OGC’s Marine Summit, Singapore: exploring the uses, challenges, and cutting-edge applications for geospatial data in the marine domain

Contributed by: 
OGC Marine DWG Co-chairs, Andy Hoggarth & Jonathan Pritchard

Trevor Taylor opens OGC's First Marine Summit
OGC's Trevor Taylor opening the First OGC Marine Summit.


During the recent OGC TC Meetings in Singapore, the OGC Marine Domain Working Group, in close cooperation with the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) and Singapore’s Maritime and Ports Authority of Singapore (MPA), organised the first OGC Marine Summit. The purpose of the Summit was to: promote the value of interoperability and discoverability of marine spatial data (and MSDI); create awareness of data standards and applications applicable to marine data acquisition and use; explore the uses, challenges, and cutting-edge applications for geospatial data in the marine domain; and further the development of marine standards in both hydrographic and broader, non-hydrographic fields (e.g. ecology, energy, tourism, geology).


The Summit was held on Wednesday 27th February 2019 and featured presenters and participants from across the global maritime domain: bringing together a mix of local case studies, international activities, and challenges being faced by people working in the marine data space.


In the week following the Summit, the OGC Marine Domain Working Group also held their 3rd full day meeting, co-located with the IHOs MSDI Working Group and the first meeting of the UN-GGIM’s group on marine geospatial information management. The full day meeting was centred around the common themes and takeaways from the Singapore marine summit. These are referenced later in this blog in full.


The OGC Marine Summit comprised four Sessions: Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI); Marine Geospatial Standards; Bathymetry; and Innovations. Participants particularly benefited from the on-hand expertise from Singapore, representing one of the world’s major ports and a significant maritime trading nation.


The Summit began with an introduction from OGC’s Trevor Taylor, Director, Member Services-Asia & the Americas [slides], followed by the keynote by Cathrine Armour, Director, Customer Division, from the UK Hydrographic Office. Cathrine discussed the history of maritime navigation and the opportunities and challenges faced by the maritime community as we try to make marine data discoverable and accessible to a broader audience.


Session 1: Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI)

After the keynote, Jamie Chen from Singapore’s Maritime and Ports Authority discussed Singapore’s MSDI concept, GeoSpace-Sea. Singapore provided a great backdrop with a message of data collaboration and interoperability. This was further echoed through an insightful presentation into Mangrove mapping, ‘The Natural Capital Project’, by Dr. Dan Friess from the National University of Singapore, suggesting the need for a fusion of bathymetry, land, and vegetation in this precious environment.


Jamie Chen from Singapore’s Maritime and Ports Authority presents at OGC's First Marine Summit
Jamie Chen from Singapore’s Maritime and Ports Authority


Session 2: Marine Geospatial Standards

The second session focussed on Marine Geospatial Standards, with OGC Marine DWG Co-chair, Jonathan Pritchard from IIC Technologies, discussing IHO, OGC, and industry standards collaborations and briefed on currently active OGC/IHO collaborations. This session highlighted the goals of the marine domain working group, aiming to bridge the gap between the IHO and the OGC to form standards that work across domains. This was followed by Dr. Peter Baumann of Jacobs University presenting on the concepts, standards, and tools behind Spatio-Temporal Datacubes for Marine Big Data. Rounding up the session was Byron Cochrane from NIWA examining the Challenges around environmental data exchange formats.


Session 3: Bathymetry

The third session of the day was focused on Bathymetry, where participants heard about regional projects like AusSeabed from Kim Picard [slides] at GeoScience Australia as well as the tie into to the globally significant Seabed 2030 project introduced by GEBCO TSCOM Co-chair, Dr. Thierry Schmitt [slides] from Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine (SHOM). The final presentation in the session was by Dr. Matthew Purss, also from Geoscience Australia, discussing Discrete Global Grid Systems in the Marine Context, in particular their advantages concerning the analysis of and interaction with global marine datasets.


Session 4: Innovations

The final session of the day took a view to the future as it discussed Innovations in the marine domain. Starting off with OGC DWG Co-chair, Andy Hoggarth from Teledyne Caris, discussing S-102 bathymetry data as a service, where Cloud technologies will provide data services as a way to access the marine products and services of the future. Frederic Houbie from Hexagon followed this with his presentation on Achieving maritime domain awareness through standards. And finally, Choo Heng Kek from the National University of Singapore presented on METIS - A Marine Environmental Information System for researchers.


Dr. Dan Friess from the National University of Singapore presents at OGC's First Marine Summit
Dr. Dan Friess from the National University of Singapore


Challenges collected and refined

Throughout the day, challenges were highlighted and technical needs voiced, fostering a spirit of further collaboration with the OGC. The main challenges were captured and used as discussion points in the OGC MDWG meeting in Busan, South Korea, the following week. A more detailed set of these are reproduced from the MDWG meeting outputs below:


Interoperability and discoverability, particularly for scientific data

Interoperability of scientific data continues to be a challenge and engagement with the scientific community needs to be approached again. The GEBCO engagement has been very positive, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the goal of engaging the scientific community, finding common ground, and improving the interoperability landscape for users. This needs to be done in conjunction with IHO stakeholders as well. Indeed, the UN-GGIM agenda is pushing the requirement. There needs to be a tangible and planned approach to how interoperability can increased between the two communities and probably a set of measures, techniques, standards, and technologies that need to be brought into play.


