Innovation Principles

Contributed by: 
Luis Bermudez

The OGC Innovation Program provides a collaborative agile process for advancing new technologies. Since 1999, 95 initiatives have taken place, from multi-million dollar testbeds (such as Testbed 12) to in-kind interoperability experiments. During these initiatives, sponsors and technology implementers come together to solve problems, produce prototypes, develop demonstrations, provide best practices, and advance the future of standards.

The first Innovation Program initiative was in 1999, when the Web Mapping Testbed took place and helped to develop the most popular OGC standard: the Web Map Service (WMS). Today, hundreds of thousands of data layers are available via WMS, and more than ten thousand articles are available related to this subject.

OGC Testbed 12 Video

Testbed 12 (2017) was a US $ 3.6 Million initiative that brought together 30 organizations and 210 individuals from around the world. 82 components (e.g. servers, clients) were developed, and 51 documents were produced.

Recent OGC initiatives helped advance the Geopackage encoding format, which allows users to store terabytes of data, including features and tiles, and synchronize that data with mobile devices for use in offline environments. This new OGC standard is based on modern databases, like SQLite, and is currently supported by more than 20 tools:

GDAL SpatialLite OpenJUMP PLUS
QGIS GeoServer TerraExplorer for Mobile
Luciad FME Safe Software Compusult Go Mobile
Esri GeoTools INTERLIS ili2gpkg
NGA Geopackage Mobile TerraGo Carmenta Engine
Envita ERDC RGI Library PB MapInfo and Map Extreme

Driving Innovation at OGC

After I became the Executive Director of OGC’s recently renamed ‘Innovation Program’ in March 2017, I delved into its history and processes to better understand the success of this program: how do Innovation Program initiatives help advance innovation; and what makes OGC succeed in developing, say, a standard to share maps over the Web, or an encoding that can be used in any mobile application?

Peter Diamandis, one the biggest innovators of our time, founder of the XPRIZE Foundation and best selling author, summarized 8 innovation principles inspired by Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube at Google. These are a practical set of principles that, I think, apply to OGC and can help answer the question of why the Innovation Program works so well:

  1. Focus on the user: The users for the innovation program are the sponsors who ultimately care for their constituents and the customers using their data. NGA, for example, cares about providing the best geospatial intelligence information. NASA cares about the use of Earth Observation data. FAA and Eurocontrol want to improve the interoperability of data used in air transportation. OGC brings sponsors’ requirements and distills them into open architectures and open standards. We make sure we develop solutions where the user is getting data in the proper way in the proper format.

  2. Open will win: OGC has always taken an ‘open’ approach to everything it does: all of its Standards are open and free to use; its initiatives are open; the software used by the validation tools is open source. The calls for participation of sponsors or funded participants are advertised to the world. The results of OGC initiatives (e.g. videos and reports) are open: anybody can use this material without paying any cost or being concerned about intellectual property rights. OGC is using GitHub for writing standards and reports, as well as making available the tests and validation tools.

  3. Think big, but start small: We believe in a world in which everyone benefits from the use of geospatial information and supporting technologies across different domains. We break initiatives down into concrete themes that represent their applications and/or domains. For example, the Future City Pilot used 3D open standards to demonstrate how they can aid in supporting responses to urban flooding, and in land development planning, as well as provide better adult social care based on conditions provided by environmental data.

  4. Spark with imagination, fuel with data: Sponsors and participants in OGC initiatives come together to provide innovative ideas. Getting a sense of what is a popular standard is important. OGC provides a self-registration implementation database that can serve as a proxy for the level of maturity of a standard. This data helps sponsors think about what should come next: address the gaps or make improvements?

  5. Never fail to fail: Rapid iteration is key. OGC initiatives provide the environment to test, fail, and improve. During an initiative, solutions are tested and discussed in weekly telecons. Integration experiments are frequently run to make sure that clients and servers can communicate.

  6. Be a platform: OGC provides the process for using standards as a baseline for innovation (see George Percivall’s recent blog post about Innovations and Standards), but OGC is more than a standards organization. The Innovation Program provides the process to run initiatives in a manner unseen in other organizations. We are continuously improving the process so it can be replicated all over the world (for example, OGC’s Indian Plugfest). We are the platform that brings together experts from around the world to solve challenging problems in an agile prototyping environment and to advance open architectures and standards.

  7. Have a mission that matters. The OGC mission is the reason why staff, members, and those involved in initiatives like to be part of OGC. Advancing geospatial interoperability makes our world more sustainable and enjoyable, and helps first responders save more lives. Sponsors of, and participants in, initiatives make a genuine contribution to the well-being of our planet, and the people that live on it.

I’m more than excited to lead this program and be part of such an important mission. If you want to advance innovation in the geospatial domain, want to become a sponsor or to sign-up for future funding opportunities, please send me an email: lbermudez [at] opengeospatial.org.