FAQs

FAQs - OGC's Global Organization

Q and A: 
  1. Is OGC an International Organization?
  2. What is the European Special Interest Group (Europe SIG)?
  3. What is OGC Europe?


Q: Is OGC an International Organization?

A: Yes. OGC's members and directors are from many countries. OGC began in the US, but as of August 30, 2003, 256 industry, academic, and government organizations from 31 countries are members of OGC, and a majority (146) of those are not US organizations. Among the current members, there are 18 sub-national (state, provincial and local) agencies, 29 national agencies and three international agencies, including the United Nations. OGC works to recruit members from around the world and encourages them to take advantage of the opportunity to lead in the development and use of OpenGIS Specifications. It is an international standards organization in the same way that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) are international standards organizations.

Non-US organizations in OGC report that the process is democratic, and they believe results will benefit all countries. Commercial providers of technology as well as users in all countries can benefit more from participating in the process than ignoring it.

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Q: What is the European Special Interest Group (Europe SIG)?

A: OGC has about 91 members with headquarters in Europe and at least 30 "multi-national" members who are active in Europe, working from European addresses as European corporations. This group of organizations comprises the domain of membership for OGC's Europe Special Interest group (Europe SIG). The Europe SIG was organized by the Planning Committee, "to define organizational and business approaches relating to European member issues that have significance for the development and implementation of a community-wide OpenGIS architecture, and to stimulate the further growth of the European geographic information (GI) market." The charter further charges the Europe SIG "...to assess issues of the European members of OGC which relate to the requirements, development and general acceptance of the OpenGIS Specification, and to recommend organizational approaches within OGC to ensure these issues are appropriately assimilated within the specification process." In other words, the Europe SIG was established to grow a program of activity which will strengthen the OpenGIS process in Europe and make it more valuable to Europeans.

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Q: What is OGC Europe?

A: Open Geospatial Consortium (Europe) Limited (OGCE) is a  not for profit subsidiary of OGC whose purpose is to conduct business in Europe and Australia on behalf of OGC's mission, goals, and objectives. This company promotes the development and use of OpenGIS standards and represents the OGC's European-based membership in regional fora, meetings and initiatives. OGCE provides consultation on architecture, proof of concept projects, procurement readiness, and program support.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

FAQs - The Role of OGC

Q and A: 
  1. Where is geoprocessing technology headed?
  2. What is the difference between "business GIS" and "the spatially enabled enterprise?"
  3. How will OGC Web Services (OWS) change the World Wide Web?
  4. What role does OGC play in the development of Location Based Services (LBS)?
  5. How does OGC facilitate e-commerce in geodata and geoprocessing services?
  6. What is Sensor Web Enablement?
  7. What are Geospatial Fusion Services (GFS)?


Q: Where is geoprocessing technology headed?

A: Geographic information will no longer be segregated in GIS and earth imaging systems. It will be easily discovered, accessed, integrated and used. The level of expertise required to use geospatial data will be greatly reduced because the data types, data formats, resolutions, coordinate transformations, and semantic issues will usually be handled automatically and invisibly. The questions and answers below provide more detail.

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Q: What is the difference between "business GIS" and "the spatially enabled enterprise?"

A: "Business GIS" is a term that evolved to describe business applications of geographic information systems. Most such applications involved sales and marketing analysis on standalone software systems that were "islands of automation" in the enterprise. With the advent of OGC's open geoprocessing standards, businesses are finally able to go far beyond business GIS, bringing the power of spatial analysis and spatial awareness to any department. Everything and everybody is somewhere and everything happens somewhere, so it is logical that many workflows can be assisted by information systems that fluidly publish, discover, display, and process spatial information. Mobile, location aware devices, Web Services and spatial extensions to general purpose databases further support "spatial enablement" of the enterprise.

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Q: How will OGC Web Services (OWS) change the World Wide Web?

A: Now that vendors of Web-based software are implementing interfaces conforming to OpenGIS Specifications, geoprocessing software of different kinds from different vendors is beginning to work together "one-to-many" on the Web. When OpenGIS Specification conformant interfaces have been adopted on a large scale (and this is happening) any client will communicate with any server as if they were in the same vendor family of products. So the Web will be full of maps and spatial services, just as it is now full of text and simple images, and all of this will be available to everyone (unless restricted by the owner). Catalogs conforming to the OpenGIS Catalog Services Specification will enable "spatial search engines" for discovery of both online geoprocessing services and online geodata sources. Geospatial portals based on OpenGIS Specifications will serve as hubs for users and providers of geospatial information to share data much more easily than before. This describes the "Spatial Web."

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Q: What role does OGC play in the development of Location Based Services (LBS)?

