Frequently Asked Questions on the GIS Data Transfer Standard:
Frequently Asked Questions on the eFIDS Trading Standards:
- What is the Forestry Geographic information Systems data transfer standard?
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are used widely throughout the Forestry Industries to help manage and plan forestry related information. Over the last 15-20 years many different GIS systems have been adopted, with different methods of data storage being used.
It is difficult to transfer information between these systems, leading to many isolated "islands" of forestry data. The GIS Data Transfer Standard is a mechanism to facilitate information exchange, making the Industry more efficient and competitive. The Standard works with different GIS systems and does not require any specific data storage format, though some basic compliance to The Standard is necessary. New GIS and database systems being designed for use in the forestry industry should take note of the Data Transfer Standard, and have data models built in a compatible way. This in turn will further reduce barriers to the flow of information in the future. We have specified the GIS Data Transfer Standard to use appropriate existing standards, and to work within UK Government guidelines, as per the original project requirements brief. To this end, the Standard uses XML Schemas.
- Why has the Forestry GIS Data Transfer Standard been developed?
Increasingly, interaction between companies is occurring electronically. However for forestry companies, which use many maps with differing themes, this has meant printing the map onto paper, and sending it by postal mail. Government departments are keen to interact with their stakeholders through electronic media, and the lack of a spatial transfer standard has been a major barrier to this in the forest industry. The Forestry GIS Data Transfer Standard has been shown to save time and money, reduce input errors and improve the quality of plans being submitted.
The advantages of a GIS Data Transfer Standard include:
- Simple, accurate transfer of high quality geographic data
- Improved modelling, analysis and planning of Forestry resources
- Electronic data transfer via the Internet, leading to faster turnaround times for future on-line services such as woodland grants and felling permit applications
- What kind of information is shared by the Forestry GIS Data Transfer Standard?
The Forestry GIS Data Transfer Standard v1.0 provides a means to transfer spatial and textual information relating to:
- Organisation — describing the organisation transferring the data
- Physical Description — describing the land, including any trees
Version 1.0 of the Standard represents or describes the basic physical units of Forestry such as Compartments, Sub Compartments and Components. Forestry GIS data can be transferred using individual units from the Standard, or by combining the units as required. This way The Standard can be used to transfer data relating to just a single compartment, and it can also be used to transfer information relating to the full physical description of a major forest.
The format of the Standard is both flexible and extendible, allowing people to transfer data using some or all of the Standard, and to add to the Standard as needed. The Standard presented here is both flexible and extendable, to take account of the diverse interests of upstream and downstream forestry industries, for now and into the future.
- Who will benefit from the Forestry GIS Data Transfer Standard and how?
Forestry companies will benefit from being able to transfer information between offices, clients, and government in a fraction of the time a paper based system takes. Costs of preparation, transcription, copying, and postage are virtually eliminated. Changes to core data sets can be conveyed instantly to everyone who is using the maps and spatial information for their operations. Government will be able to provide its forestry functions in a more cost effective, efficient, and timely way, improving customer relations, and costs savings for the taxpayer. Software companies can develop tools to transfer information based around the standards which are independent of proprietary GIS software.
- How does this work compare with related efforts at other standards organizations?
In developing the Forestry GIS Data Transfer Standard, we conducted a considerable amount of research to determine if other organisations were undertaking similar work. Although some were looking at GIS standards, none were specific to the forest industry, and we decided to develop a new standard ourselves. By making the standard available through OASIS we hope that others working in similar fields will contribute to and enrich the standard to make it applicable globally.
- What is the primary use for the eFIDS trading standard?
eFIDS is designed for use in the complete wood supply chain from the forest through the Processor to the Merchant or Retailer
- Is eFIDS already used in a live environment?
eFIDS is used extensively in the UK Forest and Wood Processing industry as well as in the downstream industry from processor to merchant
- What advantages does eFIDS have over other timber trading standards?
eFIDS offers a number of advantages:
- It comprises a single, flexible schema to transact multiple message types rather than separate schema for each message type such as invoice, despatch note, stock status, stock adjust, order, call-off, etc...
- It is mature and proven - unchanged for over two years - and flexible to the extent that new implementations or use cases will be very unlikely to require schema changes even in unusual circumstances.
- It has enhanced error-trapping - code lists are used wherever possible to provide and restrict data values, ensuring consistent, error-free population of data elements and easy validation at the receiving end using the same lists.
- It is easy to implement, employing generic rather than inflexible "hardcoded" data elements wherever possible. For example, it has one repeatable "measurement" element rather than separate elements for "thickness", "width" and "length". Thus, without modification, it can accommodate feather-edged sawn material (with two thickness, one width and one length measurement), or roundwood, or sawdust, or whatever.
- Similarly, whilst other schemas use specifically named elements for Species, Grade, Heat Treatment, etc, and restrict you to those pre-defined elements with no scope for describing an unexpected characteristic, eFIDS uses the UNECE S.SG52 group to provide "references" for each line item. Such references can be Grade, Treatment, Despatch Note Number, Weight Ticket Number, Type Code, FSC Status, or anything. Qualifiers are used to give meaning to the values expressed where once again the qualifier value is listed in a UNECE code list. Any references which don't have an appropriate UNECE code list entry can be qualified by a 'Mutually defined' qualifier code. As long as both trading partners understand its meaning, it can be communicated. This flexibility exists throughout the schema.
- It has a superior pedigree, being designed for the Forest and Timber Industry from the outset and founded on and compliant with UNECE EDI definitions, rules and ethos.
- It is future-proofed through having an easier and more direct route to ebXML than other standards, UNECE having taken ebXML "under its wing" in close partnership with OASIS.
- Are there plans to resolve differences between eFIDS and alternatives?
It would be beneficial to all concerned if there could be some integration of standards and OASIS members will do all we can to make this happen.
- If I find that eFIDS does not fully cope with my use case, how do I request it be upgraded?
Due to the flexibility described above, no change has been necessary for some years. Nevertheless this Technical Committee will consider carefully, and respond to, any such request posted to the TC's public discussion forum.