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OGC’s New User Focus

Sunday, June 26th 2005
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Do not confuse this column with a victory dance because it is not.OGC’s work will continue for a long time.But we have passed an important milestone.When I joined the Open GIS Consortium in 2000 there were two major challenges: a) produce interface specifications to meet user needs; and b) get those specifications into use in the market place.—Sam Bacharach, OGC’s Executive Director of the Outreach and Adoption Program.

_Do not confuse this column with a victory dance because it is not.OGC's work will continue for a long time.But we have passed an important milestone.When I joined the Open GIS Consortium in 2000 there were two major challenges: a) produce interface specifications to meet user needs; and b) get those specifications into use in the market place. We concentrated on the vendors and integrators to do both because products and systems were needed to deliver the capabilities we were enabling. Except for our work with federal agencies, it was impossible to approach the consumer until the industry had provided something that users could use.The vendors delivered.Today OGC is still producing interface specifications, but our outreach focus has shifted from the vendors to the users.

Thankfully, many users are already knowledgeable about open, industry standard interfaces.This is good news, but our 'field of battle' has grown from a small, easily definable piece of real estate - the vendors - to users who come from hundreds of different communities of practice and thousands of different cities, counties, states, provinces and countries around the world.The reward for our success is more work, both from an interface specification perspective (providing what is needed to satisfy a rapidly diversifying set of users) and from an outreach perspective (addressing different user communities with differently tailored messages delivered through different channels).

We attend 10 to 15 trade shows each year around the world focused on topics such as local government, state GIS, sensors, location based services, enterprise computing, defense and homeland security, meteorology and insurance as well as geospatial (including GIS) technology and spatial data infrastructure.We provide articles to an equally wide array of magazines.

We engage in these activities because we are selling an idea for our members.The idea is that if you invest in software and online services, be sure they have open interfaces (interfaces that implement OGC's OpenGIS Specifications), because with open interfaces you get a much better return on your investment.We are working to build a global network of interoperating geospatial resources, and we are persuading people to use open interfaces so they can integrate geospatial resources into their enterprise information systems.As this global network gets bigger and as geospatial information becomes better integrated with other information, all of our members enjoy increased opportunities and growth in the value of the investments they have made.

It's like fax machines.One fax machine alone in the world is useless.Two would be useful but prohibitively expensive.As you get into millions of fax machines, each one able to communicate with the others through a protocol based on an open specification, the addition of each new fax machine adds to the value of the others, even as the cost per unit falls.So it is with online geospatial resources

My challenge is to teach people about the return on investment. Everybody buys something because it does something they need to have done and provides value that exceeds the purchase price.So consider the following.
  • If you buy software with open interfaces you can realize direct cost savings, because standards make procurement a more open and efficient process in which the buyer has more negotiating leverage because the cost of shifting to a new vendor is reduced.Vendors and integrators have to compete harder for your business. By adopting procurement language that calls for OGC standards in the geospatial and location based services products to be considered for purchase, you give yourself more choices.
  • If you buy software with open interfaces you can achieve reusability of software."Reusable" means less prone to obsolescence, and more likely to work with the software you buy in coming years, even from different vendors."Reusable" means you can leverage existing investments in legacy content and applications.This is often cited as the single greatest benefit of standards."Reusability" gives you "technology risk reduction." You can mobilize new solutions more quickly and adapt easily to policy changes, new and emerging requirements, and the rapidly changing information technology world.
  • Put another way, a critical benefit of using standards is revenue enhancement, not just direct cost savings. Standards provide a platform for realizing opportunities that would otherwise not present themselves.Often this means that you have network access to data or online processing resources that wouldn't be available to you without open standards. All web clients, for instance, have access to The National Map from USGS, not just those of the vendor supplying the software. And/or, it means you can provide your data or processing resources to those who ask you for it, which increases the value of your holdings.It's like that fax machine - you can communicate with any machine sold by any vendor.
Now that's still a pretty general statement of user benefits.Directions readers are a diverse bunch, so I am unable to tailor my message for each user community.

But perhaps you can see where OGC's 11 years of work have been leading the industry.You have lots of good standards-based products to choose from and lots of integrators who know how to "wrap" your legacy systems so they become part of the global geospatial network.My message is this: In your procurements, just demand open, interoperable OGC compliant software.And let me know how standards can help you in your particular situation.

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