Recommendation 12

Recommendation 12: Apply relevant standards to develop a comprehensive approach for spatial data modelling, sharing, and exchange to facilitate integration in digital public services

Implementation guidance Related information



  • Active participation in GI and digital government communities improves alignment of specifications and helps administrations maintain awareness on technological innovation.
  • Open standards facilitate interoperability and data exchange. They help reduce ICT vendor lock-in and promote fair competition.
  • Standards are used to shape ICT solutions. If existing standards are not applied, ad hoc design decisions may be taken that are relevant to the solution in question but less applicable in the wider context. These ad hoc design decisions may result in long term interoperability issues when integrating with other ecosystems in the future and thus higher costs.
  • The EU INSPIRE Directive sets out binding implementing rules and technical guidelines in a number of specific areas (metadata, data specifications, network services, data and service sharing, and monitoring and reporting). They ensure that spatial data infrastructures of the Member States are cross-border compatible.
  • Catalogues of ICT open standards are centralised online catalogues that contain commonly agreed standards for different domains. They help public administrations identifying standards that, for example, could be included in public procurement.




Standards community involvement

  • Engage actively in national and international standardisation activities relevant to your Geospatial Information (GI), ICT and digital government communities.
  • Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC), representing more than 150 sub-national governments, leads the development of the Minimum Interoperability Mechanisms (MIMs) Plus, through the Living-in.EU Technical Sub Group. MIMs Plus are based on the principle of minimal interoperability and the ten OASC MIMs. MIMs Plus is an ongoing effort to develop a common list of minimal technical specifications to achieve basic interoperability of data, systems, and platforms for cities and communities in Europe. MIMs Plus supports the evolution of critical digital infrastructure in the twin green-digital transformation, such as in data spaces, platforms and local digital twins. Implementation can be different, as long as crucial interoperability points in any given technical architecture use the same interoperability mechanisms.

Open standards

  • Use open standards – where possible – to reduce the risk of ICT vendor lock-in. There are catalogues of recommended open standards both at national and international level that help identifying existing solutions. Examples include: the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) catalogue service, the Dutch Government Open Standards Catalogue and the German Standards and Architectures for e-Government Applications (SAGA). To know more about interoperability initiatives in Member States, the European Commission developed the National Interoperability Framework Observatory (NIFO) factsheets.

INSPIRE and related standards

  • Apply the INSPIRE implementing rules and technical guidelines to put in place an EU-wide, cross-sectoral interoperability framework for location information facilitating its integration in digital government processes and services. The SDI service interfaces applied by INSPIRE - e.g. Web Mapping Service (WMS), Web Feature Service (WFS), and Web Coverage Service (WCS) - are well known and supported by client applications.
  • Expand the application of INSPIRE with other geo-standards elaborated at international level – e.g. the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) - and European level – e.g. Copernicus, European Interoperability Framework (EIF), European Committee for Standardisation, Technical Committee ‘Geographic Information’ (CEN TC/287). This allows linking of the use of geo-standards with relevant general ICT and digital government standards. Examples of geospatially relevant standards that are not covered by INSPIRE are: sensor observation services, quality services and notification, alert and feedback services. INSPIRE has, however, provided technical guidance for implementing download services using the OGC Sensor Observation Service. Note that, as an evolution of the current INSPIRE standards and to go towards the use of evolving architectures and technologies (e.g. MASA, see Recommendation 10), the OGC has recently published two Representational State Transfer (REST) based standards, namely the ’OGC API - Features’[1] and the SensorThings API[2], which provide standardised APIs for ensuring modern access to spatial and observation data. Both standards have huge potential for modernising SDIs and are already considered as possible INSPIRE Download Services[3] [4]. Finally, the frequently used OpenAPI specification[5] supports documentation of APIs in a vendor independent, portable and open manner, and fully integrates a testing client within the API documentation. Public administrations should consider the appropriate path for evolution towards APIs balanced with co-existence of traditional access methods.
  • Adopt a standards-based approach for Internet of Things (IoT) data, communications and devices – as this will rapidly increase the availability of sensors and tools to share and process big (geospatial) data that becomes relevant for digital government applications. The SensorThings API standard mentioned above facilitates this activity.
  • Use a standards-based approach in the application of the Linked Data paradigm and its technical specifications, which can enable the integration of geo-spatial and non-geospatial information using Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) and Resource Description Framework (RDF) specifications. The application of Linked Data principles and technology supports INSPIRE implementation and can be seen as a complementary approach for exposing INSPIRE assets providing some flexibility. For example, the European Commission has already developed Core Vocabularies in the context of the ISA programme. They are data specifications created in an open process with expert groups and endorsed by ISA Member State representatives. In addition to Core Vocabularies there are also metadata schemas such as Asset Description Metadata Schema Application Profile (ADMS-AP), Data Catalogue vocabulary Application Profile for data portals (DCAT-AP) and Data Catalogue vocabulary Application Profile extension for describing geospatial datasets, dataset series, and services (GeoDCAT-AP) that help to connect related data that was not previously linked.
  • Integrate the standards-based approach for different thematic sectors to support multi-sector applications. Different sectors have established sometimes different de facto and de jure standards involving location data, e.g. multi-modal transport, construction, energy. An integrated approach is particularly important where the same data (e.g. address, road) is used in different sectors or where applications from different sectors converge (e.g. smart cities).
  • Use Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) to design and describe business processes and Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) to execute the described processes using services. These techniques can be useful to define where spatial data input is needed, processed, and generated in digital government processes.

