OGC’s Fort Collins TC Meeting

On June 4-7, more than 140 people attended our 107th Technical Committee (TC) Meeting, held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, USA. The meeting was sponsored by DigitalGlobe, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).


The meeting featured a new organizational focus that grouped Domain Working Groups (DWGs) into thematic ‘clusters.’ These clusters were designed to facilitate discussion amongst DWGs with common interests, and to make better use of the allocated time each cluster received over the course of the week. The clustering is a work in progress, but good success was had in Earth Sciences as well as Big Data and Imagery, where both clusters organized general discussion on broad-reaching topics.


The Lory Student Center at Colorado State University (Image via CSU).


The facilities at Colorado State University were first class, the reception held at the NCAR Wyoming Supercomputing Centre and Dinner at the Lincoln Centre provided relaxed environments for members to unwind from the usual packed days, with the high altitude only slowing people down slightly.


The Opening Plenary featured a welcome from the sponsor, DigitalGlobe, where Kumar Navulur highlighted trends emerging in the commercial remote sensing industry, from platform to analytics. We then had a presentation from Anne Fintelman of the Netherlands Defence Geographic Agency on the NATO ad-hoc Geospatial Aeronautical Working Group (GAWG) – an organization with whom OGC generally has a relationship with through the Defence Geospatial Information Working Group (DGIWG), but which has tight alignment with numerous OGC standards efforts. Lastly, Carl Reed presented a history of the geospatial industry in Northern Colorado, highlighting why so many organizations (and OGC participants) are based in the region.


Rather than having a specific theme, the Fort Collins TC Meeting focused on driving requirements for emerging OGC activities in Point Cloud data management and services, Aviation/Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and Modeling & Simulation. The Point Cloud DWG hosted a half-day series of demonstrations of the management and use of point cloud data. The Aviation DWG held an Aviation Workshop with an agenda tied to the Unmanned Systems (UxS) DWG earlier that day. A new Interoperable Simulation and Gaming DWG held its first session at this TC Meeting and was attended by professionals from numerous organizations in the Modeling & Simulation community.


Jo Abhayaratna from PSMA at the NAD ad hoc
Jo Abhayaratna from PSMA speaking at the NAD ad hoc session.


During the TC week several ad hoc meetings were held. An OGC ‘ad hoc’ session is where OGC members discuss the feasibility and interest in standards work for a given community of practice. Often, they are the first step before a new Domain or Standards Working Group can be formed. The Fort Collins TC included four ad hoc sessions to discuss possible standards work in the following areas: the use of Distributed Ledger (Blockchain) technology, Non-Authoritative Data, GeoAI (Artificial Intelligence), and Vector Tiles.


OGC Future Trends

OGC plays a leading role in proactively assessing emerging technologies as they apply to the geospatial community. Some technologies will directly impact geospatial standards and interoperability, and others lead to new operational environments that will drive requirements and use cases. As such, OGC schedules Future Directions sessions at TC Meetings in order to discuss emerging technologies relevant to our work. At Fort Collins, the session focused on Cloud-Native Geospatial Computing. The discussion was chaired by OGC’s Director of Knowledge Management, Gobe Hobona, who also provided an overview of the domain and established the basis for further discussion.


Gobe Hobona leading the OGC Future Directions Session
OGC's Gobe Hobona speaking as part of the Future Directions session.


OGC’s Executive Director of the Innovation Program, Luis Bermudez, provided a summary of cloud-native and cloud-enabled geospatial solutions exercised in Testbed 13 and under investigation in Testbed 14. Of particular importance is the evolution in development of an exploitation platform such as a Docker container that started in Testbed 13. Testbed 14 is developing management workflows and the infrastructure for security of containers and quoting and billing of containered services.


Tom Landry of the Computer Research Institute of Montréal (CRIM) elaborated on the Testbed 13 work aiming toward three objectives:

  1. Use of the CRIM climate data research platform as a basis for WMS, WFS, WPS, and other solution deployment;
  2. Reuse and adapt hybrid cloud computing components from other research platforms; and
  3. Provide WPS remote sensing solutions via Docker based on two existing toolboxes.


