Determining what kind of market exists for the toolset developed in the original HUMBOLDT project (2006 to 2011) was a major part of work. Among other activities, we conducted two market studies (2009 and 2011) to determine whether a market for data harmonisation products and services exists, and what the properties of that market are. These market studies used questionnaires and expert interviews to characterize the market, its actors and their needs.
Here are some of our findings of the 2011 study with 29 participants.
1. Importance and Use of Data Harmonisation
- The participants in the study assess the importance of data harmonisation as very high, but the expected benefit varies by industry. The following diagram shows the expectations voiced:
Assessment of the importance of spatial data harmonisation for different industries (n= 29)
However, many actors perform almost no data harmonisation, and if they do, it is focused on two fields – geographic names and geometric harmonisation. The effort involved is seen as prohibitive to perform data harmonisation for all but the most important data sets. If the costs of data harmonisation and reuse could be reduced, the full benefits of SDIs and INSPIRE could be unlocked.
- In general, participants in the studies mentioned the following main benefits of data harmonisation activities:
- Reducing duplication of data collection costs
- Enabling easier discovery of datasets using standardized metadata and publishing such metadata electronically
- Improved cross-departmental co-ordination of spatial data collection and publishing regimes due to harmonized datasets
- Faster access to spatial data, especially using web-based delivery
- Huge efficiency gains derived from a wider access to data of better quality within organizations / disciplines and across them
- Benefits to society (better foundation for political decisions and monitoring)
- Development of standardized fundamental core spatial databases from which new products and services can be developed more cheaply and quickly
2. Market structure and actors
For the data harmonisation services and products developed during the HUMBOLDT project, the following primary and secondary markets were identified:
- National INSPIRE-responsible bodies (LMOs)
- INSPIRE SDICs
- GIS developers implementing applications with data harmonisation issues.
- Parties that have to use/offer heterogeneous data from various sources (Data Custodians/Data Integrators)
- People/institutions faced with spatial data interoperability difficulties in a cross-border situation or other application fields.
- Other parties interested in data harmonisation.
- Thematically related European or Industry Projects.
These are in total several thousand potential customers in Europe alone who are currently for the largest part due to a lack of tools and processes not investing into data harmonisation, but rather perform re-collection of data or just use heterogeneous data sets.
To summarize, the market for data harmonisation services and products is in a competitive situation. It is evolving and changing quickly with both customers and market actors using very different approaches to data harmonisation. There are almost no actors that actively promote data harmonisation activities, but rather perform them under different titles such as data transformation, integration or spatial/business analytics.
What is your take on this? Is there a market for specific data harmonisation products and services or are these just special fields of Business Intelligence, Business Integration, or Spatial Data Value Added Services? What’s the right label?