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Integration – key to optimisation

Director, Business Development
Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.

We are entering increasingly difficult times – a depressed economy worldwide and the certainty of higher costs for materials and energy as our natural resources are depleted.
This comes even as energy and climate issues demand efficiency renovations on a massive scale and investments in new buildings and infrastructure that are green in their design, construction and operation. In a broader urban, regional and global context, changes in climate are already effecting agriculture productivity, water availability and the frequency and severity of weather events that result in massive human and property losses. Our previous indifference to the ‘externalities’ of our consumption patterns is worsening the quality of life to such a degree that we can no longer afford to be indifferent.
In order to begin to address these and other issues that impact our lives and prosperity, there is an increasing demand to visualise, model and analyse our activity from local to global levels. With about 40% of our natural resources dedicated to the built environment, we must find better ways to design, engineer and operate buildings and infrastructure with sensitivity to the impacts of the overall ‘system’.
The convergence of geospatial and AEC (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) information is helping us to better understand the impacts of our activity at the local, regional and global levels. The ability to construct 3D and 4D urban models will help us as a society move to a greener footprint by creating efficiencies in energy use for buildings, transportation and logistics. Models help us reduce waste in construction and operation. Quality of life issues can be better addressed – from noise abatement, to safe paedestrian transit, to site placement of social and retail services, to maximised use of solar energy.
A key to unleashing the power of information technology is a comprehensive standards framework that allows these disciplines to combine to provide a knowledge environment that is greater than its parts.


Building Information Models (BIM) involve a complex set of technology convergences that include urban 3D visualisation; in-building location (floors and rooms) and geospatial location; GIS, earth imaging and non-vertical optical meas- urement; analysis and modelling; virtual design and construction; sensors, video and others.
Urban planners, urban ‘pipes and wires’ managers, civil engineers and others use geospatial technologies, and their documents need to be accessible in BIMs that also provide access to architectural drawings. But geospatial information also plays a role as buildings are designed for the climate and each site’s ‘solar aperture’. Sensors, sophisticated controls, automated equipment power turndown and other technologies and techniques can be employed in buildings and capital projects to meet hourly, daily and yearly fluctuations in energy demand.

Studies of the construction industry in the US and Europe have shown that better use of information offers tremendous "Building automation and smart grid involve convergence of many technologies — sensors, Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA), Web portals, facilities management and utility GIS and analog electrical control systems"

potential for efficiency across buildings’ lifecycles. Important industry players recognise that information sharing based on open standards reduces costs in design, construction and management and minimises real-world risks for public safety and disaster management. For years, players in the global multi-trillion dollar AEC market have grappled with the problem of developing and introducing interoperability standards to ensure vendor adoption of marketdriven information standards that promote sharing and efficiency. There has been some progress. Over the past 12 years, the global AEC community has established industry foundation class standards (IFCs) for building elements and properties that promoted a market moving approach from 2D CAD to 3D objects. This work has enabled the industry to cut out some of the wasteful processes for building design, engineering, construction and operation.

But much work remains. Integrating standards from AEC and geospatial worlds provides an important avenue to providing a standards foundation that will enable industry to meet the AEC market’s requirements for interoperability. Complementing this work is OGC’s work with other organisations. The OGC Sensor Web Enablement standards, for example, complement the IEEE 1451 smart sensor standards and our work with other standards development organisations like ISO and the US Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) provide part of the framework necessary for efficient building design, engineering, construction and operation.

The OGC has been successful in applying rapid prototyping technology development concepts in “Interoperability initia- Web Services Interface Standards • OWS Common Specification
• Catalog
– CSW ISO 19115/19119 Application Profile
• Web Map Service
• Web Feature Service
• Filter
• Web Coverage Service
• Web Map Context
• Location Service Core Interface Standards
• Sensor Web Enablement Standards
– Sensor Planning Service
– Sensor Observation Service

Encoding Standards
• Geography Markup Language
– GML in JPEG 2000 for Geographic Imagery Encoding Specification
– GML Simple Features Profile
• Style Layer Descriptors
• Symbology Encoding
• Sensor Web Enablement Standards
– SensorML

tives” — pilots, testbeds and interoperability experiments — that engage diverse industry and user communities in fastpaced efforts that yield workable standards that improve information sharing.
One example is the Delhi Transportation/Routing Interoperability (DTRIP) Pilot Initiative . org/projects/initiatives/delhipilot, which the OGC is organising in cooperation with GIS Development. DTRIP will show how the OGC's open framework for geospatial data and systems interoperability and sharing can be applied in the context of transportation circulation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. The project will demonstrate best practices and standards enabling interoperability among diverse information resources used for transportation routing.

