OpenGISĀ® Specification Marks New Era of Geo-Information Access

Lance McKee Vice President, Corporate Communications The Open GIS Consortium, Inc. (OGC) 35 Main Street, Suite 5 Wayland, MA 01778-5037 voice: (508) 655-5858 fax: (508) 655 2237 email:
Monday, 14 August 2000 UTC
Cambridge, UK, August 14, 1997 - This week, for the first time ever, members of the Open GIS Consortium, Inc. (OGC) demonstrated the newly developed OpenGIS interfaces which are designed to enable interoperability among heterogeneous Geographic Informa tion Systems. This first release of OpenGIS interfaces (OGC Request Number 1: OpenGIS Simple Features) was the result of an extraordinary collaborative effort among members, many of whom normally compete with each other. Working together to respond to the requirements defined by the OGCs "OpenGIS Abstract Specification: An Object Model for Interoperable Geoprocessing", these organizations developed and submitted implementation specifications designed to enable open acc ess to diverse geographic data sources on three distributed computing platforms, including Microsoft's OLE/COM, the Object Management Group's CORBA, and SQL (via the ODBC application programming interface). These implementation specifications were reviewe d, demonstrated and approved at OGC's August 11-14 Technical Committee and Management Committee meetings at Cambridge University's Magdalene College in Cambridge, England - hosted by GIS vendors Laser-Scan, Ltd. (Cambridge, UK) and Smallworldwide plc. (Cambridge, UK). Kurt Buehler, OGCs vice president and chief technology officer, said, "The world owes a considerable debt to the participation of normally competing GIS vendors who provided much of the technical expertise and support necessary to prepare and submit these RFP responses and demos. The collaborative development of these specifications has set a remarkable precedent th at has changed the way the geoprocessing community works and has set the stage for the full integration of geoprocessing into mainstream Information Technology." Soon to be made available on OGCs Web site to all interested developers, OGCs three OpenGIS Simple Feature software specifications, one each for OLE/COM, CORBA, and SQL, describe interfaces that enable transparent access to geographic data held in hete rogeneous processing systems on distributed computing platforms. Since August, 1994, the OGC committees have met to solve technical and market problems that have restricted the sharing of digital geographic data. The OpenGIS Simple Features Specifications are the first in a series of interface and services specifica tions that OGC is developing to make sophisticated geoprocessing capabilities and diverse kinds of geographic information directly accessible to all categories of computer users. This has important implications for industries such as telecommunications, u tilities, environment, government, defense, insurance, real estate, and transportation which depend on geographic information, and also for non-technical users of information systems of all kinds. The open interface specifications approved this week address "simple features," referring to software expressions of geographic features, including "simple geometry" (that is, points, lines, polygons, and combinations of these), spatial referencing (su ch as Mercator projection and Longitude/Latitude), and attributes (such as type of road or zoning designation). Soon, vendors will deliver OpenGIS Simple Features conformant server products which will service other vendors' client products' requests for s electing geographic features using such operations as intersect, union, subtract, spatial buffer, and select by attribute, and location. Each of the OpenGIS Simple Features submissions were the result of an extraordinary effort among normally competing vendors, requiring their participation in numerous meetings to merge ideas and efforts into each of the three respective submissions. The OpenGIS Simple Features submission for Microsoft's OLE/COM or DCOM platform was the result of a joint submission by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) (Redlands, CA), Intergraph Corporation (Huntsville, AL), Laser-Scan, Inc. (Sterling, VA), MapInfo Corporation (Troy, NY), Smallworld Systems, Inc., Vision International of Autometric (Alexandria, VA), and Camber Corporation (Huntsville, AL), with technical support from Informix Software, Inc. (San Diego, CA), Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, WA), and Oracle Corporation (Redwood Shores, CA). The OpenGIS Simple Features submission for the Object Management Group's CORBA platform was the result of a joint submission by Bentley Systems, Inc. (Exton, PA), ESRI, Genasys II, Inc. (Ft. Collins, CO), Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Pal o Alto, CA), and the University of California Los Angeles Data Mining Laboratory, with technical support from Netscape Communications Corporation (Mountain View, CA). The OpenGIS Simple Features submission for SQL (via the ODBC application programming interface) was the result of a joint submission by ESRI, IBM Corporation (Poughkeepsie, NY), Informix Software, Inc., MapInfo Corporation, and Oracle Corporation. By addressing these three distributed computing platforms (DCPs), OGC has made its first specification applicable in most mainstream computing scenarios. OLE/COM is the most widely used desktop computing environment, and it has extensions for distribut ed computing which address a number of distributed computing requirements. CORBA (which is being created in an open process by another consortium, the Object Management Group) offers a completely network-centered and object-based architecture for distribu ted computing over enterprise networks and the Internet. SQL is not, by itself, a distributed computing environment, but it is compatible with OLE/COM and CORBA. The leading database vendors have already delivered versions of relational database systems t hat can store complex geographic data. The OpenGIS Simple Features Specification for SQL makes it possible to create open interfaces on these servers which will make the data accessible to client applications that understand these interfaces. OGC, an international consortium of more than 100 corporations, government agencies, and universities, coordinates collaborative development of the OpenGIS Specification and collaborative business development efforts to support the full integration of geospatial data and geoprocessing resources into mainstream computing. See . -- end --