OGC Advances Best Practice for Sharing Geographic Names

Contributed by: 
Jeff Harrison

Gazetteers provide valuable information about geospatial features, including their names, locations, and feature types. In fact, geographic names are the most common form of locational reference and are key to accessing, linking, and mapping other online information. Since this resource is so important, there's growing interest in sharing and updating geographic names across standard Web services interfaces. To meet this challenge OGC members have developed an updated approach for sharing geographic names - the OGC Gazetteer Service Best Practice.

The OGC Gazetteer Service Best Practice specifies a type of Web Feature Service (WFS) that serves a Geography Markup Language (GML) Application Schema based on the information model in ISO's 19112 standard, hence a 'Web Feature Service - Gazetteer' (WFS-G).  ISO 19112 defines the essential components of a gazetteer, and WFS-G combines this model with WFS's open capability for accessing and updating geographic features across the Web. The result is a WFS profile that can help advance seamless access to geographic names across many different organizations.

The OGC Gazetteer Service Best Practice was submitted to OGC by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the US Army Corps of Engineers Army Geospatial Center (AGC), the US Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), CubeWerx, Intergraph Government Solutions and The Carbon Project. Development support was also provided by the State of Montana. The Best Practice was developed under an effort called the WFS-G Working Group and contributors are making further improvements with the intent of moving it to a full OGC standard. As a result of the WFS-G Working Group effort an operational WFS-G implementing the latest Gazetteer Service Best Practice was deployed at the USGS in May 2011 (http://frameworkwfs.usgs.gov/wfsg/).

WFS-G's major benefit will be its use as the basis for real-time, common open access to local, state, provincial, national and global geographic names. Real-time access to geographic names as online web services is fully suited for the challenges of Government Agencies, the Intelligence Community, the Armed Forces, Overseas Contingency Operations, Human Geography, Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT), Homeland Security, Humanitarian Relief Operations, and the general public. The latest Best Practice also enables collaborative maintenance of geographic names using WFS Transactions (WFS-T) and GeoSynchronization web services. This addition enables geographic names updates to be contributed by both authoritative and 'crowd-source' communities - and supports the development of new mobile and web-based applications.

The OGC Gazetteer Service Best Practices is available for public review at http://www.opengeospatial.org/standards/requests/83 .