OGC’s Stuttgart TC Meeting: more than understanding only train station*

After 7 years, an OGC Technical Committee (TC) meeting has again come to Germany, this time from the 10-13 September 2018 in Stuttgart - more or less the backyard I grew up in. More than 200 people attended our 108th TC Meeting, held at and hosted by the Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart (HfT Stuttgart). The meeting was sponsored by wetransform, virtualcitySYSTEMS, and Steinbeis-Transferzentrum. Stuttgart gave it’s best to welcome the OGC crowd, with the fantastic weather providing a week of summer temperatures.


The week saw the usual blend of excellent meetings, an Ice Breaker in the Student’s Bar Block 4, a Pub Quiz where you could check your knowledge about German and Stuttgart culture, politics, and trivia, as well as the Geospatially Interoperable Games and Simulations (GIGS) Summit, the SensorThings API Summit, the kick-off of the Citizen Science Interoperability Experiment, and the annual OGC Gardel’s Award presentation - this year’s recipient being Joan Masó from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (CREAF).


OGC's 108th TC Meeting was held at and hosted by the Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart (HfT Stuttgart)


The week started with the Opening Plenary, which featured a welcome from the host, HfT Stuttgart (Professor Rainer Franke, Rektor), in which he described the interdisciplinary research related to geospatial topics being performed at the university. Following this was a presentation from Professor Volker Coors of HfT Stuttgart regarding research on 3D spatial data infrastructures relying upon the building blocks of Visualization, Simulation, 3D Building Modeling and the Energy ADE, and Measurement/Sensors. Next to present was Professor Ursula Eicker, also at HfT Stuttgart, who elaborated on the i_city project and its modeling of energy demand, consumption, and savings opportunities for urban environments.


Dr. Lindsay Frost then described his work at ETSI for Context Information Management to bridge IoT and database content to the semantic web, in particular with development of Smart City ontologies. Dr. Frost identified some areas of common interest between ETSI and OGC.


Linda van den Brink followed Dr. Frost with a summary of ongoing activities in the Spatial Data on the Web Interest Group / Subcommittee and explained its governance model as well as its approach to assessing incoming work for eventual maturation under OGC’s and W3C’s standard processes.


Finally, Joan Masó Pau gave some background for the Citizen Science Interoperability Experiment, which kicked-off later in the week.


OGC 2018 Stuttgart TC - opening plenary
The opening plenary at OGC's 108th TC meeting, in Stuttgart, Germany (image courtesy of @SensorUp)

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. At the Stuttgart TC, five ad hoc meetings were held to discuss the use of: Distributed Ledger (Blockchain) technology; Non-Authoritative Data (such as crowdsourced data); GeoAI (Artificial Intelligence); Statistics; and Vector Tiles. There was also a session dedicated to re-energizing the actions of OGC in the realm of Augmented Reality.


Monday included the Geospatially Interoperable Games and Simulations (GIGS) Summit, an afternoon effort dedicated to assessing the use of current OGC standards in the modeling and simulation community and forecasting requirements that will emerge as gaming technologies, cloud infrastructure, and more tightly-coupled standards are increasingly used in the community. The GIGS Summit helped initiate the work plan for the new Interoperable Simulation and Gaming (ISG) Domain Working Group (DWG).


Tuesday had a 3/4 day Summit on the SensorThings API, with the objective to gather the users and providers whom are interested in the current technology, applications, and the future of the OGC SensorThings API standards. Expert members of OGC working groups pursuing the development of SensorThings API held discussions with users who are applying the standard in software applications across various domains. The Summit included many of the well-known experts on the standards from the OGC membership, as well as more recent participants bringing diverse applications to the table.


Friday was the formal kick-off of the Citizen Science Interoperability Experiment (CS IE). The CS IE is intended to demonstrate use of standards to address data interoperability in Citizen Science data collection and management.


Joan Maso receiving OGC's 2018 Gardels Award from CEO and President Mark Reichardt
Joan Masó receiving OGC's 2018 Gardels Award from OGC President & CEO Mark Reichardt 


OGC Future Directions

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. The Future Directions session at the Stuttgart TC focused on Unmanned Systems. The discussion was chaired by Gobe Hobona (OGC), who also provided an overview of the session and established the basis for further discussion.


