How OGC Membership Helps Organizations Involved in Homeland Security

Since 9/11, it has become much more obvious that federal, state and local agencies must depend on each other to fulfill their complementary missions in times of crisis as well as in ordinary times. Sharing geospatial information is critical in such cooperation, and standards enable the interoperability that makes information sharing possible.

In 2004, the Geospatial Information Office (GIS) in the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) CIO office developed an enterprise architecture view for the department's IT modernization blueprint. As reported in GCN (, Ryan Cast, the DHS's geospatial information officer, said that an interagency task force had determined how geospatial information applies to each layer of the architecture. "We were able to identify 67 out of 77 homeland security business activities that have a geospatial context," Cast said. "The DHS EA team will integrate our information into the overall architecture."

The DHS Geospatial Enterprise Architecture (GEA) has now been completed and approved and it comprehensively applies OGC standards. In 2005, the DHS became a Principal Member of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

The GEA is part of a move toward greater interoperability in new geospatial products and systems used by FEMA, the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, other DHS agencies and state and local agencies with homeland security (HLS) responsibilities. This reflects high level government recognition that geospatial information is fundamental information, and that a new "need-to-share" (vs. "need-to-know") information culture needs to be supported by a decentralized peer-to-peer network that is secure but based on open standards that enable a "system of systems". Only such a system can support both horizontal and vertical information sharing throughout federal, state, and local levels.

The OGC plays a key role in making a "system of systems" possible. Government geospatial information requirements were a key driver in the formation of the OGC in 1994 and they continue to be a main source of requirements for the OGC's standards (OpenGIS® Specifications).

The scenario for OWS-4, the main OGC Innovation Program test bed activity of 2006, was a Homeland Security scenario in which a group of agencies work together to respond to a "dirty bomb" that explodes at a shipping terminal. In the scenario, the agencies' efforts are supported by interoperability between a building information model (BIM), an indoor navigation system, IEEE 1451 sensors, wireless communications, live imaging from an unmanned aerial vehicle, online maps and modeling and simulation tools. The data sharing and decision support capabilities were shown in a live public demonstration in December, 2006.

Since 1994, OGC members committed to building the standards infrastructure for disaster management have included:

  • Government: National, regional and local agencies and organizations with mandates to manage risks and subsequent crisis situations.
  • Private sector: Planning, civil engineering and construction companies, vendors, system integrators and data providers whose activities are in whole or part governed by the statutes and regulations of the above mentioned governmental organizations.
  • Academia: Research groups and advisory councils that serve decision-makers at all levels.

In interoperability initiatives and Technical Committee work, OGC members have collaboratively developed OpenGIS® Specifications to address national security, disaster management and other requirements. Through this collaboration, businesses, agencies and research groups become aware of technology trends and aware of each other's offerings and requirements. This has had a positive effect on the progress of the industry. Many OpenGIS Specifications are becoming widely implemented, widely deployed and widely required in procurements. But much work remains.

OpenGIS® Specifications

The OGC membership has worked collaboratively over the last twelve years to develop open and freely available interface and encoding standards. In a global, open consensus process, OGC members are developing, testing, documenting and agreeing on open interfaces and encodings that enable interoperability of geospatial data, services, and applications. These interfaces and encodings have applicability for enhancing interoperability in many technology and application domains, such as geographic information systems (GIS) and systems for Earth imaging, navigation, tracking, facilities management, cartography, location based services and surveying and mapping. New ways have been found in the OGC to introduce multimedia data about places, including text references and sensor and video data, into the domain of geospatial searches and geospatial processing. Open Geospatial Digital Rights Management (GeoDRM) service interfaces will apply in applications that might involve any of these other OGC standards. The underlying framework for technical interoperability is consistent with the framework for the emerging GeoDRM standards.

OGC's Risk and Crisis Management Working Group (RCM WG)

The mission of the OGC Technical Committee's Risk and Crisis Management Working Group (RCM WG) is "to improve efficiency and effectiveness of users in each phase of the risk and crisis management life cycle and across the risk and crisis management community through changes and extensions to OpenGIS® specifications which result in interoperable geospatial products that can be shared across this community."

Currently, a key goal of the Risk and Crisis Management WG is to synchronize the project-oriented work in ORCHESTRA (Open ARCHitEcture and Spatial Data InfrasTRucture for Risk MAnagement) with the ongoing activities in the OGC. ORCHESTRA is funded by the European Commission within the 6th Framework Programme. Partners in ORCHESTRA include the OGC members Joint Research Centre (JRC), BRGM, Ordnance Survey (GB), Fraunhofer Institute, ETH Zurich, Environmental Informatics Group (EIG) and ARC Seibersdorf research (ARCS), and several non-members. The overall goal of ORCHESTRA is to design and implement an open service-oriented architecture that will improve interoperability among actors involved in Multi-Risk Management. This is consistent with the goals of a wide range of non-European government agencies who are also active in the RCM WG.