Needs-based approach

  • In all of the above considerations regarding standards, ensure the implementation applies the standards in the simplest possible way to reduce complexity and cost, whilst maintaining the aims of interoperability and re-usability.








  • The standards world moves slowly and is continually evolving. This means that sometimes it lags behind or is not yet ready in the context of a particular new application. Standards evolve with the evolution in technology. Legacy systems are built on legacy technologies and standards. This sometimes means that it is difficult to justify and make “one more major upgrade” or to integrate new and legacy systems.
  • Standards are often a “middle ground” agreed by specialists over a number of years. Hence, they might not always be a perfect fit for a particular new application.
  • System and data integration require common standards such as those promoted by INSPIRE. With so many public authorities and countries involved, there is an immense implementation challenge to achieve harmonisation. However, the steps are being taken to make this happen in a coordinated way, underpinned by the legislation.
  • The return on investment for linked data depends on a degree of harmonisation which is difficult to achieve, with a multiplicity of data, different data and quality standards, and in many cases, a lack of legislative and policy support.


helpBest Practices


Bar chart dark blue 32LIFO Monitoring

The Location Information Framework Observatory (LIFO) monitors the implementation of EULF Blueprint recommendations in European countries. Read about the implementation of Recommendation 12 in the LIFO Country Factsheets or the LIFO European State of Play Report. Explore the results for selected countries at LIFO Interactive Dashboards - Recommendations.


PuzzleRelated Frameworks: European Interoperability Framework (EIF)

EIF Pillars Recommendations
Underlying Principle 2: Openness Recommendation 4: Give preference to open specifications, taking due account of the coverage of functional needs, maturity and market support and innovation.
Underlying Principle 5: Technological neutrality Recommendation 8: Do not impose any technological solutions on citizens, businesses and other administrations that are technology-specific or disproportionate to their real needs.
Interoperability Layer 1: Interoperability Governance Recommendation 21: Put in place processes to select relevant standards and specifications, evaluate them, monitor their implementation, check compliance and test their interoperability.
Interoperability Layer 1: Interoperability Governance Recommendation 22: Use a structured, transparent, objective and common approach to assessing and selecting standards and specifications. Take into account relevant EU recommendations and seek to make the approach consistent across borders.
Interoperability Layer 1: Interoperability Governance Recommendation 23: Consult relevant catalogues of standards, specifications and guidelines at national and EU level, in accordance with your NIF and relevant DIFs, when procuring and developing ICT solutions.
Interoperability Layer 1: Interoperability Governance Recommendation 24: Actively participate in standardisation work relevant to your needs to ensure your requirements are met.
Interoperability Layer 4: Organisational Interoperability Recommendation 28: Document your business processes using commonly accepted modelling techniques and agree on how these processes should be aligned to deliver a European public service.
Interoperability Layer 5: Semantic Interoperability Recommendation 32: Support the establishment of sector-specific and cross-sectoral communities that aim to create open information specifications and encourage relevant communities to share their results on national and European platforms.
Interoperability Layer 6: Technical Interoperability Recommendation 33: Use open specifications, where available, to ensure technical interoperability when establishing European public services.


