FAQs - Becoming a Member

Q and A: 
  1. Why should an organization join OGC?
  2. Why should data providers, such as National Mapping Agencies, become involved now instead of waiting for products that conform to the OpenGIS Specifications?
  3. Why should a university become a member of OGC?
  4. Don’t software vendors sacrifice competitive advantage by working in OGC?
  5. Is it possible to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of participation in OGC?
  6. Is access to information an important justification for participation in OGC?
  7. For whom are OpenGIS Specifications most relevant today?
  8. Has the defense industry played an important role in OGC?
  9. Does involvement in OGC make it possible today to reach new markets? Which ones in particular?
  10. Where do data providers and service providers fit in the technology environment being created by members of OGC?
  11. Has OGC worked with public institutions and other important actors in the geographical information market to promote use of software that conforms with OpenGIS Specifications?
  12. Does membership in OGC help members with their own marketing efforts?
  13. Who will most benefit from this kind of interoperability on the Web?

Q: Why should an organization join OGC?

A: Different kinds of organizations have different reasons to join:

Technology Developers join to:

  • Help drive the interface specifications required for interoperability.
  • Gain early insight into user needs for geoprocessing interoperability.
  • Bring new products and services to market sooner.
  • Reduce development risk and cost, thanks to shared development and industry-wide adoption of open interfaces.

Technology Users join to:

  • Reduce procurement risk and life cycle costs as Standards-based Commercial Off The Shelf (SCOTS) products extend and replace custom-built applications.
  • Guide and accelerate the development and implementation of open interfaces.
  • Encourage broader choice of standards-based geoprocessing solutions in the marketplace.
  • Cooperate and share costs with other user organizations that have similar interoperability needs.

Integrators join to:

  • Gain early opportunity to help enterprises transition from single-vendor and custom-built geoprocessing solutions to solutions offering user choice, rapid integration, online services and extra-enterprise communication and collaboration.
  • Evolve business practices from custom design to enterprise "interface administration."

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Q: Why should data providers, such as National Mapping Agencies, become involved now instead of waiting for products that conform to the OpenGIS Specifications?

A: Construction of new reference architectures for developing, maintaining, distributing and using geospatial information necessarily proceeds bottom-up, from statements of user requirements. Sponsoring OGC Interoperability Initiatives is the best way for data and service-oriented institutions to accelerate this process and to be sure it yields services that meet their needs. Also, by participating in OGC, they become part of the network of technology users and providers that is focused on the same set of problems that concerns the data providers.

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Q: Why should a university become a member of OGC?

A: University researchers in areas related to geoprocessing software development will benefit immensely from technology discussions and projects (live and online) in OGC that involve many of the leading professionals in the field. Also, ongoing OGC projects focused on topics such as sustainable development, disaster management, environment and natural resources provide a focus for research communities that are focused on disciplines other than geoprocessing software development. Many disciplines and many industries are involved. Interoperability unlocks the value of spatial data for interdisciplinary studies. Knowledge gained can be directly applied to many university objectives related to use of geospatial information. Students can help solve important real world problems and make contacts with potential employers. Cost is low. (The cost/benefit ratio of OGC participation is very good compared to other standards activities.)

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Q: Don’t software vendors sacrifice competitive advantage by working in OGC?

A: No, but the competitive environment has changed, so vendor strategies must change. In the past, the comprehensiveness of suites of software provided competitive advantage, and customers became "captive" customers. Now, vendors achieve competitive advantage by offering better open-environment solutions that build on standards. It is still important to offer products that are "best of breed" for specific applications, but products need to interoperate with other vendors’ products. Membership in OGC provides advantages such as access to the specifications, insight into market direction, and efficient access to the voice of the customer. OpenGIS Specifications are becoming the currency for geodata sharing within government and among vertical markets that are impacted by government geoinformation. OpenGIS Specifications provide a data sharing framework by which specialized vendors can integrate into enterprise architectures.

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Q: Is it possible to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of participation in OGC?

