Probabilistic uncertainty in an interoperable framework

  • Matthew W. Williams

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis provides an interoperable language for quantifying uncertainty using probability theory. A general introduction to interoperability and uncertainty is given, with particular emphasis on the geospatial domain. Existing interoperable standards used within the geospatial sciences are reviewed, including Geography Markup Language (GML), Observations and Measurements (O&M) and the Web Processing Service (WPS) specifications. The importance of uncertainty in geospatial data is identified and probability theory is examined as a mechanism for quantifying these uncertainties. The Uncertainty Markup Language (UncertML) is presented as a solution to the lack of an interoperable standard for quantifying uncertainty. UncertML is capable of describing uncertainty using statistics, probability distributions or a series of realisations. The capabilities of UncertML are demonstrated through a series of XML examples. This thesis then provides a series of example use cases where UncertML is integrated with existing standards in a variety of applications. The Sensor Observation Service - a service for querying and retrieving sensor-observed data - is extended to provide a standardised method for quantifying the inherent uncertainties in sensor observations. The INTAMAP project demonstrates how UncertML can be used to aid uncertainty propagation using a WPS by allowing UncertML as input and output data. The flexibility of UncertML is demonstrated with an extension to the GML geometry schemas to allow positional uncertainty to be quantified. Further applications and developments of UncertML are discussed.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDan Cornford (Supervisor)


  • interoperability
  • probabilistic uncertainty
  • UncertML

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