Combining Spatial and Traffic Contents for Regions in Europe

Fundamental prerequisites to facilitate the use of European digital data and enable advanced eServices for the society in the mobility sector can be summarized as:

  • traffic management and control
  • traveller information
  • in-car navigation and route guidance
  • location-based services
  • road and infrastructures management
  • event management
  • traffic and land use planning

Financed under the EC eContent initiative, COSTE is a Definition Phase project aimed at facilitating the access to, the integration, use and commercial exploitation of geographic and traffic digital contents available from Public Administrations in Europe.

In order to achieve this, COSTE investigated and defined suitable methods, operational procedures and technological infrastructures to support on-line data access, the integration of contents from different data sources, the production and the exploitation of digital maps combining data from these two sectors. The interest in these fundamental issues at the core of the digital content value chain is common to all European countries, as of general interest are the implications of the theme on different sectors of engineering and management of traffic, mobility, transport, land use and citizens oriented services.

Over the last years, the use of combined geographical, land and traffic digital contents has gained increasing relevance. Thanks to the availability of advanced ICT solutions, such as, e.g., internet and web services, on-board computers, etc., these types of digital contents are more and more becoming a key factor for the success of realisation and operation of the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). For instance, the combined use of digital maps and dynamic traffic information is a fundamental requirement of today’s' traffic information and management systems. This enables, on the one hand, evaluating the conditions of the transport network and taking appropriate control decisions, on the other hand, to provide road users with updated information about traffic and mobility.

However, this is not the only sector which depends in a fundamental measure on the availability of combined geographic and traffic contents. These are relevant for several other applications and services including, for instance: land and resource planning and use, planning and operation of infrastructures, Location Based Services (for e.g. tourism, commerce, etc.), event management, emergency management, etc.

Despite such relevant implications, the digital maps available today are mainly providing geographical, spatial and road network related information, without mobility and traffic related data. Moreover, they hardly provide suitable tools and methods to facilitate the combination of contents from these two sectors. In most cases, the different digital contents are owned by Public Administrations, are organised according to different data models often incompatible each other, are hosted by IT systems provided with different data access interfaces. All of this, limits severely data accessibility, makes data combination and integration difficult and costly and represents a main barrier to the use and potential exploitation of the relevant digital content asset owned by the public administration

The COSTE Definition Phase project addressed the above context, with the aim of studying and defining suitable solutions to enable affective integration of combined spatial and mobility (traffic, transport) related contents for the development and delivery of value added end user services. The figure below provides a schematic illustration of the content value chain adopted as a reference within COSTE.

COSTE reference value chain in the mobility (traffic, transport) service sector

The key background objectives assumed in the study include:

  • the investigation of suitable methods for the integration of spatial and mobility (traffic, transport) related data using digital maps and data location referencing methods as the fundamental data integration resources;
  • the use of open reference standards in the domain, including spatial information standards and Intelligent Transport System standards;
  • the definition of suitable methods for the integration or "harmonisation" of data and service models and modelling approaches in the two addressed domains;
  • the definition of a reference distributed Service Infrastructure to support on-line access to and integration of spatial and traffic-related data and the development of value added end-user applications and services


Softeco Sismat SpA (IT)

Municipality of Genoa (IT)

Interactive Instruments GmbH (DE)

Momatec GmbH (DE)

Ministry of Transport, Energy and Land Planning of NRW Region (DE)

The solutions investigated in COSTE address three main technology domains:

  • technologies and standards for spatial data applications,
  • data modelling standards adopted in the Intelligent Transport Systems domain,
  • technologies and open standards for web-oriented service architectures.

Overall, COSTE has investigated suitable methods, operational procedures and a technological infrastructure to: (1) support on-line data access through standard methods and interfaces, (2) enable interoperability among distributed spatial and traffic data sources over the internet, (3) provide methods and services enabling the production and use of digital maps combining data from the two contents sectors.

Overall, the designed solution includes a distributed, multi-service infrastructure based on the following main conceptual elements and components (see figure below):

  • Web Map Servers (WMS) providing digital maps of various type, contents, scale, format, etc., accessible to external applications through web services. The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Service specification is a reference standard to enable web mapping and supporting interoperability.
  • Web Feature Servers (WFS) providing geographic and transport related contents that are generally referred to as “features”; e,g, on-line traffic data, land use data,  etc.  These contents can be integrated over maps (overlaid) and the OCG Web Feature Service specification provide a standard reference addressing this.
  • Meta-Data Servers (MDS) offering meta-data about maps and contents. Provide various types of information about data themselves (e.g. source, validity, quality, etc.).  Meta-data about services provide information about the services available within the global network environment.  Meta-data are accessed through dedicated servers (catalogues, registries).
  • COSTE Application Server(s) serve as interfaces of  computational environments to the users and provide various COSTE services as well as integrated information available  through the interconnected WMSs and WFSs.
  • COSTE Enabled Applications enabling implementation of specific value added applications for the end-users.  These are delivered through standard global network channels (internet, wireless environment) and made accessible to the intended end-users  via standard web client applications.

Overall COSTE conceptual architecture

Overall, COSTE specifications incorporate recommendations from several major initiatives in the sector of geo-spatial and traffic data, including:

  • digital road map data model standards like GDF (Geographic Data File);
  • the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) specifications for geodata interoperability standards; i.e. ISO 19xxx standards, like e.g.ISO 19100 Geographic Information/Geomatics standards, including ISO 19119 “Geographic Information – Services” standard;
  • the European Spatial Data Infrastructure initiative INSPIRE;
  • the use of widely adopted languages for description of data semantics such as e.g. GML (Geography Markup Language) for road and traffic data;
  • the OGC OWS Service Framework (OSF) identifying services, interfaces and exchange protocols that can be utilised by any OGC-compliant application.

COSTE involved a tight cooperation between IT solutions suppliers and Public Administrations acting as digital contents providers. In order to root the analysis and specification work to the typical European context of geographic and traffic digital contents, COSTE included two reference sites:

Both sites are largely representatives of the data and operational environments as well as of the common requirements that can be found in most land and transport systems in Europe, in the main interurban transport corridors and within mid and large size cities. The investigation, requirements analysis and specification work was conducted in parallel in the two sites, where two small-scale demonstrators (proof-of-concept) were realised. The design and operational solutions were also discussed and validated through consultation of a User Group.

Overall, COSTE allowed us to investigate core issues and technologies underlying effective integration of geo-spatial and traffic related data over internet, distributed, service oriented architectures (SOAs). This initial work has been then further carried out and expanded in our eMOTION and In-Time projects, both further elaborating SOA solutions based on EU open standards for interoperability of traffic and transport information and services.

Further information about the COSTE study and its main achievements can be found in the Resources section.


COSTE: a Web-Services Infrastructure Enabling Interoperability and Integration of Spatial and Traffic e-Contents for European Regions
M.Boero, R.Erstling, M.Feldges, M.Schaefer, D.Schenone
eChallenges e-2005 Conference & Exhibition, 19-21 October 2005, Ljubljana, Slovenia


COSTE: a Web-Services Infrastructure Enabling Interoperability and Integration of Spatial and Traffic e-Contents for European Regions
ppt presentation at eChallenges e-2005.

Public Deliverables

D3 - COSTE Service Definition
A.Kochs, C.Portele, M.Boero, R.Erstling, M.Feldges, G.Nani.

Know how - Mobility


EC Programme

Grant agreement
N° EDC 41030 COSTE/28459

Start date
January 2004

24 months

Softeco Sismat S.p.A. (I)


COSTE project flyer (EN)