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March 31st, 2008
The ESA-FAO GEOportal Operational Gateway to GEOSS

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thumb_geoportalThe ESA-FAO GEOportal is a gateway to Global Earth Observation data, information and services developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as contribution to GEOSS.

As part of the Initial Operational Capability of GEOSS, the GEOportal constitutes a main access point to worldwide information on Earth Observation capabilities and services including the ones proposed and implemented in the framework of GEO activities.

The GEOportal includes a number of common functions and solutions to search and discover services and provides news and other relevant information to the GEOSS user community.

The Community concept is extended to a global community and across all GEOSS users providing an entry point to the resources no matter where the user is located and no matter the nature of usage within the GEOSS areas of application. The portal achieves this goal based on two key characteristics:

  • A high-level structure of the information according to the nine GEO Societal Benefit Areas (SBAs).
  • A global coverage, linking all resources contributed by the GEO members and participating organizations.

It complements the already existing Community Portals and other Portals operated by GEO Members and Participating Organizations and as such, unlike most other GEOSS components, it does not belong to any single member or organization.
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Based on the GEO recommended standards and following the Geospatial Portal Reference Architecture of the OGC the GEOportal provides a variety of services:

  • Geospatial Portal Service providing the user interfaces for viewing, discovering data, information and services available in GEOSS.
  • Portrayal Viewer Service allowing the display and handling of maps and context information from various sources, e.g. from different GEO Societal Benefit Areas through WMS services.
  • Interfaces to Catalogue Services of the GEOSS Clearinghouse, allowing distributed catalogue search in an interoperable manner.
  • Browse through a comprehensive directory of service providers e.g. related to GEO Members and Participating Organizations.
  • Retrieval of Earth observation education, training and capacity building resources.

Through a user friendly interface the homepage allows quick access to a variety of information resources.

{sidebar id=100} While a relevant event happens somewhere in the world, an SBA alert appears on the globe, localized over the region related to the event. For example real time alerts and activations of the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” are already appearing on the rotating globe on the GEOportal homepage.

From the homepage, to access to different types of information, the GEOportal allows navigation and access primary via Societal Benefit Area selection and Geographical selection.

The SBA selection leads the user to a main SBA page providing relevant information on the services available within that SBA, the service providers, the international initiatives in place, as well as showcases of data sets.

From there, the user can have access to specific service pages, providing, among other, a user friendly description of the services, a point of contact and a direct link to the services. A system of related resources builds a knowledge system able to provide the user with a wider variety of information on services and organizations operating in its area of interest. The user can also refine his search by SBA subcategory and/or geographical area, in order to retrieve services more appropriate to satisfy his informational needs.

{sidebar id=101} The geographical selection allows the user, selecting regions and countries from the rotating globe, to access a variety of data, information resources and services available for that specific geographical area. The search can be refined as well by the SBA of interest.

 At the time of writing, several GEO Member States and Participating Organizations have established implementation pilots and made available Community Portals accessible from the GEOportal. These community portals are serving particular regions and/or are specific to a Societal Benefit Area of GEOSS and related user scenarios.

In perspective, the GEOportal may also be used for creating Community Portals or individual portals if required by a GEO member or participating organization. The GEOportal software is based on a number of Open Source modules which could be made available and configured to create for example a Portal for a specific SBA. The GEOportal open source software may be taken up by GEOSS communities to create their own portals, lowering the entry barrier, in particular for developing countries, to become part of the GEOSS and contributing to the establishment of an interoperable GEOSS.

With the number of components of GEOSS growing, it is fundamental to ensure that any resource newly available to GEOSS can be discovered through the GEOportal coupled to the GEOSS Clearinghouse and GEOSS Registries.

ESA has secured the operations of the portal until the end of 2009 as a minimum and accordingly to ESA standard service levels. The GEOportal {sidebar id=102} operations are not actually limited to the operations of the technical infrastructure of the underlying GEOportal system, but include the maintenance of the information contained locally within the GEOportal and ensure the consistency of the links and interfaces to GEOSS. Local information may include up to date sample data sets representative of the different SBAs and the GEOportal provides also value-adding in that its operators proactively identify and highlight specific data and information.

The need for additional features/evolutions will be assessed during the Initial Operational Capability of GEOSS taking into account the operational experience of the GEOportal and users’ feedback and the GEOportal is now open to serve GEOSS and to further evolve taking into account the requirements of its users and of the GEO Secretariat.

The GEOportal is operational and available:


Article contributed by Mirko Albani, Hermann Ludwig Moeller and Jolyon Martin – European Space Agency (ESA).



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