How to Build an Empire with Data Standards

Standardized datasets create a connection between silos of information. Geography and data are the basis of a GIS. Marrying the two depends on something being similar to both items. For example, address data is a common denominator in many data sets. Everything has a location, and every location has an address. Sometimes one of the cornerstones of a GIS system is an address database. Perhaps there are two or more datasets, and their only common denominator is the street address, or physical location. You can begin to see where data standards become essential in merging datasets to create a GIS. A property on Village Green Circle does not match up with a database that lists it as Village Gr. Cir. Much in the same fashion, a tax parcel with an ID of 15.002.1001 does not match up with 150021001. If standards are established and rules followed at the beginning of a project, it saves time and money.
When appropriate our GIS team uses ESRI’s Local Government Data Model (see link below) municipal utility datasets. Because of this front-end planning and utilization of GIS industry standards, maintenance of these newly created datasets can be performed with various tools provided by ESRI and included in standard licensing. ESRI has done a great job of building their empire by creating data standards, allowing the GIS community to take advantage of tools, applications, and programming written for the standard data.
There are many sources of data standards. For addresses, a great source is NENA – National Emergency Numbers Association. This organization creates standards for 9-1-1 addressing.
The United States Postal Service addressing standards are similar but geared toward delivering mail rather than toward emergency response.
The State of Minnesota has a Standards Committee that has developed standards for various spatial datasets.
The Federal Geographic Data Committee has an extensive website, devoted to – you guessed it – data standards.
ESRI has a downloadable schema of standard data and table structures for just about any form of local government data you can imagine.
In summary, before developing a new data set, or attempting to bring in data from an outside source, consider researching data standards – trust me, time saved in the long run will be well worth the effort, and, you might just build yourself an empire!

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