Successful AGI/OGC Interoperability Day in Exeter

Contributed by: 
Chris Ewing, Catastrophe Model Developer, Impact Forecasting team, Aon Benfield, London

On a sunny morning at the Met Office in Exeter, UK, Interoperability Day 2012 (#interop12 on Twitter) kicked off with 75 participants from around the world. The event was jointly organised by the OGC and the AGI (the UK's geospatial membership body) and took place on the Friday of the OGC Technical Committee/Planning Committee meetings.

The day started with an introduction to the OGC by Steven Ramage, an OGC staff member. This was greatly appreciated by the audience, some of whom were new to open standards and the business benefits of participating in the OGC standards process.

Next up was Chris Little of the Met Office who gave us an overview of meteorological standards, beginning with Beaufort's weather classification system from 1820! This was then taken to the modern day, showing how the Met office makes use of standards when dealing with meteorological organisations around the world. These are standards that are based on ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) work and also OGC activities.

After this, Graham Vowles from Bloxstore gave an overview of open standards in INSPIRE and talked about the regulatory and technical aspects. After this the discussion continued during the break. Everyone headed next door for coffee and biscuits (refreshments kindly sponsored by 1Spatial) and talked to the exhibitors from Mason Digital and Astun Technology.

After the break, Alex Coley from the Environment Agency gave an overview of open standards in the UK Location Programme (a UK pan-government initiative to improve the sharing and re-use of public sector location information). This was of specific interest to the local government attendees. Alex also gave some insight into future changes in - the UK government's data site).

Mike Saunt of Astun Technology gave us an overview of all things open (standards, software and data). Mike likened open source and standards to collaboration similar to Batman and Robin!

Time for lunch, which was held overlooking "the street" - the main atrium at the Met Office. As people enjoyed their sandwiches, we were frantically pulling together a panel of speakers for the debate in the final session (more on that later!).

After lunch, we heard from George Percivall (OGC) and Jens Fitzke (lat/lon) who took us through the OGC Compliance Testing Programme and the testbeds that are used to test software that uses OGC standards. There was some interesting discussions about the pricing for OGC licensing and the role of free and open-source reference implementations in the Compliance Testing Programme.

After a short break, Andy Howles from Ordnance Survey (OS) gave us an interesting presentation on open standards at the OS. This covered geobase-04 (no prizes for guessing when development started!) and the editing workflow (which makes use of the OGC WMS standard), amongst other things.

Lastly, convened by the conference chair Rollo Home (COWI), we had a small discussion with Alex Coley (EA), Julian Cooper (Ordnance Survey), Lew Leinenweber (OGC) and Chris Little (Met Office). An entertaining discussion ensued, with these takeaway points:

  • Alex Coley (Environment Agency) -  “open standards enable efficiencies, better working across government”
  • Chris Little (Met Office) – “standards can impose a terminology so that everyone knows what things mean”
  • Justin Cooper (Ordnance Survey) – “open standards can encourage growth and innovation”
  • Lewis Leinenweber (OGC) – “the coupling between interoperability and open standards is important”

All in all, the event was a great day and I learned, talking to attendees, that most found it provided a good overview of standards and their implementation in the UK. With INSPIRE just around the corner there was also insight into how to make it all happen and how OGC standards can help; they are already referenced extensively in the INSPIRE Technical Guidance.

The event also provided a chance for non-AGI members to come to an AGI event. To find out more about geospatial events in the southwest of Great Britain follow @AGI_SouthWest on Twitter. If you’re interested in joining the AGI go to 

Interoperability Day 2012 was a first collaboration between OGC and AGI in the UK and the event brought many different people and organisations together. Here's hoping for more future events. Presentations can be viewed and downloaded here: .

Chris Ewing


Chris is a Catastrophe Model Developer for the Impact Forecasting team at Aon Benfield in London, specialising in the use of geographic information and spatial analysis for catastrophe model development for the insurance sector. Away from work, Chris is a Volunteer for MapAction, the disaster mapping charity. Chris is also a Director and Council Member of the Association for Geographic Information, the UK's geospatial membership body. He occasionally writes on the blog and tweets at @web_gis.