November 23 – 27 , 1998, Dagstuhl Seminar 98471

Integrating Spatial and Temporal Databases


O. Günther (HU Berlin), T. Sellis (TU Athens), B. Theodoulidis (UMIST, Manchester)

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Spatial databases incorporate the notion of space in order to accommodate the requirements for databases that allow reasoning about 2D and 3D such as geographical applications( GIS). Their study exists for more than twenty years. Lately, is triggered even more by the progress achieved in the power of computers which permits them to accommodate graphics and easily perform geometrical calculations. Spatial databases form an autonomous, active research community and a series of International Conferences are regularly organised (series of Symposium on Spatial Databases and Symposium on Spatial Data Handling). A number of Journals concern with spatial Databases as well(Cartographica, International Journal of Geographic Information Systems). The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA, USA) is an established body coordinating research in Spatial Databases and their beneficial application in geography. OpenGIS is an International Consortium trying to bring Interoperability into Geographic Information Systems.

Temporal databases incorporate the concept of time to create high-level abstractions useful in database applications. This has been an active area of research for about twenty years. In the last few years the importance of the temporal database area has been recognised by the international scientific community. This recognition came in part in the form of the ARPA/NSF sponsored International Workshop on Temporal Database Infrastructure in 1993, a VLDB-affiliated temporal workshop in 1995, a special section of the IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering on temporal and real time databases published in August 1995, and the incorporation of temporal constructs, proposed by the temporal database community, in the soon-to-be standardised SQL3 language.

The main objective of the seminar was to bring together researchers from the two areas that have been working independently from each other and only recently have started to talk to each other. For example, research work on integration has started appearing on the main conferences and publications of each discipline.

One of the main issues discussed was whether it is feasible and if yes, how the research should be further integrated and if possible, what the mechanisms that the community can define so as to accelerate the process of developing a spatiotemporal infrastructure.

The "Integrating Spatial and Temporal Databases" seminar focused on establishing the foundations of a new discipline and also the future directions of that discipline, with respect to both research issues and the means to incorporate spatiotemporal databases into main-stream application development. A list of topics discussed at this seminar follows:

  • Strategic discussions about the future of spatiotemporal databases as a discipline. Evaluation of the current state of the art with respect to the current trends in the DBMS tools and standards.
  • Research Issues in Spatial and Temporal Databases: What is important?
  • Spatiotemporal data models: relational, object-oriented, deductive and hybrid models. Where do the spatial and temporal capabilities fit in?
  • Spatiotemporal user interfaces and languages. Update and retrieval languages for various types of temporal data models.
  • Implementation issues in spatiotemporal databases. Issues that arise from experience of implementors and users and the agenda for research into these areas and transition to use in practice.
  • Issue a "call for action" to the community (academia and vendors alike)

This seminar brought together over sixty researchers from fifteen countries that have dealt with different disciplines (spatial and temporal), as well as developers of databases and users, to conduct a fruitful discussion and evaluation of the activities thus far with a view on establishing the foundations of a new discipline that of spatiotemporal databases. There was a general agreement that there is still work to be done in Spatiotemporal Design, Data Models, Query Languages and Indexing while areas such as Temporal Data Models and Algebras are almost complete. Spatiotemporal Data Mining, Query Processing and Optimisation will produce significant results in the next ten years.


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