Visualisation (and Symbology)

OGC MDWG provided a paper in response to a request from another group summarising the treatment of symbology within marine geospatial data. There is some existing background work on portrayal which sets the scene and should be appraised first. The most comprehensive standardised symbology in marine is that defined for ECDIS portrayal of electronic charts, IHO S-52 (now in the process of being updated for S-100). The upcoming OGC Portrayal DWG will be taking a fresh look at portrayal across many domains, and the Marine DWG will monitor this group carefully to offer perspectives on the marine use case.


Datum harmonization, particularly vertical (land / sea) + coastal domain (inc tide)

Harmonisation of vertical datums is now a frequent geodetic asset of many states through the establishment of a correction layer. Different derivation methods and parameters lead to transboundary issues and there is a case for the marine use case to be explored at a regional level to establish if there is a requirement for standardisation of process, data outputs/structure, metadata, quality, and API access. This could lead to a step change in the quality of vertical datum resolution in regions where many different methodologies co-exist. Horizontal datum reconciliation is an issue in coastal regions and within port infrastructure and should be explored to see if challenges unique to the marine/coastal domain can be defined and a solution approached.


Management and manipulation of temporal data in the marine domain (eg bathymetry and point clouds)

Everything is Somewhere is a frequent geospatial slogan. However, everything is also somewhen as all measurements have a temporal dimension to them. Often, time is simply another data attribute, but example use cases show that time should be considered as integral to geospatial data as its position. This becomes a crucial factor when big data volumes are considered and a more systematic study of how temporal data is approached in the various standards is called for. Vessel movement data in Automatic Identification System (AIS) and marine bathymetric survey data are two domain specific examples where large data volumes and temporal representation should be considered further.


Storage and handling for variable resolution data

Storage and processing of variable resolution data is most commonly found in the marine domain within the area of bathymetric data. This is mainly due to the cost and complexity of its collection. A common area of difficulty is how this data can be processed at a large scale without engaging different processes at different resolutions and there may be something the marine domain can learn from similar challenges in other fields - such as DGGS, below.


First expert meeting of the Working Group on Marine Geospatial Information
The first expert meeting of the UN-GGIM Working Group on Marine Geospatial Information, in Busan, South Korea. Image courtesy of UN-GGIM.


DGGS for data discovery and analysis

The use of discrete global grid systems has great potential in many domains. The key benefits in the marine domain are (a) a framework for storage and manipulation of variable resolution data, (b) the potential for integration and interoperability of multiple data themes, (c) the benefits of a unified reference system for multiple data types, most notably in the production of geostatistics (in the context of UN-GGIM and the UN Sustainable Development Goals there is a high priority on quality geostatistics).


Governance & policy for data sharing

Certain types of marine data are subject to complex licencing regimes because of its high quality and cost of collection and processing. No unifying framework exists for describing permission and rights access to data. A requirement to remind the hydrographic community of the importance of a unified licencing policy and its importance for MSDI implementation has been raised. This can be pursued through both OGC and IHO.


Interoperability and implementation of data catalogues - aka “It’s not easy to find everything relevant to my domain of interest”

There is great potential to learn from other domains how an increased level of sophistication in data cataloging can be achieved. There is a big semantic web community in the OGC world that doesn’t take in the marine domain at all. A link with the semantic web community is a priority, and a study on how integration and transformation between data catalogues should be undertaken. Capturing marine-specific and difficult use cases should help define the problem in more detail. There is an outstanding action on the MDWG from the IHO S-100WG to engage the semantic web community and describe the possible benefits of technology to the hydrographic community. Because of the potential for enhanced discoverability there is a large potential in MSDI for this approach.


Metadata for bathymetry

The Seabed 2030 project mentioned earlier raises the profile of global bathymetric data and places a challenge not just for its collection but also its effective collation. Key to its success will be the ability to gather, process, and attribute metadata globally to a high degree of quality. This will have to be done for both historical and current data.


Security, provenance, authenticity

Some MSDI datasets have a lot of legal, safety and planning implications and there is a requirement to assemble a collection of best practices for addressing these concerns across the marine domain. Although progress has been made with S-100’s digital signatures, these are often at the dataset level whereas MSDI frequently breaks data down into component feature classes. There is a need to address this issue at a technology level with increased facilities for data integrity, provenance (through an assured identity framework), and authenticity (cryptographically secure identity and data integrity mechanisms) to be looked at across the marine geospatial domain (in the context of MSDI). A paper will be prepared and presented to the Hydrographic Services and Standards Committee (HSSC) to illustrate the issue and the OGC Marine DWG will explore how this issue is addressed in other geospatial domains.


With such great information shared, and with many challenges noted, the Summit has provided some guidance on where OGC, the Marine DWG, IHO, and other organisations can more effectively channel their energies to improve interoperability and access to critical information in this important domain.


Readers looking to learn more about OGC’s Marine DWG can check out the Marine DWG Wiki, which includes links to Marine Summit and DWG Meeting Presentations, as well as info on upcoming activities, and how to join.

The First Marine Summit agenda is publicly available from the OGC Portal. Presentations from the day have been linked throughout this article, with a complete list on the OGC Portal.