“Everybody has to have an interest in solving global problems. Unless one has entirely lost touch with reality. – And such people do exist.” Dennis Snower, “Who We Were

Powering solutions that address global problems is one of the drivers behind OGC’s efforts to simplify data integration in space, as an emerging domain, is simultaneously offering exciting solutions while creating integration challenges. The topic remains a point of discussion across the location community, as well as at OGC Member Meetings, often revealing many questions.

So, to help those that are not too familiar with the concept of New Space, I shall answer three common questions that help illustrate what New Space is, why it matters, and how it is evolving technologies and standards alike.

If you’re interested in anything New Space, you’re encouraged to attend our next (virtual) Member Meeting, the week of September 13, 2021. In particular, come along to our first New Space Summit – an event that will highlight the importance of the domain and why technology and standards matter. Registration is available at meet.ogc.org.

What is New Space and why is it so important to the Geospatial Community?

‘New Space’ is a paradigm driven by a combination of technology and market advances such as rocket launches, small satellites, orbital planes, evolving sensors, and ground infrastructures. While the ‘commercialization’ of space isn’t a new occurrence, it is only fairly recently that space technologies have become accessible enough that the market has really ‘taken off’ (if you’ll excuse the pun), resulting in a proliferation of players, services, methodologies, and technologies. 

This leads to a core challenge: the FAIRness of data, information, and other derivatives. FAIRness in this case is the foundation and the enabler for the full, efficient, and sustainable exploitation of New Space: how can one Find relevant data and information? Is it easily Accessible? Can it Interoperate with existing datasets and systems? And is it, and any derived products, Re-usable by others?

These concerns are not trivial: recent years have shown that our species as a whole needs to address critical global challenges, such as our impact on the climate and environment, more frequent natural disasters (including pandemics), compromised food security, and more. New Space technologies, with their inherently global perspective, will play a valuable role by providing much of the data needed to address these challenges.

Similarly, the New Space community needs to address smaller-scale problems of space debris as well as judge the benefits and costs of space exploration – to name just a few. There are many questions related to New Space, and as the technologies evolve, so too does the list of related challenges.

With this in mind, the location community needs an accessible, informed forum to discuss and better understand the impacts – positive and negative – of New Space on standards, data integration, and therefore effective decision making.

OGC, with its membership containing the full spectrum of experts – from designers, to providers, to end-users of New Space and related technologies – is ideally suited for just such a forum. This full spectrum perspective provides invaluable viewpoints on the practical considerations required to design useful standards, refine best practices, create valuable partnerships, and research & develop new technologies during Innovation Initiatives.

These sorts of discussions will occur at the New Space summit, part of OGC’s 120th Member Meeting, on Wednesday September 15. Register now at meet.ogc.org.

How are problems in New Space being addressed by OGC and the greater location community?

OGC members lead the exploitation of new space technologies, data and solutions by: 

  • Running R&D initiatives under the OGC Innovation Program.
  • Developing standards, such as OGC APIs, as well as best practices that help make the data generated by New Space technologies align with the FAIR data principles.
  • Bridging, building, linking, and involving a global community of space data providers, users, and integrators.

Leadership through the OGC Innovation Program

The OGC Innovation Program enables OGC members to solve the latest and hardest geospatial challenges via an agile, collaborative process. OGC members (sponsors and technology implementers) from across the location community come together to solve problems, produce prototypes, develop demonstrations, provide best practices, and advance the future of standards.

Recently, OGC Innovation has developed, demonstrated, and documented a large number of open standards-based technologies that address some of the challenges faced by organizations across the New Space domain, including:

Currently, the Innovation Program is exploring the use of New Space data in the context of natural disasters. In the current OGC Disaster Pilot 2021, more than 25 participating organisations are exploring the use of hybrid scalable cloud-based systems with advanced AI processing, machine learning algorithms, and simulation models working where earth observation and other data is already uplinked, prepared, and curated, so that they can generate analysis-ready situational data with the characteristics, scale, and speed required in the wake of a natural disaster, such as a landslide, flood, or pandemic.

Impact international Standards and Best Practice Setting

Organisations across the globe use OGC APIs and other Standards to power their applications and solutions. By engaging with the OGC’s Standards Program organizations can stay on top of current technology trends and better understand interoperability needs and requirements to unlock the full potential of New Space’s and other Earth Observation data.

Examples of OGC standards and working groups relevant and used in the Earth Observation domain are:

  • GeoAI DWG – a forward looking group bringing order to chaos on a disruptive technology.
  • Coverages SWG – it’s all about EO data cube management and analysis, connecting better data management approaches to produce analysis ready data.
  • Discrete Global Grids Systems (DGGS) DWG – these data repositories on national, continental and global scale advance the management and linkages to very large multi-resolution and multi-domain datasets. They are enabling the next generation of analytic processes to be applied to sensors, data type or coordinate reference system.
  • OGC API – Maps, – Processes, – Records, – Tiles, and the Sensorthings API – Virtually all types of working imagery involving Earth Observation data. This is the next generation of standards – data-centric versus web-service-centric, intended to simplify their implementation, discovery, and use.
  • EO Product Metadata and OpenSearch SWG – we work here to improve the findability and accessibility of Earth Observation data.
  • Sensor Web Enablement DWG – it’s about all levels of sensor sophistication, including those used on EO platforms. This group works to find best practices to better connect Space/Sky/Surface Sensor data interoperability.

OGC working groups meet up during most quarterly OGC Member Meetings to discuss developments since the previous meeting, and actions for the next. Many sessions are open to non-members, so attendance is encouraged by OGC Members and non-members alike.

How can the location community best innovate using New Space technologies?

As communities of experts and technologies focused on information gathered from space continue to grow, so do the opportunities and use cases for collaborating, scaling, and sharing across the New Space domain. With this in mind, OGC and our members are committed to sharing and learning from existing knowledge, discovering new, shared interests and initiatives, and creating meaningful impacts.

Conversations concerning New Space seem to grow at every OGC Member Meeting. As such, we’re very excited to host, at our 120th Member Meeting the week of September 13, 2021, a dedicated New Space Summit. We are looking for organizations to get involved, so please register, or get in touch to learn more. 

OGC is also always looking for individuals to join our many Domain and Standards Working groups to help continue to drive the conversation forward. Reach out to a teammate now to learn more about becoming a member of our global community of experts.

Registration for OGC’s 120th Member Meeting, co-located with Singapore Geospatial Festival 2021, including the New Space Summit, is available at meet.ogc.org. OGC Members and non-members are encouraged to attend.


Data Cubes, DGGS, GeoAI, OGC API - Maps, OGC APIs, Sensors, Space