A: In OGC's OpenLS activities, OGC members have cooperatively developed the “GeoMobility Server” (GMS), a set of specifications for open interfaces and schemas that support Location Based Services. These standards are necessary if there is to be communication of location (and time), route, types of service, etc. across diverse technology platforms, application domains, classes of products, carrier networks and national regions.

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Q: How does OGC facilitate e-commerce in geodata and geoprocessing services?

A: OGC members have cooperatively developed a standards framework for 1) easy Web-based geodata discovery and access and 2) geoprocessing Web Service discovery and access. This framework is consistent with the larger IT industry's evolving framework for e-commerce, which includes facilities for security, authentication, authorization and monetary transactions. The detailed requirements of e-commerce that are unique to geodata and geoprocessing services, and a proposed set of interfaces to meet these requirements, have been documented in an OGC discussion paper titled, "Web Pricing & Ordering Service."

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Q: What is Sensor Web Enablement?

A: OGC members have developed a set of specifications to support the building of "sensor webs," that is, networks of Web-connected geo-located sensors and imaging devices of all kinds. The specifications provide standard XML encodings for data describing sensors and sensor data and they specify interfaces for querying and controlling the sensors and imaging devices. The Observations & Measurements specification, which provides general models and XML encodings for sensor observations and measurements, promises to become an indispensable standard in science and engineering.

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Q: What are Geospatial Fusion Services (GFS)?

A: OGC members have developed a set of specifications to support the merging of diverse kinds of information that may usefully be organized as spatial information, even though they are not usually referenced spatially. For example, photographs, video clips, audio recordings and text documents referring to a place can be georeferenced and treated as spatial data, and they can be indexed for retrieval by queries that use earth coordinates or bounded regions.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

FAQs - OGC Abstract Spec

Q and A: 
  1. What is the "Abstract Specification" and what are "implementation specifications"?
  2. What's the difference between a specification and a standard?
  3. What is the "OGC Technical Baseline"?
  4. What is the OpenGIS Reference Model (ORM)?
  5. What OpenGIS Implementation Specifications have been completed?
  6. What OpenGIS Specifications remain to be developed?
  7. What are OGC Web Services (OWS)?
  8. What other distributed computing platforms does OGC work on besides the Web?

A: The OpenGIS Abstract Specification formally documents, at a "high level," the terms, definitions and information models, such as geometry, along with software behaviors, on which members have reached consensus. Thus, the Abstract Specification provides the lingua franca and foundation upon which OpenGIS Implementation Specification are based. OpenGIS implementation specifications are actual engineering specifications that software developers can implement in applications and products. (For an example of the Abstract Specification, see Topic 2: Spatial Reference Systems. For an example of an implementation specification, see OpenGIS® Web Map Service Implementation Specification.)

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A: A standard is a specification, but a specification is not necessarily a standard. In the context of geoprocessing, specifications (whether they are standards or not) are documents that describe protocols (e.g., TCP/IP), data encodings (e.g., GML), software interfaces, and other aspects of information and process sharing. They provide guidance to the software developer regarding software design and behavior. A standard is a specification that developers in numerous companies can use to ensure that their products "work together." (In the context of geodata, specifications can describe content (e.g. ISO 19115 Metadata Content Standard), formats (e.g. JPEG, PNG), schemas, quality, etc.)

The authority of a specification rests on its inherent technical excellence. On the other hand, the authority of a standard derives from the breadth of its acceptance in the marketplace and the authority of the standard setting organization sponsoring it. The standard setting organization may be an industry standards consortium such as OGC, W3C or IETF or it may be an official standards organization such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or ANSII. Both types of organizations develop specifications that are intended to be standards.

Every software company develops specifications to guide development of their proprietary technologies. Sometimes these are later released to the public, usually to strengthen the competitive market position of the vendor. Such proprietary specifications may become "de facto" standards.

OpenGIS® Specifications, on the other hand, are "consensus standards" similar to HTML, XML, TCP/IP and the other standards that define the Internet and the Web. OpenGIS Specifications are conceived, written, and approved through a member consensus process. This process includes active participation and review by users, integrators and vendors. Thus OpenGIS Specifications are technically of very high quality, they are specific enough to ensure interoperability, and they are standards by virtue of the market acceptance that results from the participation in OGC of so many of the industry's key technology providers and users. Several OpenGIS Specifications have also been adopted by ISO as International Standards and more are in ISO's review process.

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A: The OGC Technical Baseline is the set of all Adopted Specifications plus all other technical documents that have been approved by the OGC Technical and Planning Committees, including the OpenGIS Reference Model, OpenGIS Abstract Specifications, Recommendation Papers, and Discussion Papers.

