Environment & Natural Resources

How OGC Membership Benefits Environmental and Natural Resources Research and Management Organizations

Nations, communities, regions and corporations face growing concerns related to sustainable management of water, waste, energy, pollution, forests, croplands, oceans and climate. Geospatial technologies already play a key role in research and management activities that address these concerns. Unfortunately, the prior limitations of these technologies have led to conditions and practices that constrain our thinking about how the technologies might be used now that those limitations no longer apply. "Stovepipes" of various kinds persist as obstacles to discovering and sharing geospatial data and geoprocessing services, even though such discovery and sharing is now a critical requirement.

Benefits of OGC Membership

  • Help shape standards to publish, discover and access data and services via the Web
  • Improve interoperability among specialized scientific systems.
  • Improve data sharing between "information communities".
  • Support global scientific and management cooperation.
  • Gain insight into trends, requirements and products.
  • Help scientists, environmental managers, disaster managers and the public communicate.
  • Support knowledge transfer, multidisciplinary studies, and "whole systems" thinking.
  • Improve rigor and consistency in geoprocessing, sampling strategies, remote sensing, spatial accuracy assessment, and longitudinal studies.
  • Advance Geospatial Digital Rights Management standards to make more data available.

Non-Interoperability in Environmental Research & Management

Most scientific and professional disciplines that use Earth Observation (EO) systems, geographic information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies have special requirements that determine their data models and usual processing methods. Individual scientists, focused narrowly on their research problems, often develop even more specialized data models and methods. The resultant non-interoperability of information systems and data has been reinforced by the industry legacy of non-interoperable proprietary geoprocessing systems.

This is unfortunate, because scientific research, particularly interdisciplinary research involving human impacts on the natural environment, depends on access to lots of data, data which is often expensive to develop or acquire. Researchers often have difficulty discovering what's available and overcoming technical obstacles to accessing the data. Not only research, but also environmental policy and public outreach could benefit greatly from improved discovery, access and use of geospatial data and services.

This set of barriers, which before now could hardly have been avoided, is built into the daily work and institutional mindset of most people active in these disciplines.

As the US Environmental Protection Agency says in its introduction to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), "...while there are thousands of moored and free floating data buoys in the world's oceans, thousands of land-based environmental stations, and over 50 environmental satellites orbiting the globe, all providing millions of data sets, most of these technologies do not yet talk to each other." A wide variety of data standards have been developed and some of these are in wide use within specific disciplines, but data standards are not sufficient.

GEOSS aims to make the world's rapidly growing collection of geospatial information resources much easier to use. The goal is to significantly enhance government operations and public services by enabling decision makers to address social, environmental and economic problems from a geographic perspective, enabling more efficient and effective decision-making. At the technical level, this will be accomplished through OGC standards.

Solving the Problem

Environmental and natural resource researchers and managers work together with geospatial technology providers in the OGC to develop standards that enable diverse systems to "talk to each other." Through OGC membership, individual agencies, research organizations and companies have the opportunity to both participate in this progress and to engage in efficient fact-finding, planning and partnering. The standards expand both the capabilities of technology users and the business opportunities for technology providers. As the market for interoperable geoprocessing technologies expands, technology providers are able to offer increasingly more effective, varied and affordable tools for users. As standards-based products become widely used, researchers' "stovepipes" begin to disappear.

The work in the OGC recognizes the growing importance of Service Oriented Architectures. Current Internet technologies have been adapted in the OGC's consensus process to provide standards ("OpenGIS® Specifications") that enable technology providers and users to overcome the non-interoperability of geospatial systems used in environmental research and management. The standards make it much easier to publish, discover, and access not only geospatial data but also geospatial data schemas and online geoprocessing services. Adopted OpenGIS Specifications address functions such as Catalogue Services, Coordinate Transformation, XML-based Geography Markup Language (GML), GML in JPEG 2000, Grid Coverage Services (for gridded data), Web Feature Services (for vector data), and Web Map Service (for access to simple raster maps produced by raster or vector systems).

Other specifications and activities in the OGC address Open Location Services, Geospatial Digital Rights Management (GeoDRM), CAD/GIS integration, Decision Support service chaining, geospatial semantics, security and more. Sensor location is an important parameter when sensors are used in environmental research and management. In an effort called "Sensor Web Enablement" (SWE), OGC members have developed and tested specifications for publishing and discovering information about sensors and sensor data stores of all types, and for controlling them and acquiring data from them.

All of the OpenGIS Specifications are based on a single interoperability framework, which is based on standard object-oriented and Web-based distributed computing models as well as twelve years of consensus work.

Participate in the OGC Consensus Process

The OGC Interoperability Program is a global, hands-on and collaborative prototyping program designed to rapidly develop, test and deliver proven candidate specifications into OGC's Specification Program, where they are formalized for public release. OGC Interoperability Program Initiatives include test beds, pilot projects, and interoperability experiments.

The OGC Specification Program, consisting of Technical Committee, Technical Committee Working Groups and Planning Committee, provides an effective and well-trusted industry consensus process to plan, review and officially adopt OpenGIS® Specifications for interfaces, encodings and protocols that enable interoperable geoprocessing services, data, and applications.

The OGC is driven by a vision its members share: Environmental research and management, sustainable agriculture, famine relief, disease surveillance and response, disaster management, health monitoring, climate and weather prediction and warning, commerce, security and many other domains can benefit from better access to spatial information and geoprocessing services.

To learn more, contact

Raj R. Singh
Director of Interoperability Programs
rsingh [at] opengeospatial [dot] org
35 Main Street, Suite 5
Wayland MA 01778-5037 USA
Phone: +1 508 647 9385
cell: 617-642-9372
Fax: +1 508 653 3512