Carsten Rönsdorf and Michael Gordon of the UK Ordnance Survey (OS) then offered a joint presentation on the cloud computing architecture enabling geospatial data collection and maintenance at the OS. They emphasized “geo DATA with a small g” where the geospatial aspects of data may be critical in some aspects, but where collection and delivery are separated from a customer’s perspective, enabling ingestion and use of diverse (and perhaps non-traditional) data sources.


Julien Chastang of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) described cloud computing research underway by Unidata. Unidata has an objective to move toward cloud data access and processing and is researching “data-proximate analysis and visualization.” As with other work being investigated in the OGC Testbed program, Docker plays an important role.


Finally, Ted Habermann of the HDF Group presented the HDF Cloud, which aims to abstract from the user the actual storage mechanism and systems. Data stored completely locally are interoperable with data stored in an organized fashion on a single cloud instance or distributed amongst many cloud instances. This work is already demonstrated through the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) wind data service.


Other emerging technologies that are becoming a strong focus of the OGC membership include Artificial Intelligence and Vector Tiling.


Concerning Artificial Intelligence, there has been high-level discussion of the implications to the standards landscape of the inclusion of Machine Learning in geospatial data processing. OGC members are now converging on a forum for discussion of the entire range of issues that emerge from use of artificial intelligence in what has been a very human-cognition driven industry. Expect soon to see a call to start a Geospatial Artificial Intelligence DWG.


Past meetings have included discussions to scope the need and methods for tiling vector data. This topic is now highlighted in several Standards Working Groups (SWGs) of increasingly urgent need for progress. Solutions being considered include some or all of: orthogonally-chopped vector data, ‘hairy’ vectors that extend and may duplicate across tile boundaries, and rasterized vectors.



The Open OAB provides the general TC membership an opportunity to discuss topics addressed in the OGC Architecture Board (OAB) over the preceding months. In Fort Collins, the Open OAB included two main discussion topics.

First, OGC’s newest staff member, Josh Lieberman summarized a recent OAB position linking work from the OGC Publish/Subscribe (Pub/Sub) standard and MQTT from OASIS and recommending that OGC services standards consider development of MQTT Extensions. The OAB also recommends that the Pub/Sub standard be extended with a MQTT binding.

The second topic was a series of brief presentations on the current state and evolving idea about encoding symbology and styling for data depiction in OGC standards. The current styling and symbology standards are in need of update and the consensus among OGC members is that new standards should be applicable to other relevant OGC standards, e.g., both a Web Feature Service and a GeoPackage should share a common model for defining symbology and styling.


The W3C Spatial Data on the Web Interest Group had its second face-to-face meeting during the OGC TC meeting.


Additionally, the TC coincided with the second face-to-face meeting of the W3C Spatial Data On The Web Interest Group, which ran across two days, and covered topics ranging from coordination of W3C and OGC activities relating to Future Trends, MapML, Statistical Data on the Web, and more.


It was a very productive week all around, and we are looking forward to the upcoming meetings in Stuttgart, Germany, from September 10-13. Details on the meeting and an already packed agenda can be found on the OGC Meeting website.


If you want to learn more about the happenings and outcomes of the Fort Collins TC, OGC members can access many meeting recordings and presentations via the Fort Collins TC Meeting page on the OGC Portal. Non-members can download a public version of the 2018 Fort Collins OGC TC Meeting Closing Plenary Slides. Tweets from the day can be found at #OGC18FC.


Readers are also encouraged to visit OGC’s GitHub page to participate in OGC related discussions, such as ideas for Testbed 15 and other Innovation Program Initiatives and future OGC TC meeting topics, or see our evolving OGC Technology Trends.


The next OGC TC Meeting will be held at Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart (HFT Stuttgart), in Stuttgart, Germany on 10-13 September, 2018. For more information, including registration details, visit ogcmeet.org.