The RCM WG promotes dialog within the risk and crisis management community, including other standards bodies, about interoperability objectives relevant to this community. The RCM WG is open to anyone from the risk and crisis management community, whether or not they are already members of the OGC.

The RCM WG works closely with other Working Groups of the OGC Technical Committee, such as the Natural Resources and Environment WG (now combined with the Earth Observation Working Group) and the Sensor Web Enablement WG.

Sensor Web Enablement

Specification development in the OGC spans the full range of geospatial applications. One area of particular interest in Risk and Crisis Management is Sensor Web Enablement.

Sensors and networks, both wired and wireless, are key components in building distributed sensor networks for monitoring and protecting critical infrastructure such as buildings, airports, railways, bridges, utilities, and water supplies. One important Homeland Security application of OGC standards is SensorNet®. SensorNET is a vendor-neutral interoperability framework for Web-based discovery, access, control, integration, analysis, exploitation and visualization of online sensors, transducers, sensor-derived data repositories, and sensor-related processing capabilities. It is being designed and developed by the Computational Sciences and Engineering Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Department of Defense, and numerous universities and private sector partners.

Such networks also play a role in tsunami and earthquake warning systems, severe weather forecasting and tracking, flood warnings, and environmental health.

The Sensor Web Enablement effort involves OGC members and other standards organization in developing a framework of standards and best practices to network all types of sensors for Web-based discovery, access, control, integration, analysis, exploitation and visualization of online sensors, transducers, sensor-derived data repositories.

OGC Specification Program

The OGC Specification Program 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 Specification Program allows members from many government, research and industry segments worldwide to do this work together in a collaborative and collegial environment.

The Specification Program consists of two primary organizational units:

The OGC Technical Committee (TC) is where the formal specification consensus discussion and approval process occurs. The Technical Committee is comprised of a number of Working Groups. These Working Groups provide a forum for discussion of key interoperability issues, discussion and review of specifications, and presentations on technology areas relevant to solving geospatial interoperability issues. The Technical Committee's main task is the formal review and adoption of OpenGIS Specifications, which are often drafted in OGC testbeds (see Innovation Program below). The Technical Committee is also responsible for the maintenance and revision of adopted specifications.

The OGC Planning Committee (PC) is composed mainly of Principal and Strategic Member representatives. The Planning Committee provides guidelines and a management structure for the Technical Committee and Innovation Program. The Planning Committee is charged with business planning and the management of the consortium's technology release process and strategic member programs. The Planning Committee approves special memberships - such as those with other standards organizations - and committee participation.

The Specification Program uses the process mechanisms such as RFIs (requests for information) and RFCs (requests for comment) to discuss, evaluate, and approve OpenGIS Specifications. The Technical Committee Policies and Procedures document codifies these process mechanisms and provides a framework for individual initiative and negotiation. Any OGC member can work on a specification, propose changes to a specification, and work on revisions to a specification. The Specification Program accommodates such bottom-up efforts as well as efforts initiated within the committees. The Geography Markup Language (GML) is an example of a very successful OpenGIS Specification that was created through a bottom-up initiative.

OGC Innovation Program

The OGC Innovation Program (IP) 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 Innovation Program Initiatives include test beds, pilot projects, and interoperability experiments:

  • Testbeds provide an environment for fast-paced, multi-vendor collaborative efforts to define, design, develop, and test candidate interface and encoding specifications. These draft specifications are then reviewed, revised, and, potentially, approved in the OGC Specification Program.
  • Interoperability Experiments are brief, low overhead, formally structured and approved initiatives led and executed by OGC members to achieve specific technical objectives that further the OGC Technical Baseline.
  • Pilot Projects apply and test OpenGIS Specifications in real world applications using standards based commercial off-the-shelf (SCOTS) products that implement OpenGIS Specifications. Pilot projects are designed to help users understand how to best implement interoperable geoprocessing that meets their requirements for application, spatial data, and geoprocessing service sharing. These projects also help identify gaps for further work.

OGCNetworkTM is an online infrastructure of Internet-accessible, configuration-controlled components that implement OpenGIS Specifications. OGC Network is a network of networks. OGCNetwork is the place to find technical documents, test suites, training materials, reference implementations and other resources to support wide deployment of OpenGIS Specifications.

