One of the areas which is improved in FME 2010 and which will no doubt get even better in FME 2011 is metadata. Whether it be ISO/TC 211 19115 Metadata or FGDC Metadata the importance of metadata is clear. Without metadata how are organizations to first discover data and secondly determine if the data is suitable for the purpose that they have in mind? Andrew Zolnai makes a great point that metadata is not that interesting or valuable when you are working with data that you know. Indeed, it is not for folks who are familiar with the data, it is for the wider audience that doesn’t know the data and needs to understand the context or purpose that the data is for. With more and more data being available to more and more organizations the importance of metadata standards is only going to increase.
I witnessed a demo last week where the impact of lack of metadata was demonstrated. As you have read, one of the big pushes for FME 2010 is enabling users to move 3D data complete with textures between a multitude of systems. Using this as a back drop Dmitri put together a demo of buildings from Vancouver (they recently made their data freely available – Dale posted earlier on the original announcement). This demo used 3D buildings of Vancouver and a corresponding road network of the City of Vancouver. Dmitri built a KML tour of the city so that we could drive through the city in Google Earth. The result was impressive with the caveat that the road network and the city buildings didn’t always line up! There were many instances when roads went into the buildings. Clearly, these datasets are not compatible for the purpose of “touring” Vancouver. Without metadata – and its associated accuracy information – there is no way to discover if data is compatible with each other except to try it out.
When visiting with customers, we are asked more and more about metadata and we’ve had many valuable discussions about it. The most striking thing that I’ve noticed is that some users are not even sure exactly what metadata is. When I think of metadata I think of a data catalog. Similar to a library catalog which helps me find the information I need, a metadata catalog is necessary for users to find the data they need.
In line with this and to stoke the fire for more discussion we are working on some metadata scenarios that use the deegree CSW, which we have presented and will continue to share with the community at large. The goal of this is gain a better understanding of the entire metadata flow so that we can do our part to “grease the wheels” and make it easier.
Metadata is something that we have to address as both Safe and metadata are “all about the data”. With the delivery of FME 2010 the metadata journey will begin.