Laser-Scan’s Response to Sonnen OGC Article

By Dr. Michael Sanderson

Laser-Scan Response to Sonnen

David Sonnen kindly invited comment on his powerful article as Laser-Scan has played a key role in the recent Interoperability initiative with Autodesk, Intergraph, and MapInfo.

I have the following contribution to make:

There are 3 key points raised in Sonnen's piece as far as Laser-Scan is concerned.They are: Customers, Interoperability, and Open Source.Sonnen starts with Open Source (the GRASS initiative) and I will conclude with it.

First, some of what Sonnen states is not obvious to non-Americans, so I cannot comment about the GOS affair.Starting from the Customer perspective, Sonnen comments powerfully that standards survive which provide real benefits to users, not just the competitive companies.Customers are running applications that have been built, in the main by 3rd parties using GIS toolsets, who are unlikely to be involved in OGC or even have any idea about the benefits that compliance may or may not bring.Customers may have ended up with 2 or more GIS toolsets as a result.In the early days of the OGC as Sonnen rightly comments they successfully managed a consensus-based approach to standards as the industry sought to move towards interoperability.

Secondly, lets look at interoperability. Standards gave rise to interoperability and this was demonstrated through OGC testbeds.Laser-Scan were involved in many testbeds.Meeting the testbed requirements and what appears in the product set are two entirely different things.We all know that.The recent interoperability initiative amongst the four vendors, Autodesk, Intergraph, Laser-Scan and MapInfo is indicative that something is not right with the current approaches.The interoperability initiative was borne out of and yet took place in spite of the OGC.Nor has the OGC attempted to harness the energy that is there.However the initiative cannot run much beyond the current text open source stage because our industry already has a body which is successful at managing a consensus approach to standards.The OGC.

Thirdly, I conclude with Open Source.As I see it OGC consultants have a unique breadth of knowledge, which Customers and the industry should not be denied access to.If however paid for work is undertaken then a remedy is available to all.That is to place the output of such work into the public domain.In fact irrespective of OGC membership levels it should be part of the contractual conditions. In the UK where joined up government is a key plank of government strategy our industry cannot even get GML into the eGIF (Government Interoperability Framework).Microsoft has managed to get Word (yes Word!) into the eGIF. Perhaps Microsoft has a strategic relationship with UK Government? Seriously, the spatial industry needs higher visibility.Certainly where the work is undertaken for the public sector, there can be no question that all government bodies should benefit from OGC fee paid or otherwise work.I heartily commend the approach to the OGC and suggest that their consultants should become Open Source moderators as part of their activities.We can all benefit from this approach.regards

Michael Sanderson
Managing Director, Laser-Scan

Published Thursday, November 6th, 2003

Written by Dr. Michael Sanderson

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