OGC Newsletter - December 2005
Interoperability Program Director's Message
News From The Bonn Meeting
News From The Blogosphere
OGC at Upcoming DGI Conference; Discount For OGC Members
New Mexico Data Center Embraces Open Architecture
Website of the Month
New Members, OGC In The News, Events, Contact, Subscribe/Unsubscribe
Back issues of OGC News are available.
INTEROPERABILITY PROGRAM DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE
Occam's Razor Cuts Two Ways on Mass Market Geo
The Internet world is bubbling with efforts to establish a standard way of encoding simple location coordinates. The Geography Markup Language (GML) Point Profile and the GML Simple Feature Profile that will soon be voted on by the OGC membership are our most recent contributions. These documents put a fine point, so to speak, on years of consensus work to elaborate a comprehensive set of geospatial standards that are as simple as possible to implement, but also as complex as necessary, as William of Occam (12851349) would have advised.
However, these OGC profiles don't quite scratch everyone's itch. GeoRSS; W3C's Basic Geo (WGS84 lat/long) Vocabulary; efforts to "geotag" IP addresses (the .geo proposal and the Go2 coordinates proposal); efforts to geotag images; and proposals to put spatial capabilities in the next revision of the Internet Protocol, IPv6; -- not to mention Google's KML -- together testify to the variety of perspectives that different people can have on something that seems like it ought to be very simple. In our business, we are never allowed to forget that different communities have different requirements.
The good news is that none of these initiatives is proceeding in complete isolation from the others. These days, the Web makes it almost impossible for anyone to get any standards-like activity going without attracting plenty of comment from people who are aware of other related activities. OGC staff and members have reached out and will continue to reach out to people involved in the initiatives mentioned above as well as others. Furthermore, the Web (particularly through XML) is usually flexible enough to enable on-the-fly conversions from one schema to another.
What would be better would be if all of the groups engaged in developing a given "simple" geospatial encoding standard would solicit input from the other groups, and if those groups would respond. This sometimes happens, but it would save a lot grief if it happened more often.
What would be best would be if all such efforts were part of an organized global project to gather all relevant requirements and settle on a common format for expression and use of simple spatial coordinates. To suggest that different domains -- ordinary consumers and GIS professionals, for example -- need different schemas for coordinates misses the point. The wall between spatial data and "ordinary" data has already tumbled down. Private and government enterprises around the world are now keeping their spatial data in databases, along with all the rest of their data. "Spatial" no longer means "special."
The "despecialization" of spatial data is one reason the virtual world is increasingly correlated to the physical world. Think about credit card readers. Their locations are usually known, and thus their data streams are geospatial. The same is true for RFID readers, and cell phones, and, soon, automobiles, set-top boxes and sensors of all kinds. These devices' data streams will not stream into GISsthey will stream into databases. GIS professionals will analyze this data for thousands of purposes, but businesses, governments and consumers will use this data in raw form for tens of thousands of purposes.
Enterprises of all kinds needs need a unitary spatial information "atom" for consumers and professionals. This would also serve grassroots developers devising "mashups" that integrate location, geographic search and aggregation, and Web-accessible maps, images and spatial services.
Facilitating a process for developing and establishing geospatial standards is what OGC does. We define "geospatial" broadly, and our members are emphatically NOT just GIS software developers and users. Their technical interests range from cell phones to sensors to simulation. It is in everyone's best interest that people engaged in every kind of "geospatial lite" standards activity ensure that their requirements are well represented in OGC. The goal is to make the standard simple enough to meet all needs for simplicity, while making it sufficiently consistent with GML, Simple Features, XML Schema, etc. so that as much descriptive information as necessary can be added in a way that is seamless with the OGC Reference Model, which our members keep consistent with the evolving Web.
"Occam's razor" says that "Plurality should not be posited without necessity." That cuts two ways, here. The standard should be as simple as possible. And there should be no plurality of standards unless absolutely necessary.
Director Interoperability Programs
NEWS FROM THE BONN MEETING
On November 11, the OGC members completed very successful and productive OGC Technical Committee and Planning Committee meetings. Special thanks to Conterra, Hansa Luftbild, and OGC for sponsoring these meetings. Almost 200 individuals attended the meetings. There were special sessions and presentations on Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and their requirements for interoperability and the use of international standards.
