OGC Beat: The value of certification

OGC Beat: The value of certification


Starting with this edition, we are introducing a regular column from Open Geospatial Consortium. This quarterly column will focus on various issues pertaining to standards, including implementation and benefits, policies and procedures

Spatial Web services depend on agreed open interfaces and encoding standards from the OGC and ISO. Software buyers need to keep in mind, however, that the standards are not always implemented correctly. Here’s a look at a programme that certifies that software products have correctly implemented the standards

Software communication via the Web is based on services. A Web service is a set of operations, based on Web protocols (such as http), that enable users to, for example: get a map on a browser after typing an address, make a purchase on a website, or check their electricity bill. Usually a user sees the result not of a single Web service, but a chain of Web services that communicate in an ad hoc fashion through agreed interfaces.

Spatial Web services depend on agreed open interfaces and encoding standards from the OGC and ISO. These standards are becoming established in many information domains such as aviation, weather, hydrology, defense and intelligence, earth observation and emergency and disaster management. They are at the heart of modern government spatial data infrastructure programmes that provide access to fundamental data layers such as elevation, transportation, land use, soils, etc.

OGC facilitates an international process in which organisations work together to create open standards that enable systems and services to “speak the same language” when communicating location or more complex geo-processing service requests. If the standards are correctly implemented, those software systems can communicate geospatially with thousands of other software systems around the world. Software buyers need to keep in mind, however, that the standards are not always implemented correctly.

The OGC Compliance Testing Programme
The OGC Compliance Testing Program (CITE) provides resources, procedures and policies to certify that software products have correctly implemented one or more OGC standards – that is, to certify that those products are “compliant” with the standards.

The Compliance Testing Program serves both technology vendors and buyers. Through this programme, buyers can feel confident that an OGC compliant product will work with another compliant product based on the same OGC standard, regardless of which company developed the product. Vendors can feel confident that they are providing a product that will be easier to integrate and easier to market.

Hundreds of tested Products
OGC provides an online testing facility for vendors and solution providers to test their implementations. This facility can be used for free by anyone. OGC also provides an online database of implementers that lists more than 700 products that claim to implement OGC Standards. The OGC also provides an online database of implementers that lists more than 190 products that are Certified OGC Compliant.

To have their software products certified as OGC compliant, software implementers are required to follow a simple process that requires submitting the test results to OGC and paying a license fee. Once OGC approves the test results and receives the license fee, the implementer can use the OGC certified mark and claim that the product is “OGC Compliant”.

Geospatial software buyers should always review the registered and OGC certified products at the OGC Implementations page, but it is just as important that buyers communicate to vendors their interest in purchasing software that implements open standards. Open standards make open procurements possible. Open procurement language might be, for example, “Application shall implement a geocoding service that is accessible via the OpenGIS (OGC) Location Service Geocoder Interface Standard.” This offers geoprocessing software buyers a clear and easy way to specify functional and interoperability requirements. Procurements can thus include software from multiple vendors. Through open procurements, organisations buying software avoid getting locked into buying from a particular vendor solution over time and they have the freedom to buy different “best of breed” software for different purposes at different times.

This multi-vendor procurement process has been used successfully by numerous government organisations over the years. For example, the German Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) portal uses OGC CITE compliance testing and certification tools.

Users find it beneficial to access diverse kind of information from different servers using standards

How an organisation can benefit
OGC’s mission is “realisation of the full societal, economic and scientific benefits of integrating electronic location resources into commercial and institutional processes worldwide.” OGC membership has grown steadily since 1994. As the number of members increases, the number of opportunities for cost sharing increases. In almost everything the OGC does, members find common needs and then share the costs of meeting those needs.

OGC provides compliance tests for the most commonly used OGC standards. Some OGC compliance tests are in beta and others have yet to been written. Members’ in-kind contributions (hours of software development) and financial contributions will help speed the critical progress toward a more complete CITE offering.

The OGC is the Internet world’s hub for geospatial interoperability, and the value of OGC membership grows as this hub grows in connections, functions, and influence. We encourage organisations to look into the ways in which their organisation can benefit from membership.