OGC in GEOSS - a Key Enabler

By Granville Paules

What is GEOSS and why is it important?
GEOSS is a Global Earth Observation System of Systems. As identified in the most recent 10 year plan, agreed upon by the countries in the Group on Earth Observations: "The vision for GEOSS is to realize a future wherein decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations and information. The purpose of GEOSS is to achieve comprehensive, coordinated and sustained observations of the Earth system, in order to improve monitoring of the state of the Earth, increase understanding of Earth processes, and enhance prediction of the behavior of the Earth system. GEOSS will meet the need for timely, quality long-term global information as a basis for sound decision making, and will enhance delivery of benefits to society" in a number of areas. The international Group on Earth Observations (GEO) responsible for the implementation of GEOSS now consists of 69 countries and the European Commission, as well as 46 participating organizations, including the OGC.

In November 2005, OGC Director John Werle penned a very compelling article titled Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) - The Need For Interoperability. In the article he made several key points about the challenges and opportunities for the 287 (now 339) organizations that make up the OGC and in turn are in position to help advance international GEOSS objectives. He noted that the U.S. component of GEOSS, known as the USGEO (formerly the Integrated Earth Observation System or IEOS), is focused on specific and achievable societal benefits and linking the U.S. efforts to those of our international partners. USGEO has developed standards (including metadata standards) and protocols to address access, interoperability, processing, disseminating and archiving. At the time of his article, the inability to confidently control the flow of information activities was clearly identified as a barrier to the broader adoption of Web-based geospatial technologies.

Interoperability - OGC progress and opportunity
The OGC became a participating organization in GEOSS in February 2005. Its participation has been mainly in the GEO Architecture and Data Committee (ADC) where the OGC has been leading the GEO Task (AR-07-02) "Architecture Implementation Pilot." This particular task involves the incorporation of contributed components consistent with the GEOSS Architecture using a GEOSS Web Portal and a GEOSS Clearinghouse search facility to access services through GEOSS Interoperability Arrangements in support of the GEOSS Societal Benefit Areas. A demonstration of the results of the Architecture Implementation Pilot will take place at the GEO Earth Observation Summit in November in Cape Town, South Africa. The OGC team has organized demonstrations for a series of GEOSS workshops co-sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Geoscience and Remote Sending Society (IGRSS) and OGC (more on this later). Also, the OGC has formed a Working Group on Earth Observation/Natural Resources and Environment (EO/NRE). Operating as part of the OGCï¿1⁄2s Technical Committee, the EO/NRE provides a major forum for discussing GEOSS matters. Looking to the future, the OGC Interoperability Institute (OGCII) has adopted GEOSS as one of its main driving themes. OGCII is a not-for-profit organization chartered to advance geospatial interoperability research in the context of critical social issues.

Implementating GEOSS will depend greatly on funding commitments from the member countries and organizations. Cooperation is voluntary but the commitments are honored at the highest levels of national governments. The international Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) is an important enabling organization in this regard. While there is no formal relationship between OGC and CEOS, information about CEOS activities has been regularly provided to the OGC Earth Observation Working Group, and the CEOS Catalogue Interoperability Protocol (CIP) was a basis for the OGC Catalogue specification. Interestingly, the CIP Specification had emerged in response to the OGC Catalog RFP in the late 1990ï¿1⁄2s. NASA funded the early development. Though informal, this CEOS relationship continues to be fruitful and should be nurtured by the OGC.

IEEE Teaming
One important relationship continuing to bear fruit is that between the IEEE and the OGC. The IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) actively advocates the GEOSS concept through its broad international membership. As with the OGC, the IEEE is a GEO participating organization. GRSS staffs the GEO functions for the IEEE. The IEEE, through the GRSS and the IEEE Communications Society, has sponsored a number of GEOSS implementation workshops in various parts of the world. One possibility under discussion is potential involvement with GEONETCast, a near real-time, global network of satellite-based data dissemination systems designed to distribute space-based, airborne and in-situ data, metadata and products to diverse communities. It is a GEO-sponsored effort to make GEOSS-relevant data available to users through direct broadcast. The IEEE, the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) and the OGC have collaborated in presenting a series of GEOSS awareness workshops to the user community. The OGC has had a very visible role in most of these workshops primarily through the efforts of the OGCï¿1⁄2s George Percivall, chief architect and lead for the OGCï¿1⁄2s Interoperability Program.

In addition to the periodic workshops, the GRSS provides an annual symposium called IGARSS (the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium) where plenary presentations and dedicated sessions are strategically placed in the week-long agenda. The Symposium is being held in Barcelona, Spain next week. I had a major role in organizing the GEOSS focused activity and have ensured that the OGC interoperability efforts get visibility. A pre-conference GEOSS workshop will feature presentations on the OGC Architecture Implementation Pilot and the GEO Web Portal. Scientific topics this year include: The Atmospheric Composition Constellation - a GEOSS Challenge; The Evolving World of Land Imaging Satellites - a GEOSS Opportunity; and The CEOS/GEO Constellation Concept. Spacecraft and data system topics include: GEOSS Architecture and Data Management - A global approach to Earth information; Paths to GEOSS Interoperability - an Illustrative Scenario; Experiments with User Centric GEOSS Architectures; Automated Concepts for Geo-Coregistration of Multisensor Images in the GEOSS Era; and Scientific Data Quality Guidelines for GEOSS Consideration.

All the concepts being presented will rely on highly interoperable operations concepts and data exchange capabilities to ensure high-quality datasets suitable for fusion among themselves and within complex climate and environmental models. Most of the authors are involved with the OGC activity. A continually evolving relationship with the IEEE should reinforce and accelerate both our efforts.

I was fortunate to be a part of NASA as its involvement with, and commitment to, the information gathering power of highly interactive, collaborative sensor systems was being formulated. Our (multi-agency) vision was that of a "sensorweb" or constellation of capabilities with elements provided from both national and international sources. The full set of collaborative capabilities ranged across all forms of ocean, land, airborne, and space-based sensors. The entire concept was built on the premise that data from such sensors could be gathered, assimilated, converted to useful information, and used in a broad mix of decision-support scenarios - some real-time, some pseudo real-time and others on a timetable of convenience. "Collaboration" had a number of dimensions - from initial straightforward concepts of data fusion to true sensor interoperability with real- or near real-time cross-queuing essential for building critical time-sensitive scientific data sets.

While at NASA we successfully demonstrated a prototypical space-based "systems-of-systems" with a mix of advanced technology higher resolution sensors, broad-area surveillance medium resolution sensors, and the critical data interchange facilities required to enable and exploit the capabilities. The concept of "interoperability" was our constant challenge . . . as it will be for the very ambitious concepts associated with the international GEOSS initiative. Upon retirement from NASA, I accepted a position with Kelly, Anderson and Associates as its principal for Aerospace Services to further enable development and deployment of the concepts.

I am heartened to see the continued advancement of OGC standards to answer many of the interoperability challenges that are faced by the earth observation community. Iï¿1⁄2m delighted to see the deep commitment to OGC programs by organizations committed to interoperability for earth observation. And, I note that NASA has been a long time sponsor of requirements for OGC Web Services (OWS) testbeds, most recently providing tasking access to their EO-1 satellite in the OWS-4 testbed activity. The agency is increasingly implementing OGC standards to improve community-wide interoperability to provide data for future OGC interoperability initiatives.

Published Friday, July 27th, 2007

Written by Granville Paules

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