New OGC® framework for spatial communication to benefit Smart Cities

By Ron Exler

In 1960, 34 percent of the global population lived in cities. Today, urban residents make up 54 percent of the total global population. The United Nations expects that percentage to increase to 66 percent by 2050.

As urban populations increase, the need to better integrate physical, digital and human systems to support urban growth also rapidly increases. Smart Cities are responding to the need by integrating systems through digital technologies that rely on location as the primary method of organizing urban information and services, but to communicate effectively about location requires standards.

Recognizing that need, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®) has provided a new open standards framework for spatial communication to benefit Smart Cities in their white paper, Smart Cities Spatial Information Framework. The paper is free to view and download.

Figure 1. A Smart City uses location as an organizing principal to benefit residents, visitors and businesses of all types. Graphic by Steve Liang, University of Calgary.

Smart Cities Spatial Information Framework focuses on several themes:

·         Smart Cities are high-density generators of innovation and information

·         Location information is a major enabler of Smart City technology benefits

·         Residents must be the judges of the benefits of technologies

·         Resource reuse and repurposing is vital to urban resilience

·         Cities need open standards for interoperability, efficiency, application innovation and cost effectiveness

The paper also provides critical guidance on how to plan and implement open spatial standards architectures for interoperability. It uses an architectural approach for defining information systems, organizing the diverse set of planning concerns as a hierarchical set of viewpoints:

Enterprise Viewpoint includes the definition of a Smart City, the indicators for assessing the value of deploying the technology and a set of components for the information system of a Smart City.

Information Viewpoint outlines the spatial information and data in a Smart City.

Services Viewpoint includes interfaces and workflows needed for interoperability in a service-oriented architecture.

Deployment Viewpoint identifies approaches for deploying the spatial information framework in cities.

Other topics include open standards for mobile location communication, 3-D urban models, building information models, indoor navigation, augmented reality and sensor webs. The paper also gives Smart City system architects insight into XML and RESTful programming, two dissimilar programming approaches that are both relevant for Smart Cities planning.

OGC® based the framework on open standards such as CityGML, IndoorGML, Moving Features, and Augmented Reality Markup Language 2.0 (ARML 2.0).

The OGC® builds on and contributes to the activities of other standards development organizations, research institutes, providers and government organizations with Smart Cities initiatives. The Annex section of the white paper describes OGC’s participation in other Smart Cities standards activities. George Percivall, OGC's chief engineer and author of the white paper, is a member of the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SG 01Smart Cities Study Group and co-editor of the report being prepared by that group. The Ordinance Survey and University of Calgary also contributed to the paper.

The OGC Interoperability Program is carrying out a strategy for Smart Cities. OGC Testbed 11 and the CityGML Quality Interoperability Experiment include relevant activities. Pilots for specific cities are in the planning stages. For more information, see the Smart Cities Spatial Information Framework white paper.

The OGC® is an international consortium of more than 500 companies, government agencies, research organizations and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available geospatial standards. OGC® standards support interoperable solutions that geo-enable the Web, wireless and location-based services, and mainstream IT. Visit the OGC® website at

Published Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Written by Ron Exler

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