OGC Comments on Inaccuracies of Barrie Article

By Carl Reed III

EDITOR'S NOTE: In a rebuttal to an article written by Steve Barrie, "Standards that Control Standards," Carl Reed, Executive Director, Specification Program for the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) provides a point-by-point account of where he disagrees with certain statements made in Mr.Barrie's treatise.Please see Mr.Reed's comments below:

Given a number of inaccuracies in the recent "Standards That Control Standards" article, I once again I find myself putting "pen to paper". It is unfortunate that there are number of misrepresentations and factually incorrect statements in this article. I am therefore providing corrections to several of the erroneous statements made by Mr.Barrie and am also providing the readily available references to sources that support my positions.

Statement: "The OpenGIS Consortium was set up to create XML standards for data exchange"

This statement is totally inaccurate.While the OGC works heavily with the XML environment today, the author leads readers to believe that OGC was created primarily to leverage XML. In fact, the first sentence on our home page states that, "The Open GIS Consortium, Inc.(OGC) is a member-driven, non-profit international trade association that is leading the development of geoprocessing interoperability computing standards. OGC works with government, private industry, and academia to create open and extensible software application programming interfaces for geographic information systems (GIS) and other mainstream technologies." Nowhere in this statement is there mention of XML or data exchange.And, I must note that the OGC was founded in 1994 - many years before XML existed!

I also want to call to your attention the facts presented on our "History" web page (see: http://www.opengis.org/about/?page=history ).He would have read "the need for open interfaces led to another organizational change, because OGF - a foundation - wasn't the right kind of organization to develop such specifications.What was needed was an industry consortium like OMG. This required forming a 501 (c) 6 not-for-profit trade association to replace the 501 (c)3 not-for-profit charitable foundation.The company was incorporated as "OGIS Ltd." on August 25, 1994.An October 22, 1994 Board resolution changed the name to "Open GIS Consortium, Inc." Again, there is no specific mention of "data exchange" as a reason for the founding of the OGC.The OGC is and always has been dedicated to defining, documenting, and approving specifications that enable interoperability of geospatial services, applications, and data.

Statement: "Unfortunately, it seems that OGC didn't feel the need to align itself with the activities of TC211."

This statement could not be further from the truth.It is unfortunate that Mr.Barrie did not spend any time determining what kind of relationship OGC has with ISO before writing his column. OGC has and exercises a Class A Liaison with ISO TC 211. This is close relationship designed to foster and facilitate not only coordination but also single-effort work on appropriate topics. OGC and ISO TC 211 have agreed to identify areas of common interest and work closely to insure harmonization of effort. The joint OGC and TC 211 collaboration is facilitated in a group called the Joint Advisory Group (JAG, formerly known as the TOCG). The JAG provides a common forum for ISO and OGC members to meet on a regular basis and to discuss coordination and collaboration opportunities of common interest.
Over the years, several ISO Standards have been adopted in their entirety by the OGC membership and several more are in the process or being adopted. In addition, three OGC specifications, Simple Features, Web Map Service and Geography Markup Language have all been submitted to ISO. Two others, Web Feature Service and Filter Encoding are being submitted for ISO consideration this spring. In addition many active members of OGC also represent their countries on TC 211. To lament the fact that OGC has failed to align itself with TC 211 is to fail completely in learning about the depth of the alignment that is the core of how OGC does business.

Statement: "NSDI works only for the USA but work is progressing on the development of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) - surely just another repeat of the work already carried out by ISO and OGC."

In terms of Mr.Barrie's comments on the GSDI - sorry, but that organization is not duplicating the work of FGDC, ISO, or the OGC.The GSDI organization is dedicated to promoting the consistent use of industry and international standards and other proven practices so that nations around the world have greater ability to share and apply geospatial data. In other words, GSDI does not develop the standards, rather promotes their consistent usage toward developing and deploying a Global Spatial Data Infrastructure. GSDI is helping to promote the advancement of compatible Spatial Data Infrastructures at the local, national and regional levels - essentially creating a Global SDI. GSDI has a Class-A Liaison status with the ISO TC 211.Furthermore GSDI and the OGC work closely together.Again, the facts are in plain sight. Check the GSDI vision and mission summary on their web page at http://www.gsdi.org/press/2002/2002bro.pdf

With regard to the FGDC, the FGDC has been an OGC member since 1994 and the OGC is a recognized stakeholder in the NSDI process. The FGDC has helped define and drive requirements for open, interoperable interface specifications.As a matter of fact, there would not be an OpenGIS Web Map Service interface specification without the vision and support of the FGDC.Yes, the FGDC has a major focus on content standards.That is a major part of their mission. And, the FGDC maintains an international SDI program to help grow consensus between nations. The ISO 19115 Metadata standard was developed in part based on the FGDC metadata standard, and from contributions from other nations. The FGDC today implements a profile of the ISO 19115 metadata standard, as do many other nations.

Your comments on vendor self interest.

Of course different vendors have various reasons for participating in a standards process.However, the OGC has a varied, international mix of membership.We have both technology providers and technology users. The members collaboratively define interoperability requirements and then work together to document and agree on an interface specification that solves a given interoperability problem.Interestingly enough, no single vendor as come into the OGC process and proposed - or even promoted - an interface or encoding based on their own work or self-interest.The OGC specification development process is an example of a general trend when it comes to standards -- industry players coming together, agreeing on the rules, then going back to their corners to compete.Once agreement on the underlying standards technology is in place, companies can begin to add their own value to the equation and start differentiating their offerings from the pack.The standards are necessary to create, grow and sustain the market for the future.

In summary, it is growing increasingly difficult for me to respond to the number of continuing inaccuracies without appearing defensive. But with the plethora of misstatements and poor research, I feel compelled to set the record straight. As much as OGC has an obligation to advancing the standards goals of our members, I am hopeful that Directions will place more attention on publishing the facts - it is a matter of public record.

Published Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

Written by Carl Reed III