Mystery shopper for geospatial data: Can I find the data I want in the EU?

17—Jul—2020, by Kathrin Lenvain


Searching for assets is a very common task in the geospatial industry. On the hunt for datasets of high value (in terms of accuracy and detail) or datasets to use as a reference, GI stakeholders end up seeking resources through web search engines, catalogues, and/or providers’ web sites. Within the broader context of geospatial value chain analysis, we tried to gain a better understanding of the state of play in the search for geospatial assets by organizing a Mystery Shopper exercise.

Our motivation was to understand, assess, and validate the challenges affecting geospatial data consumers in the EU due to the fragmented landscape of our Digital Single Market. In simple terms:

(a) how easy is it to find the assets I am searching for?

(b) is there actionable information for assets to inform my purchasing decisions?

For example:

  • Are terms and conditions clear before purchase?
  • Is the quality and content of the assets available before purchases?
  • Are there adequate metadata describing the assets before purchase?
  • Is the price available publicly?
  • Can I purchase an asset electronically?
  • Can I actually find the assets I am looking for in another EU country?



This market research exercise was conducted by actively searching for geospatial assets across the EU. We assumed the role of a consumer interested in a representative selection of assets (without focusing on geospatial services) and documented the respective business offerings. In a detailed approach, we initially identified industry sectors which constitute potential users of OpertusMundi and prepared a list of representative geospatial assets that could be highly relevant to these different market domains.

The exemplary industry sectors we chose included the Automobile industry, Logistics, Geomarketing, Location Analysis, Real Estate, Smart Cities, Mapping, and Insurance. We then defined the applicable extent/scale (i.e. the national, regional, or local/city level) and combined it with corresponding representative entities, based on economic and technical growth criteria. This resulted in approximately 200 specific market research tasks involving aspects such as:

  • Real-time traffic data for Sofia, Athens, and London
  • Street-level imagery for Warsaw, Lisbon, and Vienna
  • Address databases for Attica, Lombardy, and Bavaria regions
  • Microgeographical Demographics (population and age groups) and Points of Interest for Portugal, Switzerland, and France
  • Property taxation zones for Sofia, Athens, London, Warsaw, Lisbon, and Vienna

The OpertusMundi partners conducted the research while documenting the findings and results in a formal and comparable way. The documentation included information regarding factors that would enable a consumer to make an informed decision for the suitability of the asset discovered and, ideally, to complete the acquisition/transaction online. The factors we took into consideration were the following: asset description, data formats, fact sheet, data schema, data sample, documentation, language, quality information, pricing, terms & conditions/license, existence of sample/draft contracts, clipping availability (e.g. at the regional/local level), ePurchase, and eDelivery.



Our findings were particularly interesting, highlighting once again the challenges affecting our Data Economy for geospatial data, one of the High Value Data domains of our Digital Single Market. For example, we were unable to find one third of the assets we searched for and half of the assets did find were not documented at all in terms of a basic description. In fact, only 15% of the assets were well documented. Documentation in English was available for 44.5% of the datasets, which presents a major barrier to transnational transactions. Additionally, information about Terms & Conditions was not available for 40% of the resources we found, while pricing information was only available for 17%.



Our Mystery Shopper exercise confirmed our own experiences in searching for geospatial assets. It validated the major difficulties in locating proprietary geospatial assets of interest and evaluating whether they are fit for purpose, especially in a commercial setting. Even when a candidate asset is found, they have to deal with the lack of clear terms and/or pricing. We believe these factors constitute a major challenge of geospatial market, prohibiting the growth of our Data Economy.

In OpertusMundi we aim to address these challenges and unleash the dynamics of a pan-European market for industrial geospatial data that is trusted, secure and highly scalable. Among other benefits, this should help eliminate the barriers identified during our Mystery Shopper exercise.