Breakthrough In Web-Based Geographic Information

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:
Friday, 10 September 1999 UTC
Wayland, MA, USA, September 10, 1999: Members of the Open GIS Consortium, Inc. (OGC) today demonstrated a remarkable open interface that will revolutionize use of geospatial data on the Web. OGC's Web Mapping Testbed Demonstration was presented to an executive government and industry audience at Lockheed Martin Management and Data Systems in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Geospatial data includes digital maps (including individual map elements such as roads, lakes and political boundaries), Earth images, database entries with locational attributes such as street addresses, and other data referenced to the Earth's surface. Much geospatial data is currently available on the web, but users must possess considerable expertise and special geographic information system (GIS) software to overlay or otherwise combine different "map layers" of the same geographic region. Consensus among GIS software vendors in OGC will make it possible for such overlays and combinations of complex and essentially different kinds of geographic information to happen automatically over the Web, despite differences in the vendors' geographic data storage, analysis, and display systems. Mr. Thomas Kalil, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, White House National Economic Council, an early, enthusiastic supporter of the Web Mapping Testbed effort, said to a high-level government and industry audience at the Sept. 10 demonstration, "Geospatial information is critical for disaster management, crime mapping, environmental monitoring, community decision-making, and a whole host of other public and private sector applications. The Web Mapping Testbed will greatly accelerate our ability to access and understand geospatial information from multiple sources." The Web Mapping Testbed is the first of OGC's planned Interoperability Initiatives, which involve sponsors and participants. Sponsors - federal agencies or major corporations - provide funding and a set of objectives related to geoprocessing interoperability. Participants - mainly vendors and integrators - are partially compensated for the contributions of time and technology they make during the fast-paced group effort to meet the sponsors' objectives. For the Web Mapping Testbed, Lockheed Martin Management and Data Systems provided integration support, logistical support, and a testbed laboratory. The city of Mobile, Alabama, and many other organizations, provided data and support for the testbed's hurricane disaster management scenario. The Web Mapping Testbed will result in multiple pilot projects in which communities of people and organizations will use early implementations of interoperable geographic software. Web Mapping Testbed sponsors include the US Dept. of Defense National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), US Army Corps of Engineers Topographic Engineering Center (TEC), the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), NASA, the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), and the Australian World Wide Web Mapping Consortium, a group of 24 Australian government and commercial organizations, led by the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (AUSLIG). Web Mapping Testbed participants include: Autodesk (US), BBN Technologies, a part of GTE (US), Blue Angel Technologies (US), Cadcorp (UK), Compusult (Canada), CubeWerx (Canada), ESRI (US), Galdos Systems (Canada), Geodan IT (Netherlands), Geomatics Canada (Canada), Hitachi (Japan), ILOG (France), Intergraph (US), Ionic Software (Belgium), Laser-Scan (UK), Litton/TASC (US), Lockheed-Martin (US), MapInfo (US), Microsoft (US), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), Mitsubishi Corporation (Japan), NTT Data (Japan), Object/FX (US), Oracle Corporation (US), Ordnance Survey (UK), PCI Geomatics (Canada), Penn State University (US), SICAD Geomatics (Germany), Social Change Online (Australia), Sun Microsystems (US), and Universal Systems (Canada). OpenGIS Specifications resulting from the Web Mapping Testbed build on OGC's OpenGIS Specifications for Grid Coverages, Simple Features, and Catalog Services. OpenGIS Grid Coverage Specifications address satellite images, aerial photos, digital elevation data, and other kinds of "gridded" data. OpenGIS Simple Features Specifications address "vector" geodata, i.e. digital map information (streets, population, land use zones, property lines, watersheds, etc.) represented in polygons and lines. OpenGIS Catalog Services Specifications provide a common architecture for online automated directories of web-based geospatial data and geoprocessing services, rather like "spatial search engines." As vendors implement these open standards, web users will easily find, view, overlay, and combine different thematic maps for a given region. David Schell, President of OGC, said, "Just as the value of a web browser increases with the size of the web, the value of an on-line GIS or an on-line collection of geographic data increases with the number of web-based software systems that can access it through OpenGIS interfaces. Soon web users will be able to use their browsers to seamlessly access, view and exploit the vast, diverse and widely distributed geospatial data holdings and geoprocessing resources on the Web. This will have a profound effect on the market for geospatial data and services." OGC is an international, not-for-profit organization working toward integration of geospatial capabilities into the world's information systems. -- end --