The National Map

Night time aerial view of a city visually depicting the National Map

The National Map is an authoritative spatial reference framework which ensures consistent and unique referencing of topological state information, both in terms of location and in terms ID tag referencing.

10 things to know about Ireland’s richest spatial database

The National Map is Tailte Éireann’s central database of geospatial information. Launched in 2015, it has all the details you’d expect to find in a geospatial database such as buildings, field extents, road networks, etc., but it’s also so much more than that.

1. It’s the most detailed spatial dataset in Ireland

When it comes to the capture of Irish Geospatial data, Tailte Éireann - Surveying is the authoritative source of information . Providing national coverage, precision detail, accuracy and the very latest information, the data is fed into the National Map, making it the most up to date database of spatial information in Ireland.

2. It’s possibly the biggest spatial database in Ireland

Each building, fence, waterway etc. is stored as an individual ‘object’ in the National Map. There are over 50 million ‘objects’ which means that the National Map is the richest spatial database in Ireland.

3. It facilitates a deeper understanding

The objects in the National Map contain more detailed information within their code, known as ‘attributes’.

For example, the attributes for a particular building would tell you what street that building is connected to, what major road can be used to access that street and what type of route the road belongs to (e.g. Regional Route R166 etc).

Before the National Map, it was left to the user to visually interpret the data in order to understand what the lines, shapes and symbols on digital and paper maps meant. When you look at the National Map data in the map viewer of a GIS, you don’t necessarily need to have map viewing skills, because when you click on an object, its attributes are displayed in tabular form giving you more information about that object.

4. It’s incredibly powerful for data analysis

Every object is assigned a unique reference called a ‘unique geographic identifier’ or UGI. This allows you to distinguish a particular object from any other object. It also makes it easier to draw comparisons and ensures a higher quality and consistency in the data. Because of this, the National Map data is very powerful for analysis.

5. You can use it to see how objects change over time

Objects change over time. They can physically change, e.g. an extension can be added to a building, or they can remain unchanged in terms of position and shape, but their attributes can change, e.g. a building that was once residential might now be used as a medical clinic.

Within the National Map, it’s possible to record an object in various stages of its existence. For example, a building can be recorded in its construction right through to its dereliction or destruction. When an object is no longer in existence, its data is maintained in the database in archive mode.

Because each object has its own unique lifecycle, with various stages over time being recorded within its attributes, it’s easy to show change over a period of time.

6. Joined Up Geometry

Traditionally, digital mapping data was stored in individual sections known as ‘tiles’. Tile-based mapping can be prone to errors because one tile may not be as up to date as a neighbouring tile. Unlike tile-based maps, the data in the National Map is stored as one seamless ‘skin’ that covers the entire country.

7. You can use your own data with The National Map data

A big problem in the past was that different State bodies and private businesses were capturing data in different formats, so people ran into compatibility issues when they tried to overlay datasets from different sources.

With the advent of the National Map it became the optimal common referencing system for spatial data in Ireland, meaning that organisations adopted the National Map’s set of standards to both capture new data and convert old data.

This opened up a whole world of opportunity for organisations who can now not only use our data, but they can easily mix it with their own datasets.

8. It’s a major asset for decision makers

Using the National Map data makes it easier for Irish state bodies to inform decisions about the allocation of funds and resources to hospitals, schools and other vital services.

When organisations do make this investment, their investment empowers them to make cost-saving decisions about how they allocate their services and resources.

9. It’s regularly updated

Data is often updated based on themes, e.g. roads, buildings etc., so that we can target the types of features that our customers are most interested in.

We regularly consult with key users and ask about their needs, for example local authorities need housing data to be as current as possible so we aim to have every new residence in the database within a specified time period.

In the last number of years, the emphasis has been on making buildings information as up to date as possible. This is strongly driven by the need to maintain GeoDirectory an up-to-date buildings dataset that supports the development of Eircode, the official State postcode system

10. State bodies have unlimited access to it

Irish government departments and public sector bodies can access all The National Map data under the terms of the National Mapping Agreement. Private sector organisations can contact us and ask for the Digital Sales function.

All of these features of the National Map drive one overarching goal, which is to facilitate the data user to make better decisions. Having more sophisticated data gives the user the power to be smarter, more effective, and more efficient.