As part of the session, Don Sullivan of NASA entertained the attendees with a history of the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) at NASA, an activity that has been of importance since the late 1980s. Critically important to the standards community (beyond just OGC) is to recognize and use best practices and even standards developed over more than 30 years in NASA and similar operations. The current focus of the UAS community on small drones does not negate the value of work performed on much larger and capable platforms. The presentation also highlighted continuity in experience from large aircraft to current small, inexpensive vehicles.


Jean-Baptiste Henry from Thales then presented a far-reaching discussion on the use of geospatial databases for autonomous navigation. He described characteristics and problems with data used for ground, aerial, and aquatic navigation, particularly for those data sources not built with autonomous navigation in mind. The presentation then described a number of standards in use that are suitable for autonomous navigation and highlighted the continuing need for clearly indicating data quality, currency, and fitness for purpose.


Finally, Justin J. H. Buck with the British Oceanographic Data Centre summarized the Oceanids Command and Control project for operation of a fleet of surface and submersible autonomous vehicles. This project aims to tightly integrate the cycle of mission planning, piloting, data collection, data processing, and data dissemination such that data can be “archived, processed and accessible within seconds to minutes of collection.” This work is already using some of the OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) standards, NetCDF and linked data principles from the W3C.


Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart (HfT Stuttgart)
The Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart (HfT Stuttgart)


Europe Forum

During a European OGC TC meeting, we usually have a Europe Forum session that provides insight into relevant European topics, like Copernicus, or INSPIRE, or provides updates on EU-funded projects led by OGC members. In Stuttgart, we had an interesting discussion on how to organise future Europe Forum sessions, as well as how to bring and progress European requirements to and within the IP Program. We will soon follow up the session on the Europe Forum mailing-list. If you have any ideas, please contact us or share your ideas on the mailing list.


Open OAB

The Open OAB provides the general TC membership an opportunity to discuss topics addressed in the OGC Architecture Board (OAB) over the preceding months. The Open OAB session also served to highlight the current state of the Technology Trends evaluation process and to seek input from TC Members on that effort.


In Stuttgart, the Open OAB included several additional discussion topics. OGC’s Scott Simmons briefed the planned revision to the Abstract Specification, including the addition of several topics and a major update to ‘Topic 0 - Overview’ [PDF]. Scott also presented the OAB work to clearly define the terms “Profile, Extension, and Profile with Extension.”


Keith Ryden of Esri presented a detailed description of the OGC Community Standard process with specific examples from standards that have moved through that process over the past two years. His presentation also suggested some adjustments to the process that can make the work more consistent.


Finally, OGC’s Josh Lieberman recapped a presentation from the last Open OAB session in Fort Collins on the 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.


Activities to Watch

OpenAPI and OWS Common: multiple Standards Working Groups (SWGs) are now using OpenAPI to define standardized interfaces for implementers. WFS 3.0 is maturing in this effort and a draft of the standard is currently out for public comment. The experience gained in the WFS 3.0 work to date is of interest to members designing common elements for all OGC web standards (the OWS Common SWG among others). Joint meetings between these groups and discussions in the OAB have resulted in more focus in the approach to how OGC web standards should be built. OGC members are encouraged to closely follow and participate in these discussions as the impact to the OGC Standards Baseline is likely to be significant.


Knowledge Management: with the addition of Dr. Gobe Hobona to the OGC staff in 2017, there is now a dedicated effort to better capture, catalog, and make discoverable knowledge developed in OGC processes. Some fruit of this work is already available to members, such as the Full Text search capability for files on the OGC portal. Emerging work on a complete revision to the OGC registry model and accompanying services will become available in the coming months.


All in all, we had yet another exciting TC week, with many great conversations that pushed the OGC work and the community forward. And, being back in the area I grew up in, I have to say that Stuttgart presented itself from its best side and that the HFT were great hosts! So, thank you HFT Team, thank you HFT, thank you Stuttgart.


This blog was co-written by OGC's Athina Trakas, Scott Simmons, and Simon Chester.


If you want to learn more about the happenings and outcomes of the Stuttgart TC, OGC members can access many meeting recordings and presentations via the Stuttgart TC Meeting page on the OGC Portal. Non-members can download a public version of the 2018 Stuttgart OGC TC Meeting Closing Plenary Slides. Tweets from the week can be found at #OGC18DE.


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 to see our evolving OGC Technology Trends.


The next OGC TC Meeting will be held at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Charlotte, NC, USA, on 10-14 December, 2018. For more information, including registration details, visit ogcmeet.org.



*Attendees will recognise this reference from the closing plenary slide “What do Germans mean when they say…” but for those not in attendance, this explanation may help you make sense of the title of this blog post.