As many of you are well aware, Google finally launched the much anticipated Google Ocean, extending the coverage of their virtual globe to the 70 percent of the earth that is covered by water. Since the ocean has an enormous impact on our climate, our ability to feed ourselves, and ultimately on our survival as a species, it is critical that we understand, both individually and collectively, the impact that we are having upon it. The arrival of Google Ocean is an important tool in shaping that awareness.
As many of you are well aware, Google finally launched the much anticipated Google Ocean, extending the coverage of their virtual globe to the 70+% of the earth that is covered by water. Since the ocean has an enormous impact on our climate, our ability to feed ourselves, and ultimately on our survival as a species, it is critical that we understand, both individually and collectively, the impact that we are having upon it. The arrival of Google Ocean is an important tool in shaping that awareness.
At the same time, it should be borne in mind that what you see in Google Ocean is still very much a snap shot in time, and reflects only a miniscule fraction of what is known about the ocean, and an even smaller fraction of what is taking place there. Furthermore, there is no current ongoing connection between what you see in Google Ocean and the millions of business processes around the world that both alter the state of the ocean and contribute to what we know about it. Nonetheless, it is a very credible start, and provides a visualization framework to focus our attention.
The next step involves the building out of the GeoWeb for the oceans, not in terms of just accumulating data at Google, but in creating the infrastructure for data aggregation on which future “Google” Oceans, by Google and others, can build. While it seems senseless to replicate such an infrastructure across multiple virtual globes, it does make perfect sense to have such virtual globe platforms provide their own unique capabilities in terms of performance, visualization, and navigation functions.
When I refer to “infrastructure”, I am talking about mechanisms to move information in a managed fashion from a data source to a data consumer. This could be to Google in order to enhance Google Oceans, for example, or it could be to a provincial or state government, a corporation, etc. In fact, there can be a network or web of such interconnected providers and consumers – a GeoWeb – with many intermediate aggregators and distributors. At any point in time, we can see data as flowing from server to client; such roles, however, should be only minimally distinguished as a software component could be a client in one moment and a server in the next. This means that the more narrow concept of client side integration, where I integrate the information of interest on my browser, is subsumed in a broader integration happening amongst a network of peers. End user clients can then tap into these points of aggregation for data visualization, navigation, and analysis.
Middle tier data integration is required for a number of reasons, including data security, meeting performance requirements, and the ability to perform needed data transformations such as handling differences in units, coordinate systems, and data schemas. It is not concerned with issues of data presentation nor data navigation.
Middle tier integration is also very much associated with the notion of a data community. A data community is a group of persons and organizations that share a common interest and a resulting common vocabulary (hence data schema or schemas), and use common data processing services, systems of units, and coordinate reference systems. Communities can be very broad in scope, or very narrow and specialized. Participant organizations are often members of many communities at the same time, and communities themselves can be participants in yet larger communities. In the context of the Ocean we have many such communities, like the community of commercial ship navigation, the community of the US Navy, the community of ship wreck explorers, the Center for Coastal Studies, and the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. Some of these organizations are very loosely defined, while others (such as the International Hydrographic Organization) have well defined collections of schemas, coordinate systems, units, and data security policies.
Middle tier integration often requires the transformation of data from a participant’s data source to a form that can be readily shared with other members of a community, typically by executing the required schema-based transformations, coordinate transformations, etc. This is the responsibility of the components of the GeoWeb infrastructure, just as today DNS lookup is the responsibility of the underlying Internet infrastructure.
Google Ocean has provided us a new window on a vital component of the earth. Now we need to move forward and begin the build out of the GeoWeb infrastructure that will enable Ocean and other browsers to link us to the real world as it evolves before us.