The routing problems will focus on India's national capital region (NCR) and will involve interacting networks that differ in scale (nation, state, region, local), built environment (urban, suburban, rural) and purpose (passenger, freight). The main difficulty in providing operational capabilities like this is getting diverse legacy systems and data collections — and their owners — to work together. The owners of the systems and data must deploy standards-based servers and clients, and they must also agree on service sharing and data sharing arrangements.


One of the OGC standards that has advanced through such initiatives is CityGML, an open data model framework and XML-based encoding standard for the storage and exchange of virtual 3D urban models. CityGML is an application schema of the OGC’s Geography Markup Language 3 (GML3) Encoding Standard (https://www.opengeospatial.org/standards/ gml ), an international standard for spatial data exchange and encoding approved by the OGC and ISO. “CityGML will play an important role in the creation of virtual cities to improve interoperability among the information systems used in many domains of activity that involve design, construction, ownership and operation of infrastructure," explains Carsten Rönsdorf, Principal Data Consultant, Ordnance Survey and Chair of the CityGML specification working group at the OGC.

CityGML provides schemas for topographic objects in 3D city and landscape models with respect to their geometry, topology, appearance and semantics. CityGML represents buildings (including interiors), digital terrain models, water bodies, vegetation, transportation, and city furniture objects in five levels of detail and allows connections to data held in cadastres and Building Information Models (BIM). Observable properties of feature surfaces such as infrared radiation and noise emission can also be exchanged. A complete IFC model can be exported into CityGML, which provides the important ability to leverage the relevant components of BIM to construct realistic urban models for a range of planning and operational applications.

CityGML is part of an integrated set of OGC standards that enable broad access, sharing, integration and application of geodata for a range of problem solving tasks. The core standards are listed in Figure 2. CityGML plays a key role in bridging the gaps between AEC systems and geospatial and sensor systems.

"CityGML represents buildings (including interiors), digital terrain models, water bodies, vegetation, transportation, and city furniture objects in five levels of detail and allows connections to data held in cadastres and Building Information Models (BIM)"

COLLABORATIVELY: THE AECOO TESTBED To advance open standards in the architecture, engineering, construction, building owner, building operator (AECOO) domain, in February 2008, OGC and buildingSMART alliance organised an AECOO Testbed with BuildingSMART International as a partner.
The AECOO sponsors include major architecture firms, general contractors, government agencies and trade associations, including the US buildingSMART alliance, the American Institute of Architects, and the Large Firm Roundtable. Eighteen technology provider organisations are participating to advance specific interoperability objectives in the areas of decision support and general communications (connecting building models with business processes); energy analysis during design; and quantity take-off during early design.

The goal of the testbed is to provide a structure in which AEC and geospatial standards organisations can jointly promote rapid standards development, testing and adoption in commercial software. The AECOO testbed exemplifies the way that standards from several domains can be brought together to bring different kinds of data and different technologies together to integrate information. A demonstration of results will be held March 25-27. Planning for a second phase of the AECOO Testbed has commenced.


The underlying standards framework is an essential element of the ICT industry’s success and as the standards framework grows, it provides a foundation for new companies offering new products and services that no one could have imagined a decade ago. Communication means “transmitting or exchanging through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviour.” Standardisation means ‘agreeing on a common system’.

The Internet, the World Wide Web, e-commerce and the emerging wireless revolution have produced great wealth because of “network effects”: That is, a node on the network (a product or service, for example) increases in value with the size of the network (the number of potential users of a product or service, for example). Open standards make networks possible, and they’re a tremendous bargain: cheap to produce and free to use.

OGC’s core geospatial technology standards have ‘crossed the chasm’ of early market adoption, and they are rapidly becoming mainstream. But there is still much standards work to do in the geospatial domain.

As the set of geospatial applications expands and as standards advance to enable new technology convergences, OGC members find that they are constantly tapping into new areas of expertise and opportunity, such as they are finding with the AEC industry. The AEC/geospatial convergence is poised to move to a new level as standards are put in place to realise its potential.