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Interoperability: Connecting defence forces

Mark Reichardt
Mark Reichardt
President and CEO
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)
[email protected]

<< Open standards enable integration of geospatial technology with other information technologies, thus facilitating interoperability among defence and intelligence organisations >>

Since 1994, Defence and Intelligence (D&I) organisations have played an important role in the Open Geospatial Consortium’s geospatial standards development process. D&I interest in the OGC is a consequence of the fact that almost every aspect of defence and intelligence decision support involves geographic information. Military decisions depend on digital maps, location coordinates from GPS units on vehicles and warfighters, and digital imagery from UAVs and satellites. Different types of map data can be combined to create new maps. For example, given elevation, surface geology and hydrology data, geographic information systems can calculate best off-road routes for military vehicles. Time of arrival, visibility, audibility and radio reception over that terrain can also be calculated. Targeting, logistics, aviation, signal intelligence, and human intelligence all depend on location information. Communicating location information depends on shared standards for software interfaces, Interoperability << Open standards enable integration of geospatial technology with other information technologies, thus facilitating interoperability among defence and intelligence organisations >> Since 1994, Defence and Intelligence (D&I) organisations have played an important role in the Open Geospatial Consortium’s geospatial standards development process. D&I interest in the OGC is a consequence of the fact that almost every aspect of defence and intelligence decision support involves geographic information. Military decisions depend on digital maps, location coordinates from GPS units on vehicles and warfighters, and digital imagery from UAVs and satellites. Different types of map data can be combined to create new maps. For example, given elevation, surface geology and hydrology data, geographic information systems can calculate best off-road routes for military vehicles. Time of arrival, visibility, audibility and radio reception over that terrain can also be calculated. Targeting, logistics, aviation, signal intelligence, and human intelligence all depend on location information.

Communicating location information depends on shared standards for software interfaces,content models, and data encodings. Consensus-derived open standards, such as those from the OGC, have enabled D&I organisations to transition from expensive custom-built solutions that couldn’t connect to other systems without custom interfaces and encodings. Open standards also enable broader competition and they open up markets which brings down the cost and increases innovation. The importance of ‘any system to any system’ communication of location information increases as open standards enable geospatial technologies to integrate with other rapidly advancing information technologies such as smartphones, robots, drones, cloud computing, social networks and sensor webs.

Two of the major D&I organisations committed to open geospatial standards
The NATO C3 Agency supports NATO through the provision of unbiased scientific support and common funded acquisition of Consultation, Command, Control,Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities. NATO C3’s adoption and implementation of the Core GIS system using open, industry-consensus standards including those of ISO Technical Committee 211 and the Open Geospatial Consortium enables NATO to rapidly mobilise new technologies at reduced cost and risk. The US Defense Department’s Global Information Grid Enterprise Services (GIG) system depends on open standards. GIG is a very large, high capacity, high-availability; highly secure internet and Webbased global information system for the US and its allies. Department of Defense (DoD) system architects designed the GIG to use open commercial standards including OGC standards, instead of a closed, custom approach because open standards provide lower risk and lower cost interoperability across the broad spectrum of DoD business processes and domains.

The OGC D&I Domain Working Group
The OGC D&I Domain Working Group (DIWG) is the focus within the OGC for discussions about the D&I community’s business and technical requirements for geospatial interoperability. This working group recommends and provides input into OGC testbed and pilot projects that serve D&I community requirements. Participants in the DIWG typically are involved in the development of a variety of OGC standards of interest to the D&I community. OGC testbeds, pilot projects and interoperability experiments yield candidate standards and engineering reports that feed into the OGC’s Standards Program Technical Committee working groups. The OGC’s annual OGC Web Services (OWS) testbeds, now in their ninth year with OWS-9, have all addressed D&I geospatial interoperability requirements along with requirements from other domains.

Last year’s OWS-8 Testbed
Last year’s OWS-8 Testbed produced 26 engineering reports (candidate standards and best practices), 43 software components that used one or more of these candidates, and 34 demonstrations conducted live on the network based on user scenarios. Requirements, user scenarios and funding were provided by nine sponsoring organisations. Requirements were addressed by 40 participating technology organisations from 21 countries. The testbed work was divided into activity threads that produced results that would be useful in D&I applications: cross-community interoperability (geosynchronization and geodata bulk transfer); observation fusion (tracking and coverages); and aviation information management. “Cross Community Interoperability” was an important topic in OWS-8. This involved initialisation of data services (such as those implementing the OGC Web Feature Service (WFS) Interface Standard) in areas where communication is limited or denied. Maintaining and updating data in a cooperative and highly distributed environment, such as a multi-organisation response and recovery effort, was shown to be possible using open standards that combine Geosynchronization with Bulk GeoData Transfer. Semantic mediation techniques were also demonstrated.


