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What is SDTS?

The Spatial Data Transfer Standard, or SDTS, is a robust way of transferring earth-referenced spatial data between dissimilar computer systems with the potential for no information loss. It is a transfer standard that embraces the philosophy of self-contained transfers, i.e. spatial data, attribute, georeferencing, data quality report, data dictionary, and other supporting metadata all included in the transfer.


Purpose of SDTS

The purpose of the SDTS is to promote and facilitate the transfer of digital spatial data between dissimilar computer systems, while preserving information meaning and minimizing the need for information external to the transfer. Implementation of SDTS is of significant interest to users and producers of digital spatial data because of the potential for increased access to and sharing of spatial data, the reduction of information loss in data exchange, the elimination of the duplication of data acquisition, and the increase in the quality and integrity of spatial data. SDTS is neutral, modular, growth-oriented, extensible, and flexible--all characteristics of an "open systems" standard.

The SDTS provides a solution to the problem of spatial data transfer from the conceptual level to the details of physical file encoding. Transfer of spatial data involves modeling spatial data concepts, data structures, and logical and physical file structures. To be useful, the data to be transferred must also be meaningful in terms of data content and data quality. SDTS addresses all of these aspects for both vector and raster data structures.


Components of SDTS

The SDTS specification is organized into the base specification (Parts 1-3) and multiple profiles (Parts 4-6). Parts 1-3 are related, but relatively independent, each dealing with its own piece of the spatial data transfer problem. Parts 4-6 each define specific rules and formats for applying SDTS for the exchange of particular types of data in SDTS.

The six parts of SDTS:

Part 1 - Logical Specifications

Part 2 - Spatial Features

Part 3 - ISO 8211 Encoding

Part 4 - Topological Vector Profile

Part 5 - Raster Profile

Part 6 - Point Profile


red ball To view the Standard
red ball To find out more about Profiles
red ball For informative articles on SDTS visit our SDTS Information FTP Site

History of SDTS

The Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Program was established in the 1960s to standardize federal usage of computers. FIPS are government standards for federal agencies and organizations. The administrator of the FIPS Program is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In the mid-1970s, computers began popping up throughout many federal geographic and cartographic agencies. As the application of computers in geography and cartography grew within the federal government, the need for earth science data standards became apparent.

In 1980, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was designated the lead agency in developing earth science data standards for the federal government. The USGS worked with academic, industrial, and federal, state, and local government users of computer mapping and GIS to develop a standard for transfer and exchange of spatial data. In 1992, after twelve years of developing, reviewing, revising, and testing, the resulting standard--SDTS, was approved as Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) Publication 173, known as FIPSPUB 173-1, 1994. The FIPS version has been superceded by current version, known as ANSI NCITS 320-1998 and was ratified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) June 9, 1998.

Compliance with SDTS is now mandatory for federal agencies. SDTS is available for use by state and local governments, the private sector, and research and academic organizations.


To receive SDTS information in hardcopy, send your mailing address and a request for the SDTS information you would like to:

SDTS Task Force
U.S. Geological Survey
1400 Independence Road
Rolla, MO 65401

Or call 573-308-3561, FAX 573-308-3652


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