A: Yes. For example, evaluating ROI in terms of dollars, marks, or pounds is possible when an organization considers the value of particular business relationships which would not have become established if the organization had not been active in OGC. Such ROI might be revenue from a major customer or business partner, or savings realized through particular products, services, or business procedures put in place because of what was learned in OGC. It is also possible for a vendor to calculate roughly how much they saved by sharing certain development costs through developing open interfaces collaboratively instead of developing proprietary interfaces in-house. Soon, some product revenues will be clearly attributable to the market value of products’ open interfaces. But it is also true that, in today’s extremely dynamic, complex, and hard-to-predict business environment, many decisions cannot be accurately and promptly evaluated in terms of their contribution to the bottom line. Some evaluations must be more abstract, based on the decision makers’ values, goals, strategies and sense of where the market is going.

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Q: Is access to information an important justification for participation in OGC?

A: Yes, it is one of the fundamental reasons for participation. It is important in terms of access to in-progress specifications, but it is even more important in terms of access to industry trends and developments. This information directly determines the possibilities for industrial and academic research and industrial product strategies.

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Q: For whom are OpenGIS Specifications most relevant today?

A: Initially it was the large government users who become involved because of their critical strategic interest. Major user corporations, such as Telcos and transportation companies, have begun to participate to advance interoperability in their industry domains. But commercial adoption of OpenGIS Specifications in commercial, off-the-shelf products has advanced sufficiently that now all users are affected. At this point, it is critically important for all users of geoprocessing technology to insist on interoperable software products, because the Web's potential is only realized through interoperability.

All software developers and integrators who provide geoprocessing software or who seek to integrate these capabilities into general purpose information systems are also, of course, affected by OpenGIS Specifications.

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Q: Has the defense industry played an important role in OGC?

A: Yes. Defense agencies around the world are major users of GI and GI technology. In the U.S.A. as elsewhere, defense agencies seek to reduce their information system costs by buying Standards-based Commercial Off-the-Shelf (SCOTS) software and data products. OGC provides a great opportunity for them to achieve this. Defense has historically driven funding for national mapping activities, but the long-term payback to society comes through the application of the resultant geographic information, technology and mapping institutions in public, private and academic activities.

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Q: Does involvement in OGC make it possible today to reach new markets? Which ones in particular?


A: Yes, providers are increasingly able to reach non-traditional GIS users and mass markets for GI. Open interfaces enable broad connections to other IT sectors.

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Q: Where do data providers and service providers fit in the technology environment being created by members of OGC?

A: OpenGIS Specifications are specifications for interfaces that enable a variety of services. This is the core of OGC’s work. All geospatial services need geospatial data. In the new paradigm, data providers have a clear opportunity to become service providers, providing services via the Internet. Also, in the new paradigm it makes sense for many providers of data to be the single, authoritative source for that data. Inefficient, redundant data collection will become much less common. There are many payment models available. At the same time, because Web-based computing does not require that data servers and service servers be the same servers, it is likely that many intermediary service providers will find niches in which to operate successfully.

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Q: Has OGC worked with public institutions and other important actors in the geographical information market to promote use of software that conforms with OpenGIS Specifications?

A: Yes, since 1994 OGC has held special meetings for key user organizations, participated in dozens of conferences, provided articles for magazines, mailed informative papers and brochures, and worked to recruit user organizations as members. OGC recognizes the importance of "market pull" in the successful market introduction of interoperable geoprocessing software. This is the mission of OGC's Outreach and Community Adoption Program.

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Q: Does membership in OGC help members with their own marketing efforts?

A: Yes. Technology providers and technology users meet frequently to discuss technical and business issues, and these meetings are very important in the marketing efforts of the technology providers and in the technology users’ development of market awareness.

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Q: Who will most benefit from this kind of interoperability on the Web?

A: Users -- a much larger population of users than currently use GIS and remote sensing software -- will benefit the most. Producers, owners, stewards, and resellers of geodata will also benefit. Software vendors will benefit because: the market will be much bigger; the Web server, tools, and applet markets will be strong; the geoprocessing software integration business will be booming; current users will buy the new versions of software that have OpenGIS Compliant interfaces; and sophisticated and specialized applications will proliferate. There will be new jobs for metadata and data semantics experts, geographers who help build and integrate geographic "content" for Web sites, data coordinators, etc. The Spatial Web will continue to spawn new businesses.

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