Open service interfaces enable cross-community information sharing

Different communities have developed different standards over time, and for this reason a number of DIWG members are also involved in other standards organisations besides the OGC, such as the ISO/ TC 211 Geographic information/ Geomatics technical committee; the Defence Geospatial Information Working Group (DGIWG), a multinational body responsible for geospatial standardisation for the defence organisations of member nations; the US Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group (GWG); and the NATO Standardization Agency (responsible for NATO Standardization Agreements or STANAGs). The OGC DIWG is thus an important forum for international standards coordination.

Organisations in many technology and application domains – geospatial semantics, workflow, data quality, hydrology, meteorology, security, etc. – share the cost of developing and promoting standards. OGC members recognise and appreciate the fact that cross community interoperability serves communities of many kinds: disciplines and sub-disciplines, professions, domains, sectors, economies, regions, departments and political jurisdictions.

OWS-9
This year’s OWS-9 Testbed Activity builds on the outcomes of prior OGC initiatives and is organised around the following technology ‘threads’ with these goals:

>> Aviation: Develop and demonstrate the use of the Aeronautical Information Exchange Model (AIXM) and the Weather Exchange Model (WXXM) in an OGC Web Services environment, focussing on support for several Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project requirements as well as FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration) Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) and Aircraft Access to SWIM (System Wide Information Management) requirements.

>> Cross-Community Interoperability (CCI): Build on the CCI work accomplished in OWS-8 by increasing interoperability within communities sharing geospatial data, focussing on semantic mediation, query results delivery, data provenance and quality, incorporation of crowd-sourced information and Single Point of Entry Global Gazetteer.

>> Security and Services Interoperability (SSI): Investigate five main activities: Security management, OGC Geography Markup Language (GML) Encoding Standard Application Schema UGAS (UML to GML Application Schema) updates, Web services façade, reference architecture profiling and bulk data transfer.

>> OWS innovations: Explore topics that represent new areas of work for the Consortium (such as GPS interoperable message modelling and the packaging of geospatial data and use of OGC services in mobile applications) as well as new approaches to existing technologies to solve new challenges (such as the OGC Web Coverage Service (WCS) work).


>> Compliance & Interoperability Testing & Evaluation (CITE):Develop a suite of capabilities to expand OGC’s compliance programme for the testing, validation and certification of products that implement OGC standard interfaces and encodings. Additional compliance test suites being developed in OWS-9 include: Web Map Service (WMS) 1.3 Interface Standard, Web Feature Service (WFS) 2.0 Interface Standard, Geography Markup Language (GML) 3.2.1 Encoding Standard, OWS Context 1.0 (candidate encoding standard), Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) standards, Web Coverage Service for Earth Observation (WCSEO) 1.0 Interface Standard, and TEAM (Test, Evaluation.And Measurement) engine capabilities.

Current hot topics
In addition to the topics addressed in OWS-9, OGC D&I Domain Working Group members are engaged in other technical standards work in the OGC:

>> Previous GeoSynchronisation work advanced a candidate ‘GeoSynch’ OGC standard being evaluated by the OGC technical committee. GeoSynch provides an open interface for Web services to deliver current, timely, verified data over the Web in situations where content providers must collaborate with outside entities to collect new data and/or update existing data holdings. A related requirement, also addressed in this candidate standard, is accurate and consistent roundtrip transfer of bulk data.


OGC standards enable fusion of vector data, image data, sensor data and other kinds of location information

>>The Observation Fusion (Tracking) thread demonstrated, among other things, notification of tracking data using the OASIS WS-Notification specification to track hand-held Android devices, partly through the use of the recently adopted OGC Open GeoSMS Standard. Open GeoSMS enables text messaging, even in low-cost cell phones, to be easily integrated into location service applications such as disaster volunteer support. Developers of Open GeoSMS provide a free, open source software development kit, and the standard is used in various disaster management volunteer communications applications based on Sahana and Ushahidi.

>> OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) standards played an important role in OWS-8. For example, the OGC Sensor Observation Service Interface Standard was shown to be capable of enabling Web access to services that detect objects in full motion video. Objects in one video stream could be identified as the same object captured in another video stream. Some members of the OGC are advancing SWE to provide more comprehensive open standards support for combining fullmotion video streams. Others are working to develop 35 lightweight and ‘RESTful’ (using the Representational State Transfer programming model) SWE standards for use in mobile apps, VGI, and machine-tomachine applications.

Standards gaps
While there is an open standards framework, there are still critical interoperability gaps. For example, the level of detail provided in geographic information is not always sufficient to provide intelligence for operations that go between and inside buildings, operations that require detailed information about building interiors and surfaces and about the close-up details of physical infrastructure such as bridges, airports and ‘pipes and wires.’ The OGC CityGML Encoding Standard for the representation, storage and exchange of virtual 3D city and landscape models meets some requirements, but much work remains – to create building information model (BIM) standards that meet basic needs in defence and intelligence as well as architecture, engineering construction, smart grid, real estate management and finance, emergency response, etc. The OGC works actively with other standards organisations to advance vendorneutral technology standards that will enable the same level of interoperability that is now possible between geospatial information systems of all kinds.