9/11 spurs OGIS interoperability

The Open GIS Consortium has just demonstrated multi-vendor GIS interoperability through web services. Development of the interoperability spec was spurred by the events of 9/11.

As last month’s Oil IT Journal showed, the oil and gas industry is a major consumer of geographic data and systems. One problem confronting industry users of geographical information systems (GIS) is merging data from different sources, vendors and formats. The current, pragmatic answer to this problem is to ‘standardize’ on a single vendor solution, but in the longer term, a more elegant and politically correct solution may emerge from an Open GIS Consortium (OGIS) initiative that is currently underway.

Web Services

The OGIS initiative sets out to provide a standard way of ‘exposing’ geographic data so that potential users can inspect and integrate foreign data sets programmatically. The initiative will leverage emerging Web Services standards. The OGIS Web Services (OWS) are intended to let machines talk to machines and seek out relevant geographic sources, to know when they are updated or modified and to blend all such information together in an intelligent and seamless manner.


The events of September 11 appear to have spurred the OWS members – which include the EPA, NASA and the USGS – to move rapidly to a working demonstration of OWS version 1.1 which addresses interoperability challenges defined by officials in New York City. The OWS 1.1 scenario challenged participating technology developers and integrators to address critical disaster management needs. The demonstration showed users discovering, accessing, superimposing, and portraying satellite and aerial imagery, vector data, and scientific data stored on servers in Europe, North America, and Australia.


New draft specifications for metadata and services were used to implement registries that enabled discovery of data and geoprocessing services. Interfaces based on the OGIS’ draft Sensor Web Specifications enabled discovery of and real-time access to measurements from meteorological, water quality, air quality, and seismic sensors. The OGC Web Coverage Service was demonstrated accessing a variety of imagery including visible, hyperspectral and radar. Attendees witnessed the first public demonstration of a Coverage Portrayal service which, acting in this case as a middleware web service, accessed complex coverage data to produce simple pictures for display in a web browser. Commercial participants in the test included ESRI, Intergraph, Laser-Scan and SAIC.

Phase 2

The next phase of the initiative, OWS 1.2, begins in May 2002 and will focus on extending engineering specifications developed in OWS 1.1 and other initiatives including OpenGIS Specifications for OGC Common Architecture, Web Mapping, Imagery Exploitation and Sensor Web. More from www.ogis.org.

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