Geoportal of the Swiss Confederation

6 years ago is the federal government platform that facilitates public access to swiss spatial data. It was created following the entry into force of the Federal Geoinformation Act and is addressing both the general public and professionals, and its intention is to contribute towards a more effective dissemination of the comprehensive information.

Winner of over 10 national and international awards, incl United Nations Public Service Award, 2nd place (2012), is the comprehensive federal government platform for geoinformation, geodata and geoservices. It is accessible to the general public and contains more than 500 geodata sets originating from a variety of federal bodies, as well as more than 20 thematic portals. Anyone who wants to can view, print and order geodata. It is visited by an average of around 50,000 users a day.


What are the benefits ?

  • OpenSource: The whole software stack of the Swiss federal spatial data infrastructure is based on open source software (OSS): from Operation System (OS) to application level.
  • OpenStandards: The use of open standards grant access to data and data services and ensure therefore the dissemination of geodata.
  • OpenAccess:  Data access was made easier on the one hand through open data services and on the other hand with providing an open application programming interface.
  • CloudComputing: using public cloud services (IaaS), time consuming purchase of hardware is obsolete. Automatic provisioning enables the public body to scale its number of servers by the factor of ten with the solution proposed in less than an hour.


  • The technical infrastructure, comprises a combination of original open source solutions as published under  run on an off the shelf public  cloud computing architecture .
  • Access to data is granted at high availability and performance via a CDN and http/2. As download at low operational costs.
  • Interoperability of data and devices thanks to international standards optimized for web and desktop usage

Future plans: Support 3D services and future W3C standards like linked data for data dissemination

Swisstopo decided in 2012 to replace the previous version of the map viewer and its services  by rewriting it from scratch. In order to realize the implementation, open and modern web standards (HTML5, CSS3, WebGL) and modern open source software (OpenLayers 3, AngularJS, Bootstrap, Mapserver) have been used. On a cloud OSS stack, Linux Debian is used. This choice made it possible to optimize the performance, improve the usability and reduce the operating costs of the application. Key success factor was the leading role of Swisstopo to foster the crowd funding for the development of OpenLayers 3. The combination of this newly built framework with cutting edge OSS technologies such as AngularJS and Bootstrap with Cloud Computing and OSS base system declares the third version on one of the most  advanced web mapping applications. To complete, the services used by the geoportal are based on fully open source, open standard and RESTful services (See  Attachment  1 – OSS STACK). In addition, the new geoportal is ready for the delivery of 3D data, thanks to WebGL, and can now handle the time dimension.

Swisstopo  currently uses 50 TB in Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) Amazon CloudFront (CDN) to provide the geographical information for 40 GIS projects and geoservices hosted in the Federal Spatial Data Infrastructure (FSDI). The cloud model chosen is an Infrastructure as a service IAAS on a pay as you go pricing  model: The agency currently uses over  100 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to support up to 50,000 unique visitors per day. This equates to approximately 30 TB of data transferred to customers per month and over 3,000 map tiles delivered per second. While granting an uptime over 99.99% 24/7 , over 4 billions of tiles are managed in the cloud, representing over 500 thematic maps.

Swisstopo operates a significant part of the FSDI integration and production environments on Amazon EC2, while test environments run on-premise on the Swisstopo intranet.

High performance of information retrieval, even at high loads: This is achieved by an over eight years established combination of  the open source software framework with an innovative cloud computing architecture described before resulting in an attractive cost / benefit ratio. Furthermore, was an early innovator in Switzerland using cloud computing as infrastructure solution for government authorities.

Swisstopo estimates it is now possible for the FSDI team to launch a new server within an hour, instead of the weeks or months it took before using AWS.

The capability to scale the solution vertically and horizontally within minutes made it possible to grow the usage of the solution every year since 2010 by a year to year growth rate of 50% and at the same time reducing costs per data unit transferred.

All services follow the HTTP standardization (e.g GET PUT POST) as proposed by the W3C Consortium. The RESTFul implementation of the services uses standards such as  HTTP URL JSON and XML.  The Middleware is based on OSS DEBIAN and contains many other OSS components and solutions, same is valid for the applications : all are OSS .

For standards regarding geoservices provided , the FSDI follows the european INSPIRE directive… and on an International level a OGC l compliance is achieved. On a national level, services do comply with the eGovernment standards of eCH

We do not only reuse services , e.g. such as and software such as Openlayers and UMMapserver- but do also actively  engage us in the corresponding communities. is a high priority project of the Swiss eGovernment program. The goal of eGovernment is to enable both businesses and citizens to carry out important transactions with the authorities electronically. The authorities in turn are called upon to modernize their business processes and communicate electronically with each other. The exchange of geodata is fostered by in a significant way. The Federal geoportal is operated by the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo, on behalf of the coordinating body for Federal geographical information (GCG).

The purpose of this Act is to ensure that geodata relating to the territory of the Swiss Confederation is made available to the Federal, Cantonal and municipal authorities, to industry and commerce, to academic and scientific institutions and to society at large, for the broadest possible use, in a sustainable, up-to-date, rapid and easy way, with the required quality and at reasonable cost (GeoIG Art. 1).

The general objectives and roles/responsibilities

Interdepartmental realisation of the implementation of the  Federal Geoinformation Act  by the means of a portal with an integrated map viewer under the control of GCG:

  • Use strong leadership skills for a complex, matrix-oriented organization whose everyday business (operations) is dominated by frequent re-prioritizing of task (projects) and resources under the technical lead of swisstopo;
  • Generate additional economic value by leverage the use of spatial data under the control of eCH as e-geovernment body.
  • The more specific roles of swisstopo within the portal were:
  • Act as a link between the numerous existing thematic spatial portals and therefore ensure both transparency and access to all existing federal portals.
  • Realize a clearly defined process for end user to search and easily access cross-thematic data.
  • Provide standardized information regarding data subscription and purchase conditions.
  • Set up a sustainable infrastructure tier, which is enabling web based services which can be re-used by other federal agencies to distribute and access spatial data more efficiently and effectively.

The portal represents a major step in e-government of geodata at the federal level: so far only thematic portals of various federal agencies and cantonal websites and those of municipalities existed. For the first time, federal spatial data can be accessed over central platform, main features are:

  • Multilingual (five languages), fast and user friendly interface
  • Single point of entry for all spatial data portals of the Federal Authorities of Switzerland
  • High performance of information retrieval, even at high loads. This could be achieved by a novel combination of an open source software framework with an innovative cloud computing architecture resulting in an attractive cost / benefit ratio. Furthermore, was an early innovator in Switzerland using cloud computing as infrastructure solution for authorities.
  • With services as google maps, the benchmark regarding usability and performance for accessing spatial data was set. No off the shelf product was available with which it would be possible to hold up 500 data records at reasonable costs on the federal infrastructure: with an open source and open standards policy, a software framework could be brought to readiness for market within just 3 months of time. Swisstopo choice had an impact of other portals worldwide and has been now reused several times.

A major economic benefit can be achieved with the establishment of in Switzerland. Advocating the use of spatial data is improving the value of this still unexploited resource.

Furthermore, the federal administration benefits of the availability of fundamental information for decision-making, planning and improving efficiency of governmental processes: data production can be accelerated and data exchange processes simplified. Moreover, the reputation of government can be leveraged and even higher tax revenues can be achieved.