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A vector tile is a vector representation of geographic data covering a spatially contiguous and rectangular extent. They are similar to raster (image) map tiles in their intent, namely to provide support to fast map services which can take advantage of pre-rendering, caching and concurrent requests. They are different because instead of providing a pre-styled fixed image depiction of the geographic data, they are a vector representation which can be manipulated client-side.
It is important to highlight that they are a representation of data intended for visualization, and thus they belong to view services and not to download services; the underlying data, i.e. the geographic features, will be selected, combined, simplified and cropped to generate small vector tiles that can be quickly delivered to relatively simple client devices and applications, where they will be styled.
An open specification for vector tiles, the Mapbox vector tiles specification, is already supported by a number of closed and open source software packages (both in clients and servers, see https://github.com/mapbox/awesome-vector-tiles), and other packages are currently working to support them too.
From the point of view of the service interface, vector tiles are no different to image tiles, they just happen to be in a different format (i.e. instead of PNG, they may be encoded in GeoJSON or Protocol Buffers). This means that they can be served through any view service interface that supports raster tiles (e.g. OGC WMTS or TMS), although the server which implements those interfaces must provide at least certain support for them.
This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of vector tiles, and makes a number of proposals, from a technical point of view, to set up INSPIRE view services based on vector tiles. These proposals are currently being examined by the permanent technical sub-group of the INSPIRE Maintenance and Implementation Group (MIG-T). These proposals describe how to set up a server offering the INSPIRE profile of the WMTS 1.0.0, taking into consideration the potential issues that may arise. The paper will also present a software prototype that is being used to validate these proposals.
Topic Area: [3.4] Continued support to implementation Abstract Type: Oral Presentation
Comments: Vector tiles; View services; WMTS; TMS
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