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A: The ORM is a document, part of the OGC Technical Baseline, that provides an overall conceptual framework for building geospatial processing into distributed systems in an incremental and interoperable manner. The ORM serves as a guide to designing enterprise architectures whose data models and open interfaces support the near-term and long-term vendor-neutral integration of spatial capabilities.

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A: Click on "Documents =>OpenGIS Specifications" on OGC's web page or go directly to them to see the current list of adopted OpenGIS Implementation Specifications.

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A: Many OpenGIS Specifications are in process and others are sure to be proposed. You can learn about many of those that are in process by reviewing the Requests For Comment, Recommendation Papers, and Discussion Papers that can be accessed through the OGC Web site home page.

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A: OWS refers to all OpenGIS Specifications for interfaces, encodings, etc. that apply to Web-based geoprocessing. (Some OpenGIS Specifications apply in the case of two dissimilar systems communicating while running on the same computer or while using a distributed computing platform other than the Web.)

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A: OGC members have developed OpenGIS Specifications for CORBA and SQL. Work on "Geospatial Objects" will yield a set of specifications that are "distributed computing platform" neutral (like the OpenGIS Abstract Specifications) but that can be automatically generated for a specific distributed computing platform using UML tools.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

FAQs - Becoming a Member

Q and A: 
  1. Why should an organization join OGC?
  2. Why should data providers, such as National Mapping Agencies, become involved now instead of waiting for products that conform to the OpenGIS Specifications?
  3. Why should a university become a member of OGC?
  4. Don’t software vendors sacrifice competitive advantage by working in OGC?
  5. Is it possible to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of participation in OGC?
  6. Is access to information an important justification for participation in OGC?
  7. For whom are OpenGIS Specifications most relevant today?
  8. Has the defense industry played an important role in OGC?
  9. Does involvement in OGC make it possible today to reach new markets? Which ones in particular?
  10. Where do data providers and service providers fit in the technology environment being created by members of OGC?
  11. Has OGC worked with public institutions and other important actors in the geographical information market to promote use of software that conforms with OpenGIS Specifications?
  12. Does membership in OGC help members with their own marketing efforts?
  13. Who will most benefit from this kind of interoperability on the Web?

Q: Why should an organization join OGC?

A: Different kinds of organizations have different reasons to join:

Technology Developers join to:

  • Help drive the interface specifications required for interoperability.
  • Gain early insight into user needs for geoprocessing interoperability.
  • Bring new products and services to market sooner.
  • Reduce development risk and cost, thanks to shared development and industry-wide adoption of open interfaces.

Technology Users join to:

  • Reduce procurement risk and life cycle costs as Standards-based Commercial Off The Shelf (SCOTS) products extend and replace custom-built applications.
  • Guide and accelerate the development and implementation of open interfaces.
  • Encourage broader choice of standards-based geoprocessing solutions in the marketplace.
  • Cooperate and share costs with other user organizations that have similar interoperability needs.

Integrators join to:

  • Gain early opportunity to help enterprises transition from single-vendor and custom-built geoprocessing solutions to solutions offering user choice, rapid integration, online services and extra-enterprise communication and collaboration.
  • Evolve business practices from custom design to enterprise "interface administration."

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Q: Why should data providers, such as National Mapping Agencies, become involved now instead of waiting for products that conform to the OpenGIS Specifications?

A: Construction of new reference architectures for developing, maintaining, distributing and using geospatial information necessarily proceeds bottom-up, from statements of user requirements. Sponsoring OGC Interoperability Initiatives is the best way for data and service-oriented institutions to accelerate this process and to be sure it yields services that meet their needs. Also, by participating in OGC, they become part of the network of technology users and providers that is focused on the same set of problems that concerns the data providers.

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Q: Why should a university become a member of OGC?

A: University researchers in areas related to geoprocessing software development will benefit immensely from technology discussions and projects (live and online) in OGC that involve many of the leading professionals in the field. Also, ongoing OGC projects focused on topics such as sustainable development, disaster management, environment and natural resources provide a focus for research communities that are focused on disciplines other than geoprocessing software development. Many disciplines and many industries are involved. Interoperability unlocks the value of spatial data for interdisciplinary studies. Knowledge gained can be directly applied to many university objectives related to use of geospatial information. Students can help solve important real world problems and make contacts with potential employers. Cost is low. (The cost/benefit ratio of OGC participation is very good compared to other standards activities.)

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Q: Don’t software vendors sacrifice competitive advantage by working in OGC?

A: No, but the competitive environment has changed, so vendor strategies must change. In the past, the comprehensiveness of suites of software provided competitive advantage, and customers became "captive" customers. Now, vendors achieve competitive advantage by offering better open-environment solutions that build on standards. It is still important to offer products that are "best of breed" for specific applications, but products need to interoperate with other vendors’ products. Membership in OGC provides advantages such as access to the specifications, insight into market direction, and efficient access to the voice of the customer. OpenGIS Specifications are becoming the currency for geodata sharing within government and among vertical markets that are impacted by government geoinformation. OpenGIS Specifications provide a data sharing framework by which specialized vendors can integrate into enterprise architectures.

