OpenGIS Standard Enables Automatic Web Map Overlays

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: lmckee [at]
Friday, 11 February 2000 UTC
Vancouver, BC, Canada, February 11, 2000: At its meeting here today, the Open GIS Consortium, Inc. (OGC) adopted a new web map server interface specification which has extraordinary implications for e-commerce and e-government. It enables automatic overlay, in ordinary web browsers, of map images obtained from multiple dissimilar map servers. This dramatic breakthrough ushers in the long-awaited integration of "where" information into information systems. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of digital maps and earth images, which until now could not be accessed and used without special skills and software, are suddenly a much more significant part of the Information Infrastructure. Such maps and images show, for example: land use, ownership, zoning, watersheds, elevation (being measured with great accuracy over 70% of the Earth in the next ten days by the NASA/NIMA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission), population density, vegetation type, average income, aerial photos, cell phone coverages, pipelines, etc. Much of this data is developed and stored in powerful geoprocessing systems: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), earth imaging systems, spatially enabled database systems, and systems for navigation, digital cartography, and facilities management. In coming months, vendors of these systems will implement the OpenGIS Web Map Server Interface Specification and other OpenGIS standards in software upgrades and new software. (Prior OpenGIS Specifications have already been implemented in commercial products.) Map and imagery suppliers will make their data available over the Web through these vendors' OpenGIS-conformant servers. Then Web users will easily find, view, overlay, and combine different thematic maps for a given region. It will no longer matter that the web map servers are from different vendors, or that they vary widely in terms of processing capabilities and data type, or that the data layers use different Earth coordinate systems. The OpenGIS Web Map Server Interface Specification works with catalog services defined in the OpenGIS Catalog Services Specification. This enables creation of "spatial search engines" for queries of thousands of map layers for which data providers have provided "metadata" (data about the data). These specifications will give current users of geoprocessing systems faster, better data discovery and access, and will bring the graphic communication power of maps to more web pages. They will also boost the utility and commercial value of location-aware, Internet-connected cell phones, laptops, and car computers. Such devices will access spatial data on the Internet to provide directions and travel advisories and also information about nearby goods and services. OGC is an international, not-for-profit organization founded in 1994. OGC's 210 industry, government, and academic member organizations participate in a consensus process to integrate geoprocessing into the world's information infrastructures. Information about OGC and its OpenGIS Specifications can be found at . -- end --