OR/14/072 Summary and future developments

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Kessler, H, and Dearden, R. 2014. Scoping study for a Pan-European geological data infrastructure: D 3.4: technical requirements for serving 3D geological models. British Geological Survey, OR/14/072.
OR14072 egdi logo.jpg

This task has shown the scope of the activity ongoing in Europe to deliver 3D geological models and highlighted some of the ways in which geological models are being delivered within Europe. In terms of future delivery of 3D geological models, surveys are most interested in pursuing delivery via a web portal, with functionality for viewing and analysing 3D geological models (both framework and voxel models) and downloading model data (Table 4). There are a number of 3D viewers being developed across Europe, both free and available via license. At present it is not obvious whether one of these viewers will become a standard across Europe.

Table 4    Methods for future delivery of 3D models
Delivery method Number of responses
Web portal 15
      Creates synthetic cross sections, boreholes and maps 7
      Viewing of voxel grids and integration of models with other data 5
Model download 7
No idea 2
3D pdf 2
Hologram 3D models 1
3D plastic models 1
3D databases 1
KML delivery 1

To ensure that data can be downloaded and delivered through standard viewers, considerations should include the standardisation of exports from geological models, in particular:

  • Agree whether bases or tops of geological units are modelled
  • The basic attribution of the models (Lithostratigaphy, Age, Lithology)
  • Agree on a spatial projection system
  • Standardise grid file formats (x,y,z start point)
  • Standardise legend formats


We need to seriously assess real end-user feedback from all organisations who currently have web-based 3D model viewers. This could be proposed under a future COST action where each organisation attends including some user representatives from all different sectors.

We might aim to have some key components made available as open source code (as is the case with some of the mentioned viewers) in order to support GSOs without any IT capabilities or those who are just starting out. Options include looking at looking at the Cesium (http://cesiumjs.org/) WebGL Virtual Globe and Map Engine and the components and architecture of OpenStreetMap (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Component_overview)

How much standardisation is needed and sensible for a shared architecture to be possible? A working group (comprising of geological and technical teams in GSOs) could be established to assess the feasibility (some surveys charge for models, some cannot display boreholes, some have model coverage, some only have surfaces, some have complex geology). Links to INSPIRE teams need to be established from the 3D modelling community.

Shall we start to investigate truly transactional (2 way) delivery mechanisms of models, where clients can suggest edits and insert new observations (akin to OpenStreetMap)?

Assess which methodologies that currently exist could cope with amount of data available in the GSOs at present. Models from different surveys could be tested in some of the Viewers available. A stock take of all presently approved, available and accessible geological models could be carried out.

A cross-GSO team should keep a watching brief on emerging technologies and share the information regularly (e.g. ESRI 3D API, Google developments, Free and Open Source Solutions).

OR14072 framework logo.jpg