In addition to the many OGC Working Group meetings there was also a special ISO/OGC joint editing committee meeting for the Web Feature Service. All the hard, focused work during the week resulted in more than 30 motions and votes related to various OpenGIS(R) Specification document actions. Some of the key motions include approval for:
- Interoperability Program Report (IPR) review and electronic vote to approve the Metadata Application and ebRIM profiles of the Catalog 2.0.1 Specification
- IPR review and electronic vote to approve GML 3.2, which is also ISO 19136 as an official OpenGIS Specification
- Initiation of an electronic vote to approve the GML Simple Feature Profile as an official OpenGIS Specification
- Initiation of an electronic vote for final approval of GML in JPEG 2000 as an official OpenGIS Specification
- A Corrigendum (set of minor changes and schema fixes) for Web Coverage Service (WCS)
Numerous other OGC member developed documents were approved for public release. Of particular note is the extensive work done in the Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) and GeoDRM Working Groups during the week. A package of documents was approved for public release, including SensorML as an OGC Best Practices document, Sensor Observation Service, Sensor Planning Service, and TransducerML as Discussion Papers. The members agreed that submission teams will be formed as part of the process to move all four SWE documents forward for consideration as official OpenGIS Implementation Specifications.
OGC staff met with as many European OGC members as possible to discuss how the OGC can better serve the requirements of the European Community. European member input will help the OGC formulate a stronger European outreach, education, and training program starting in 2006.
The next OGC meetings are being hosted in Huntsville, Alabama and sponsored by the University of Alabama (Huntsville), Intergraph and the US Space and Rocket Center.
Chief Technology Officer
NEWS FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE
Discussions of OGC specifications and interfaces are popping up all over the blogosphere (the world of blogs). A few posts worthy of note:
James Fee continues a conversation about the competition between KML and GML quoting another blogger who points out:
"It would appear that the only salient difference in proprietary-ness is that KML was developed by a single company (albeit with input from others), whereas GML was developed by a standards committee. The salient difference in the marketplace is that KML is usable and hand-editable, whereas GML is rather too complex for use without tools."
"Strong words against the GML camp, but some of it might be deserved."
Darren Cope shares his response to a survey asking "What are the important trends, or significant emerging developments, within Geomatics?" Among his answers:
"Data Standards/Interoperability: Development for, and acceptance of, Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards and similar initiatives is showing up (although slowly) in most GIS software. Things like Web Mapping Services (WMS) and similarly WFS, SLD, etc. are coming to the fore and may yet become the overall industry standard."
Ron Lake shares that GML is not just for vectors, but for imagery, too.
"Perhaps you thought GML was only for vectors? Well think again. A new specification recently endorsed at the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) takes GML solidly into the world of imagery."
Adena Schutzberg (Editor of OGC News) raises some questions about Google's support for OGC standards, based on a response to questions from GIS Monitor editor, Matteo Luccio:
For example, John Hanke of Google states: "OGC standards were created for GIS companies; they are not consumer-oriented standards." Says Schutzberg: "I admit ignorance what's the difference? Is the Wi-Fi standard for electronics companies or consumers? I think both, but perhaps this is more subtle."
OGC AT UPCOMING DGI CONFERENCE; DISCOUNT FOR OGC MEMBERS
DGI EUROPE 2006, will take place on January 23rd to 26th in London next year. DGI is the annual gathering of Europe's defence geospatial intelligence community, bringing together over 350 geospatial, METOC, hydrography, Reconnaissance and Imagery experts from the military, industry and geospatial support agencies. Following the success of last years event, OGC will once again be involved.
OGC will participate in the interoperability focus day on Monday January 23rd, presenting on the current success and future potential of the spiral procurement process. The conference will include more than 38 government and military speakers.
OGC member are urged to quote OGC15EM on all correspondence to claim a 15% discount.
NEW MEXICO DATA CENTER EMBRACES OPEN ARCHITECTURE
Author: Karl Benedict Senior Research Scientist
Earth Data Analysis Center, University of New Mexico
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131USA
Tel: 505.277.3622 x234
Email: kbene [at] edac [dot] unm [dot] edu
The University of New Mexico Earth Data Analysis Center [http://edac.unm.edu ] (EDAC), has been providing geospatial data and services for a wide range of uses since 1964. As a longtime partner in the New Mexico Resource Geographic System Program (RGIS) [http://rgis.unm.edu], EDAC has constructed and maintains the state's online spatial data clearinghouse. RGIS is dedicated to advancing applications of geographic information system technology within New Mexico's State agencies and for local government and private industry.
Like most other university-based or state government-based spatial data centers, EDAC has seen steady growth in the requests for both data and services. The statewide clearinghouse managed by EDAC now delivers over 500,000 datasets/year to end users over the Web, and EDAC clients in diverse fields present EDAC developers with a increasing set of application requirements. Application domains include, for example, public health and epidemiology, environmental analysis and mapping, transportation security, air quality, disaster planning and management, and border security and monitoring. The EDAC staff have continually updated the Center's technology approaches to help meet this growing demand. The most significant new technology development for geospatial data centers is the arrival of open interfaces for Web-based geoprocessing architectures.
