GML and Geo-spatial Web Services Conference 2005

August 19, 2005

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_Ed. Note: This article is about the recent GML and Geo-Spatial Web Services Conference held in July.The OpenGIS Geography Markup Language Implementation Specification (GML 3.1.1), defines a data encoding in XML for geographic data and its attributes.GML provides a means of encoding spatial information for both data transport and data storage, especially in a Web context.

What do the CTO of MapInfo Corporation, the CEO of the Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.(OGC), and the Director of Standards Development for the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) have in common? All three think that the time is ripe for standardization in the geospatial information field and, surprise, surprise, they all think that the entry of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL in the field is a good thing - even though none of the search engine competitors uses geospatial standards at this time.(Microsoft's TerraServer USA serves maps through an interface that implements OGC's OpenGIS Web Map Server Service.)

Presenting keynotes at separate sessions at the fourth annual GML and Geo-Spatial Web Services Conference (formerly GML Days), July 18-22 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, the three acknowledged that the geospatial and IT landscape is changing.But at the same time they each welcomed the opportunities that come with these changes.

George Moon of MapInfo was upbeat."MapInfo revenue has doubled since AOL bought MapQuest," he said."Google, Yahoo and Microsoft want mindshare for Web search.They are not trying to own the mapping space - they want the search space."

David Schell of OGC was similarly excited by the recent exposure the battle of the search engines has brought."The New York Times finally discovered mapping last Sunday," he said."The world is finally beginning to understand the value of geospatial analysis in the enterprise."

Jamie Clark of OASIS suggested that failure to conform to standards is to be expected in the early stages of implementation and competition. OASIS, itself a standards body, is only now transitioning the location components of its Common Alert Protocol to use GML from OGC and ISO TC 211.

The fourth keynote was by Leslie Armstrong, Deputy Staff Director of the U.S.Federal Geographic Data Committee.She explained the US federal government efforts to create standard data models for "Framework Data" and said, "the UML (Unified Modeling Language) models will be transitioned to GML when the standards are complete.Those systems that cannot be made interoperable will be phased out."

The three day conference, preceded by two days of workshops, focused on the technical implementation of GML.Topics for the workshops and sessions ranged from practical implementation issues ("GML and Service Oriented Architecture") to early practical applications ("Dynamic Publishing of Cadastral Data on the Web Using GML Model Schemas") to the still-somewhat-conceptual ("Ontology and Spatial Metaphor").

The success of the conference over the last four years shows that GML has arrived and enjoys increasing acceptance.The panel discussion on the last day posed the frequently asked question, "GML: Too complex or just right?" and the answer seems to be "just right for power and flexibility, but too complex for most data developers and code developers without special tools and application profiles, which are fortunately beginning to appear."

Schell expressed his excitement for the program when he told the audience, "I see things I didn't expect 11 years ago.This level of expertise and activity is outstanding.We are finally beginning to understand the value of geospatial analysis in the enterprise."


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