Saving Money and Resources
For many organizations, exchanging environmental data has become a costly and time consuming exercise. Data exchange often requires dedicated resources to build and maintain interfaces between data systems. In many cases, data must be transferred manually between systems through labor intensive data entry. The Exchange Network can reduce the cost and resource requirements of data sharing. Network partners map data to XML schema–a universal language–and then send or publish that data with web services via a Network Node. The days of entering data multiple times and developing and maintaining interfaces between systems are over. It no longer matters if Partner systems are different–the Network can now exchange the data automatically using a common language.
Better Information Equals Better Decisions
When stakeholders have better information, they can make better decisions that protect our environment and public health. As our understanding of complex environmental processes has grown, policy makers and the public have begun to demand more comprehensive information. Regional environmental analyses of watersheds or airsheds require data that can span several geographical, political, and agency jurisdictions. The Exchange Network allows for automated data exchanges that allow Partners to integrate, analyze, and interpret more comprehensive information from disparate sources. One of the foundations of the Exchange Network is that data do not have to be physically moved to another database. Instead, web services can be deployed to publish the data in XML format on each Network Node. Once data are on the Node, partners can query and use the information. Real-time data is now at Partners’ fingertips.
Opportunities for New Data Exchanges
Traditionally, most environmental information exchanges have been driven by regulatory reporting relationships between the state environmental departments and EPA. Negotiation of new data exchanges was difficult due to the burden of designing systems and exchange mechanisms that work for all Partners. The Exchange Network provides the infrastructure for exchanging valuable new data between the states and EPA. The open format makes data exchange easier because all Partners exchange data in the same way; they are no longer dependent on backend systems.
Improved Data Quality
In the past, problems with traditional data exchange methods often compromised the quality of environmental data. These problems include faulty data entry, multiple data entry, transmittal of incorrect data types or file formats, and sporadic use of data standards. The Exchange Network improves data quality by incorporating data standards up front and establishing standard business rules in the XML schema used to package the data for exchange. Metadata can also be wrapped in the exchange easily so the data can be qualified.
Access to Real-time Data
Other labor intensive approaches to data exchange often create delays in transmittal, leaving decision makers with outdated information that is of little real value. Today, we live in a point-and-click culture–the public demands more timely access to information about environmental conditions. By utilizing web services and the Internet, the Exchange Network can provide real-time information. In addition, web services allow data to be stored at the data owner location and published to the Internet for easy access in a secure environment. Not only does this make data more timely, it ensures that the quality of the data is not compromised. Data are now available for real-time environmental decision making.