1.3 Introduction to Spatial Data

Oracle Spatial and Graph is designed to make spatial data management easier and more natural to users of location-enabled applications and geographic information system (GIS) applications. Once spatial data is stored in an Oracle database, it can be easily manipulated, retrieved, and related to all other data stored in the database.

A common example of spatial data can be seen in a road map. A road map is a two-dimensional object that contains points, lines, and polygons that can represent cities, roads, and political boundaries such as states or provinces. A road map is a visualization of geographic information. The location of cities, roads, and political boundaries that exist on the surface of the Earth are projected onto a two-dimensional display or piece of paper, preserving the relative positions and relative distances of the rendered objects.

The data that indicates the Earth location (such as longitude and latitude) of these rendered objects is the spatial data. When the map is rendered, this spatial data is used to project the locations of the objects on a two-dimensional piece of paper. A GIS is often used to store, retrieve, and render this Earth-relative spatial data.

Types of spatial data (other than GIS data) that can be stored using Spatial and Graph include data from computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems. Instead of operating on objects on a geographic scale, CAD/CAM systems work on a smaller scale, such as for an automobile engine or printed circuit boards.

The differences among these systems are in the size and precision of the data, not the data's complexity. The systems might all involve the same number of data points. On a geographic scale, the location of a bridge can vary by a few tenths of an inch without causing any noticeable problems to the road builders, whereas if the diameter of an engine's pistons is off by a few tenths of an inch, the engine will not run.

In addition, the complexity of data is independent of the absolute scale of the area being represented. For example, a printed circuit board is likely to have many thousands of objects etched on its surface, containing in its small area information that may be more complex than the details shown on a road builder's blueprints.

These applications all store, retrieve, update, or query some collection of features that have both nonspatial and spatial attributes. Examples of nonspatial attributes are name, soil_type, landuse_classification, and part_number. The spatial attribute is a coordinate geometry, or vector-based representation of the shape of the feature.