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Q: Is it possible to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of participation in OGC?

A: Yes. For example, evaluating ROI in terms of dollars, marks, or pounds is possible when an organization considers the value of particular business relationships which would not have become established if the organization had not been active in OGC. Such ROI might be revenue from a major customer or business partner, or savings realized through particular products, services, or business procedures put in place because of what was learned in OGC. It is also possible for a vendor to calculate roughly how much they saved by sharing certain development costs through developing open interfaces collaboratively instead of developing proprietary interfaces in-house. Soon, some product revenues will be clearly attributable to the market value of products’ open interfaces. But it is also true that, in today’s extremely dynamic, complex, and hard-to-predict business environment, many decisions cannot be accurately and promptly evaluated in terms of their contribution to the bottom line. Some evaluations must be more abstract, based on the decision makers’ values, goals, strategies and sense of where the market is going.

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Q: Is access to information an important justification for participation in OGC?

A: Yes, it is one of the fundamental reasons for participation. It is important in terms of access to in-progress specifications, but it is even more important in terms of access to industry trends and developments. This information directly determines the possibilities for industrial and academic research and industrial product strategies.

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Q: For whom are OpenGIS Specifications most relevant today?

A: Initially it was the large government users who become involved because of their critical strategic interest. Major user corporations, such as Telcos and transportation companies, have begun to participate to advance interoperability in their industry domains. But commercial adoption of OpenGIS Specifications in commercial, off-the-shelf products has advanced sufficiently that now all users are affected. At this point, it is critically important for all users of geoprocessing technology to insist on interoperable software products, because the Web's potential is only realized through interoperability.

All software developers and integrators who provide geoprocessing software or who seek to integrate these capabilities into general purpose information systems are also, of course, affected by OpenGIS Specifications.

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Q: Has the defense industry played an important role in OGC?

A: Yes. Defense agencies around the world are major users of GI and GI technology. In the U.S.A. as elsewhere, defense agencies seek to reduce their information system costs by buying Standards-based Commercial Off-the-Shelf (SCOTS) software and data products. OGC provides a great opportunity for them to achieve this. Defense has historically driven funding for national mapping activities, but the long-term payback to society comes through the application of the resultant geographic information, technology and mapping institutions in public, private and academic activities.

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Q: Does involvement in OGC make it possible today to reach new markets? Which ones in particular?


A: Yes, providers are increasingly able to reach non-traditional GIS users and mass markets for GI. Open interfaces enable broad connections to other IT sectors.

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Q: Where do data providers and service providers fit in the technology environment being created by members of OGC?

A: OpenGIS Specifications are specifications for interfaces that enable a variety of services. This is the core of OGC’s work. All geospatial services need geospatial data. In the new paradigm, data providers have a clear opportunity to become service providers, providing services via the Internet. Also, in the new paradigm it makes sense for many providers of data to be the single, authoritative source for that data. Inefficient, redundant data collection will become much less common. There are many payment models available. At the same time, because Web-based computing does not require that data servers and service servers be the same servers, it is likely that many intermediary service providers will find niches in which to operate successfully.

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Q: Has OGC worked with public institutions and other important actors in the geographical information market to promote use of software that conforms with OpenGIS Specifications?

A: Yes, since 1994 OGC has held special meetings for key user organizations, participated in dozens of conferences, provided articles for magazines, mailed informative papers and brochures, and worked to recruit user organizations as members. OGC recognizes the importance of "market pull" in the successful market introduction of interoperable geoprocessing software. This is the mission of OGC's Outreach and Community Adoption Program.

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Q: Does membership in OGC help members with their own marketing efforts?

A: Yes. Technology providers and technology users meet frequently to discuss technical and business issues, and these meetings are very important in the marketing efforts of the technology providers and in the technology users’ development of market awareness.

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Q: Who will most benefit from this kind of interoperability on the Web?

A: Users -- a much larger population of users than currently use GIS and remote sensing software -- will benefit the most. Producers, owners, stewards, and resellers of geodata will also benefit. Software vendors will benefit because: the market will be much bigger; the Web server, tools, and applet markets will be strong; the geoprocessing software integration business will be booming; current users will buy the new versions of software that have OpenGIS Compliant interfaces; and sophisticated and specialized applications will proliferate. There will be new jobs for metadata and data semantics experts, geographers who help build and integrate geographic "content" for Web sites, data coordinators, etc. The Spatial Web will continue to spawn new businesses.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):