OGC Identifies Geospatial Megatrend and Some Ripe Issues

By Lance McKee

A driving megatrend is the unstoppable evolution of technology ecosystems in which the easy, ad hoc communication of geospatial (and indoor spatial) data and data processing instruction is possible. 
Countless companies and organizations have "scaled" in the world of the Internet and Web by building on the basic open standards of the Internet (TCP/IP and many others) and Web (HTTP, HTML and many others). Open standards enable large networks of interoperating systems. Large networks create opportunities for "scaling.”
The extraordinary potential value of scaling is a result of network effects. "In economics and business, a network effect … is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When a network effect is present, the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it." (Wikipedia)
One rule for success on the Internet and Web is to take full advantage of the network effects that scale exponentially upward with the number of devices and users that use open standards. Another rule of success is to take full advantage of the network effects that scale upward with number of devices and users that depend on proprietary hardware or software.
Vendors of Internet and Web products and services can offer third-party developers (such as app developers) proprietary interfaces and encodings or open interfaces and encodings. The open interfaces and encodings could be developed and controlled by the vendor or they could be developed and controlled by a consensus standards organization like the OGC. It's a difficult but exciting dance, because continuing innovation and continuing growth of open networks cause the music, dance floor and dancing partners to change constantly.
Networks build on other networks. Continuing and increasing investment in new networks forms on top of old networks. Open geospatial standards from the OGC, ISO TC/211 and other standards development organizations (SDOs), and from non-geospatial SDOs such as buildingSMART International contribute to the network potentials that drive investment in special networks for the Internet of Things, indoor/outdoor navigation, spatial analytics, Smart Cities, etc.
The OGC has identified areas that its Board and Planning Committee feel have opportunity for further promotion and development of open standards, which can lead to economic and societal benefit. These are referred to as “Ripe Issues” and are detailed on the OGC blog:
OGC members' collective expertise and energy will advance open geospatial standards in these seven areas. In addition to contributing to strategic discussions about OGC standards development, the Ripe Issues work serves as a basis for discussion with the full OGC membership and with other groups including SDOs, participants in the United Nations initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UNGGIM), and industry organizations such as the Smart Cities Council and TM Forum. This networking with other groups is, in itself, an example of network effects and networks building on networks.
Joining a larger network almost always makes sense. This was the rationale for the automobile settling on standard tire sizes, or the telecommunications industry settling on GSM, 3g and 4g. It's the rationale for standardized shipping containers, the metric system, and for learning English or Mandarin. It's also a good reason for joining the SDOs whose standards are important to your organization. There is increasing awareness of the need for information technology SDOs to coordinate their efforts. While written agreements between SDOs are important (see the SDOs in the OGC Alliance Partners list), the real work, and the real benefit for SDO members, comes from engineers' personal cross-participation in various standards working groups and technical committees that are addressing similar interoperability problems. This amplifies not only the value of the standards, but also the value of the business networking and market intelligence that comes with SDO membership.

Published Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Written by Lance McKee

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