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The geodata produced by swisstopo are stored in a defined geodetic reference system.

The illustration shows how the Swiss coordinates are created. The starting point of the coordinate system is the Old Observatory in Bern, which today has the coordinates 1 200 000 / 2 600 000.

What does georeferencing mean?

Georeferencing (also referred to as geocoding and positioning) is the term used for allocating spatial reference information to a data set. In addition to pictorial data, a georeference file is compiled that establishes the reference to the coordinates of the Swiss reference system (national coordinates of upper left pixel, pixel size in both coordinate directions). Vectorial landscape models are geocoded in that the individual vector points are recorded in the national coordinates system.

Comparing maps from different periods 

Thanks to georeferencing to a uniform reference system it is possible for data sets from different periods to be superimposed and directly compared with one another. However, it is important to bear in mind the fact that the degree of accuracy of the various series of Swiss maps (Dufour Map, Siegfried Map, national map) varies as a result of the different surveying and reproduction methods used at the time of their production. Due to the varying degrees of accuracy in older maps, a local adjustment may be helpful, depending on the user’s particular requirements. In such cases it is recommended that users should carry out the georeferencing directly based on suitable adjustment points with the aid of a geographic information system rather than relying on the swisstopo standard georeferencing file based on the map’s key data. 

Accuracy of historical swisstopo maps 

Users who superimpose older maps over modern ones and directly compare them should be aware of the fact that the accuracy of older maps is not equivalent to that of maps that are produced today. As a general rule, for the national map, a positioning accuracy (cartographic processing precision) of 0.1 to 0.3 millimetres may be assumed based on the scale used (thus for 1:25,000 maps the effective accuracy range is between 2.5 and 7.5 metres). In smaller-scale maps, local distortion effects can result in even lower levels of positioning accuracy. 

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
+41 58 469 01 11


Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern

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