Ontology-Driven Geographic Information Systems

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Fonseca, Frederico Torres
Geographic information systems; Human information processing; Computer Sciences; Databases and Information Systems; Geographic Information Sciences
thesis / dissertation description
Information integration is the combination of different types of information in a framework so that it can be queried, retrieved, and manipulated. Integration of geographic data has gained in importance because of the new possibilities arising from the interconnected world and the increasing availability of geographic information. Many times the need for information is so pressing that it does not matter if some details are lost, as long as integration is achieved. To integrate information across computerized information systems it is necessary first to have explicit formalizations of the mental concepts that people have about the real world. Furthermore, these concepts need to be grouped by communities in order to capture the basic agreements that exist within different communities. The explicit formalization of the mental models within a community is an ontology. This thesis introduces a framework for the integration of geographic information. We use ontologies as the foundation of this framework. By integrating ontologies that are linked to sources of geographic information we allow for the integration of geographic information based primarily on its meaning. Since the integration may occurs across different levels, we also create the basic mechanisms for enabling integration across different levels of detail. The use of an ontology, translated into an active, information-system component, leads Ontology-Driven Geographic Information Systems. The results of this thesis show that a model that incorporates hierarchies and roles has the potential to integrate more information than models that do not incorporate these concepts. We developed a methodology to evaluate the influence of the use of roles and of hierarchical structures for representing ontologies on the potential for information integration. The use of a hierarchical structure increases the potential for information integration. The use of roles also improves the potential for information integration, although to a much lesser extent than did the use of hierarchies. The combined effect of roles and hierarchies had a more positive effect in the potential for information integration than the use of roles alone or hierarchies alone. These three combinations (hierarchies, roles, roles and hierarchies) gave better results than the results using neither roles nor hierarchies.