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OGC standards play a key role in SDI development

Mark Reichardt


Mark Reichardt
President
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), Inc.
[email protected]
This article discusses SDI successes, with particular focus on the ways in which OGC’s standards enable SDI infrastructures when there are disparate and distributed geospatial content, distributed geoprocessing services, various policies, and a range of partner requirements. It also considers the ways in which this “technical interoperability” supports an SDI’s commercial arrangements

Anyone with experience in Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) development can attest to the challenges involved in creating the synergy of policy, partners, and technology required to make a SDI implementation successful. Different groups of geospatial content providers and users view the world very differently. This is reflected in the heterogeneity of their geospatial content and geoprocessing methods and it explains the human and institutional resistance to sharing and cooperation. Policy, metadata, and tools used by organizations have also been developed to serve differing missions and business objectives. Despite these obstacles to collaboration, considerable SDI progress has been made in many places in the last decade.

Role of OGC Standards
A Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) is an infrastructure for accessing and communicating geospatial information. Communication means “transmitting or exchanging through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior.” Standardization means “agreeing on a common system.” Without standards, the concept of a SDI is meaningless.

To build a SDI, stakeholders must work together persistently to reach agreement on a common system that is in a fact a complex set of systems. There are data content standards, legal standards, commercial and institutional agreements, and software interface standards (or “technical” standards) to be resolved, among others. In this complex system, there is a natural hierarchy or sequence of standards and agreements. Some things cannot be accomplished until more basic things are in place.

Fortunately, significant standards consensus work has been performed rigorously at the international level and these international standards can usually be applied nationally and locally in implementations adapted for national or local needs. Notably, the ISO 19115 metadata standard is considered to be industry best practices and is usually part of SDI mandates. Further, OpenGIS® Specifications, standards developed by OGC’s international membership, are now becoming internationally accepted. Several OpenGIS specifications are now also ISO standards.

OGC’s standards are the result of an ongoing consensus process to develop common interfaces and common data encodings and service metadata encodings. Interfaces are simply specifications for implementing software routines that map idiosyncratic and proprietary software data structures and command structures to a common, publicly known set of data structures and command structures. This “lingua franca” enables different vendors’ software systems and different types of software systems to exchange spatial commands. Most geoprocessing software developers now implement the most basic OGC standards, and there is steady progress toward implementing the others.

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