The IP is an essential part of the consortium's fast, inclusive, effective user-driven process for developing OpenGIS® Specifications. These specifications make it possible for technology providers to meet their customers' needs for efficient discovery, access, sharing and use of geospatial data and geospatial processing services. In the OGC's Innovation Program Initiatives, international teams of technology providers work together to solve specific geo-processing interoperability problems posed by the initiative's sponsoring organizations.

Who can participate in an Innovation Initiative?

All OGC Interoperability Initiatives are publicly announced, and a Request For Proposals/Call for Participation (RFP/CFP) is issued for every initiative. Any organization - member or non-member - can respond to the RFP/CFP. However, in order to participate a selected organization must become a member.

Initiative Sponsors (OGC Members) work with a team of OGC staff and technical experts to document interoperability requirements. This process includes the development of an initiative's use cases, vision, technology objectives, and timeline. Sponsors contribute resources - funding, personnel, facilities, etc.

In response to the sponsor's requirements, Initiative Participants, mainly technology provider companies, establish specific technical requirements for specification development or enhancement and determine the scope and agenda. OGC staff and the sponsors facilitate this work. Multi-vendor participant teams develop and document the prototype interfaces, encodings etc. and perform other technical tasks.

OGC staff works with the members to: publish Requests for Technology (RFTs), Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and Calls for Participation (CFPs); manage initiatives; and provide liaison with other industry consortia and de jure standards organizations.

Listed below are Innovation Program Initiatives that have been completed since the inception of the Innovation Program in 1999:

Web Mapping Testbed Phase 1 (WMT1), April 1999 - August 1999
Geospatial Fusion Testbed (GFS), May 2000 - November 2000
Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna Pilot Project (USL Pilot), Feb. 2000 - May, 2000
Web Mapping Testbed Phase 2 (WMT2), June 2000 - January 2001
Civil Works Technology Insertion, Phase 1 (CTI-1), April 2001 - September 2001
Military Pilot Project Testbed, Phase 1 (MPP-1), April 2001 - April 2002
North Rhine Westphalia Pilot (NRWPP), May 2001 - Spring 2002
Geospatial Fusion Pilot Project (GSF PP), Jan. 2001 - June 2001
FGDC Web Mapping CAP Support, August 2001 - September 2001
Location Services Testbed (OpenLS Testbed), Phase I, August 2001 - November 2002
OGC Web Services (OWS) Initiative 1.1, after the events of September 11, 2001
Multihazard Mapping Initiative, Phase 1 (MMI-1), October 2001- May 2002
Object Domain Modeling Support Initiative (ODMS), October 2001 - January 2002
OGC Web Services Thread Set 2 (OWS 1.2), May 2002 - February 2003
Geospatial Information For Sustainable Development Initial Capability Pilot (GISD-ICP), 2002
Geographic Objects Initiative 1 (GO-1), September 2002 - June 2003
Critical Infrastructure Protection Initiative (CIPI-1.1), October 2002 - May, 2003
Geospatial One-Stop - Portal Initiative (GOS-PI), October 2002 - July 2003
Conformance and Interoperability Test and Evaluation (CITE), Nov. 2002 - Oct. 2003
Critical Infrastructure Protection Initiative (CIPI-1.2), March 2003 - September 2003
Critical Infrastructure Protection Initiative (CIPI-2), March 2003 - September 2003
Geospatial One-Stop - Transportation Pilot (GOS-TP), Completed September 2003
Emergency Mapping Symbology Testbed (EMS), January 2004 - April 2004
OGC Web Services Context Document Schema Interoperability Experiment May 2004 - April 2004
LandGML/LandXML Interoperability Experiment, June 2004 - July 2004
OGC Web Services Phase 2 (OWS-2), October 2003 - September 2004
Web Processing Services Interoperability Experiment (WPSIE), January - June 2005
GML in JPEG 2000 Interoperability Experiment (GMLJP2), March 2005 - June 2005
OGC Web Services, Phase 3 (OWS-3), April 2005 - October 2005
Geospatial Semantic Web Interoperability Experiment (GSW IE), April 2005 - October 2005

Interoperability Initiatives for 2006

Six initiatives underway in 2006 are listed below. See the Innovation Program page at for more information.

GALEON Interoperability Experiment (GALEON IE)
GEOSS Concept Development (GEOSS/OGC)
Kentucky Landscape Census (KentuckyLC)
Kentucky Watershed Modeling Information Portal (KWMIP)
Sensor Alert Service Interoperability Experiment (SAS IE)
OWS Context Document Schema Interoperability Experiment (Context IE)
OGC Web Services, Phase 4 Interoperability Initiative (OWS-4)

To learn more, contact

Luis Bermudez
Director of Innovation Programs
lbermudez [at]