What’s in a Name Change?

By Carl Reed III

OGC_name_change Why did we change the name of the OGC and why now? Good questions.The former name "Open GIS Consortium" has been used since 1994.There is strong name recognition - not just in the US but globally.So why change the name?

The short answer is that the scope of work has changed over the last ten years.When the OGC was formed, our initial focus was defining interface standards that allowed seamless format and vendor independent access and interchange of GIS data (content).The Consortium's ongoing work now encompasses content and service discovery, access and interoperability.Our work is not just for GIS technology interoperability but also for solving interoperability issues in such technology domains as image processing, location services, sensor networks, digital rights management, security and intelligent transportation systems.

What were the evolutionary elements of this change? In 1999, our members demonstrated the ability for a simple HTML based web client to transparently query, access and display GIS data from multiple, geographically distributed sources.This was accomplished by implementing the OGC Web Map Service (WMS) Interface specification. A WMS implementation utilizes a fairly simple http based query/response protocol.

The WMS demonstration was a pivotal moment in the evolution (and recognition) of the work of the OGC.First, the demonstration proved to many that GIS interoperability could be achieved - interoperable access and use of GIS content was no longer a dream.Second, and perhaps even more importantly, the WMS work represented a shift from working on GIS interoperability standards for tightly coupled architectures, such as CORBA and OLE/COM, to developing interfaces and encoding standards that are implemented in loosely coupled, highly distributed architectures, such as the Internet or mobile wireless infrastructures.The success of the WMS interoperability initiative shortly led to subsequent interoperability initiative activities including GeoSpatial Fusion and Web Map Service Testbed 2, both of which broadened our work into new geospatial technologies areas.

As a result, the OGC membership began addressing interoperability issues beyond format neutral access and display of GIS content.In 2000, the OGC membership decided that solving interoperability issues in the Location Services domain was very important. In 2001, we released an OGC white paper on OGC Web Services.Since then, the OGC membership has collaborated to define and approve interface specifications for Web Services applications.In 2001, we also began doing more work in defining interface standards for services, such as geocoding and routing, not just data access.In 2002, we began looking at transparent and vendor neutral access to sensor networks and image processing workflows.And in the last year, the membership has been defining requirements for addressing interoperability issues in Digital Rights Management for spatial content, CAD/GIS integration, and in simulation.

On the surface, one could still say that much of this work is still GIS centric.Perhaps, but the standards development work of the last several years has taught us many lessons and caused us to move into technology areas that are far removed from "traditional" GIS.Through our work in Web Services and related application environments, we have come to understand that our standards work does not exist in isolation.More than ever, we interact with other standards organizations, not just ISO, but groups such as OASIS and the W3C.Our members are now working with other mainstream IT standards such as XML, SOAP, WSDL, BPEL, ebRIM, ebXML, and SAML.Why? Two reasons.First, OGC standards must support the ability for spatial services and content to be integrated and to interoperate within the much broader Information and Communications Technology (ICT) context - not just within or between specific GI systems.Second, there is a growing recognition of OGC's unique role outside the GIS community as an authority on geospatial interoperability and that our Abstract Specification can be used as a foundation for enabling substantive discussion with other standards bodies such as TC211, IEEE, and the Open Mobile Alliance.

Further, we must be responsive to the interoperability and integration requirements of enterprise application integration, including enterprise workflows and service-oriented architectures. There is a requirement to find, bind, and use geospatial content and services on demand.There is a need to integrate content and services from multiple providers.There is a need to integrate a variety of stovepipe legacy systems and content into new workflows.A typical workflow might be to access sales information from a distributed database, geocode the sales records, and then pass the result to a financial modeling system.This sales information may be maintained in multiple databases in different formats in different regional offices.The workflow needs the required service and content when they need them and the service and content must seamlessly integrate with the enterprise application workflow.The Canadian Forestry's enterprise application for capturing and consolidating provincial timber resource statistics is a very good example of the trend toward enterprise application integration - even in the GIS domain space.

Market forces have dictated the broadening of the scope of standards work of the OGC, reinforced the recognition that we must exist within the larger IT and Enterprise frameworks, and that there are many other applications than "just GIS" that create and use content that has a location element.

Therefore, earlier this year the OGC Board of Directors recommended that the OGC change our name to the Open Geospatial Consortium.The name change is not a statement that GIS is no longer important.Instead, our community recognizes that there are many other application domains that collect and use spatially referenced content that do not use - and may not even have heard of - GIS.Spatial content and services have importance and value way beyond the traditional scope of GIS.There is increasing recognition that spatial content and services are critically important components in many value chains and enterprise workflows.

The OGC is no longer just developing standards that enable interoperability of GIS content.As the OGC vision states, we believe in "A world in which everyone benefits from geospatial information and services made available across any network, application, or platform."

Published Thursday, September 9th, 2004

Written by Carl Reed III

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