PuzzleRelated Frameworks: UN-GGIM Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF)

Strategic Pathway 6: Standards

Documentation Elements

Implementation Guide


Standards Governance and Policy

Technology and Data Interoperability

Compliance Testing and Certification

Community of Practice

Actions Tools
1. Direction Setting  
Standards Governance APP6.1: National Governance Model Examples
Standards Awareness

A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management

A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management: Companion Document on Standards Recommendations by Tier

Strategic Goals  
2. Understanding National Needs  
Baseline Survey APP6.2: Standards Baseline Survey
Standards Inventory  
Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis APP6.3: Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis
3. Planning for Change


Action Plan  
Institutional Arrangements APP6.4: Roles and Responsibilities for National Standards Governance
4. Taking Action  
Communication and Engagement 

APP6.5: Standards Training, Tools and Related Resources

A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management

A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management: Companion Document on Standards Recommendations by Tier

Risk Assessment  
5. Ongoing Management  
Standards Review Programme  
Community of Practice

APP6.6: User Community Case Studies and Statements of Benefits

APP6.7: Community Best Practice Examples

Capacity Development  
6. Achieving Outcomes  
Success Indicators  


Marker Small 2ELISE Resources

Type Resource Date
Study INSPIRE-MMTIS, overlap in standards related to the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1926 - INSPIRE support to EU multimodal travel information services 2019
Study Using synonyms to better discoverability 2022
Guidance Guidelines for public procurement of geospatial technologies 2016
Webinar Spatial Data on the Web Part 1 - How to make geospatial data more accessible for e-government applications 2018
Webinar Spatial Data on the Web Part 2 - GeoNetwork´s User feedback form: How to make geospatial data more accessible for e-government applications 2018
Webinar Using synonyms to improve discovery of geospatial data 2020
Webinar ISO/TC211 "Standards in Action" seminar: European INSPIRE Directive and Location Interoperability  2020
Workshop INSPIRE Conference: INSPIRE on Tools - Geoportal, Registry, Validator 2018
Workshop INSPIRE Online Conference: INSPIRE Reference Validator - Status and next steps 2020
Workshop INSPIRE Online Conference: INSPIRE Geoportal Workshop - Use of the INSPIRE Reference Validator in 2019 Monitoring: Process and lessons learned 2020
Presentation INSPIRE Conference: INSPIRE Reference Validator Presentation Video 2017
Presentation INSPIRE Conference: Spatial Data on the Web - Tools and guidance for data providers Presentation Video 2017
Presentation INSPIRE Conference: INSPIRE in RDF - Increasing semantic interoperability for European geospatial data Presentation Video 2017
Presentation INSPIRE Conference: The role of INSPIRE in the provision of EU-wide multi-modal transport information services (MMTIS) Presentation Video  2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: Introduction to INSPIRE 2014
Training INSPIRE training platform: Data harmonisation 2014
Training INSPIRE training platform: Metadata and catalogue services 2014
Training INSPIRE training platform: Introduction to linked data 2015
Training INSPIRE training platform: INSPIRE advanced 2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: INSPIRE data specifications 2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: Procedures for data and metadata harmonisation 2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: Examples of data transformation 2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: Metadata and data validation for INSPIRE  2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: INSPIRE network services (advanced) 2018
Training INSPIRE training platform: Principles for data and metadata harmonisation according to INSPIRE 2020
Training INSPIRE training platform: INSPIRE network services (update) 2020


helpFurther Reading


Version: EULF Blueprint v5.1