The open framework for Web-based delivery of data and services that EDAC is building benefits clearinghouse users, clients and application developers. As the different elements of the system come online, Clearinghouse users find it increasingly easy to find, view and access data in the extensive RGIS library. Clients get solutions that leverage both their legacy systems' capabilities and the new capabilities offered by Web Services, and they minimize their technology risk and vendor dependence. Developers are able to efficiently build and reuse service components, thus delivering applications more quickly at lower cost, while leveraging existing EDAC and RGIS resources.
EDAC has developed services implementing the OpenGIS® Web Map Server Specification (WMS) that enable easy viewing of the statewide collection of over 8000 USGS Digital Ortho Photo Quads (DOQQ). These services are being integrated into several client applications and are also being prepared for wider deployment within the clearinghouse. EDAC uses Minnesota MapServer, an Open Source internet mapping application, as the platform for the Web mapping services. MapServer also allows delivery of not just map views but also the actual data -- through planned delivery of mosaiced DOQQs to Clearinghouse users via an interface that implements the OpenGIS® Web Coverage Server Specification (WCS). The OGC standards facilitate the efficient use and management of large datasets (more than 750 gigabytes in the case of the statewide DOQQs) across multiple applications and projects.
OGC standards for delivery of vector data play an important role in a prototype Public Health Distributed Data Management and Mapping application for the New Mexico Department of Health. This application uses services that implement the OpenGIS® Web Feature Server Specification (WFS) to generate Geography Markup Language (GML) representations of census blocks, block groups, tracts and counties that are merged with attributes for those geometries. The attributes are provided by other distributed data providers who use the geometries and attributes in an interactive mapping application. Here and in other applications, interoperability and support for XML facilitate the programmatic integration of OGC Web Service based products into broader applications.
Metadata is an important part of any data library. EDAC has developed FGDC-compliant, XML-encoded metadata for a large portion of its data holdings, and this work continues. This collection of metadata will eventually provide the content for an online spatial data catalog based on the OpenGIS® Catalog Services Specification, and web accessible directories usable by harvesting services such as those used by Geospatial OneStop and the NBII Clearinghouse Nodes.
OGC standards have enabled EDAC to efficiently use large datasets in multiple applications, which increases the value of the data holdings, and helps the Center achieve its public service mission. The standards also facilitate the development of distributed geospatial applications that are built upon an interoperable foundation. This provides great flexibility as new data and data services become available and also provides the ability to further leverage investments made in the development of the open services upon which the applications are based.
WEBSITE OF THE MONTH
North Dakota's state government GIS portal offers a Web Map Service (WMS) providing data to both The National Map and anyone with a WMS client. Announced in September, the development work was done with technical and funding assistance from USGS.
The capabilities document is here. The webpage states, "In the future, demand will guide the GIS Technical Committee in providing additional WMS and possibly WFS (Web Feature Service) web services. Please contact us if you are interested."
A bit of 2003 NAIP imagery for Divide county, served from North Dakota GIS.
Know of a website that uses OpenGIS specifications to solve a real world problem or demonstrates an interesting use? Drop the adena [at] opengeospatial [dot] org (editor) an e-mail with the details including the URL, organization behind the website, specifications used, technology used and the goal of the website.
OGC welcomes new members who joined us recently.
Skyline Software (U.S.)
Instituto Geográfico Nacional of Spain (Spain)
OGC IN THE NEWS
- OGC in the Press
Report on November '05 OGC Meetings in Bad Godesberg, Germany
December 8, 2005
Digital Rights Management for the Geospatial Community
November 21, 2005
Markup Languages and Google Earth Enable the GeoWeb
November 21, 3005
GEOSS - The Need for Interoperability
John T. Werle
November 17, 2003
OGC Selects GeoTango GlobeView for Testbed Demonstration
November 15, 2005
Carbon Project Publishes New Educational Series for Open-Geospatial .NET Developers
November 11, 2005
- OGC Press Releases
The Open Geospatial Consortium's Web Map Service (WMS) Approved as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standard
December 8, 2005
San Francisco, California
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
For further info on events please contact gbuehler [at] opengeospatial [dot] org (Greg Buehler).
Please send comments and suggestions to:
adena [at] opengeospatial [dot] org (Adena Schutzberg)
Editor, OGC News
Open Geospatial Consortium
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Copyright 2005 by the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.