of several ontologies in the geographic domain as well as the reuse of these in application areas such as flood defense and risk management. More recently, she has been interested in moving semantic technologies into mainstream publishing and tackling the scale, quality, and workflow requirements thereof. She is interested in how people think about the world, what is important to them, and how to discover knowledge by forging new links between information.

Editorial Reviews

"Anybody interested in how geographical information can be used to combine and access datasets and information in the Web should read this book. This text introduces developments in the Semantic Web and Linked Data, and offers guidance on how to implement Geographic Information as Linked Data. … The reader does not need to be an expert in the Semantic Web, Linked Data, or Geographic Information to follow this text. Terms and concepts are explained in relatively easy-to-follow language, and the material is presented in a logically structured sequence. … Glen Hart and Catherine Dolbear deserve to be complimented on how they have approached this subject matter and for their ability to present the material in an engaging style that is reasonably straightforward to follow. Anybody who needs to understand how to work with Geographic Information should think of this book as mandatory reading."
—Peter Keller, GEOMATICA, Vol. 67, No. 4, 2013

"It is unusual to enthuse over a book on such a technical topic, but this volume is a gem. ... It fully meets [the authors’] objective of being a practical guide to implementing solutions based on Linked Data and the Semantic Web that involve Geographic Information. The practical experience of the authors shines through and the text is complete and precise enough to allow little scope for argument over academic detail. But my greatest praise is for its readability. To produce a book that is such a pleasure to read on ... such a technical topic is an outstanding achievement. ... [Hart and Dolbear] have a rare talent for making complex concepts clear and the potentially dull sparkle."
—Mike Jackson, Ph.D., FRICS, FRGS, Emeritus Professor for Geospatial Science, Nottingham Geospatial Institute, The University of Nottingham, UK