Sunday, November 28, 2010

Standards group advances geospatial collaboration

Frequently, geospatial data providers must collaborate with many organizations to collect new data and/or update their existing data holdings. For example, when federal agencies want to synchronize with geodata updates coming from 'closest-to-source' publishers such as local or state providers. Another case is when content providers are crowd-sourcing their data updates or supporting volunteer geographic information (VGI).

In these situations there's a need for an open interface to services that mediate the interaction between geospatial data providers, the content repositories, and the external entities acting as data publishers. The service must support data publishing with validation, replication of the data content submitted to multiple repositories and notification of changes to interested parties who may be following along.

To meet this challenge the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®) just announced the formation of a GeoSynchronization Service Standards Working Group (SWG). The OGC Candidate GeoSynchronization Service Standard describes an open standard interface to an online service that allows publishers to propose changes to be made to a data provider's geospatial features (such as data about points of interest, property lines, city population, vehicle locations, etc.). A change proposal can be made to create new data or to modify/delete existing data. Proposed changes are reviewed (either manually or automatically) and are either accepted or rejected. Accepted changes are applied to the appropriate repositories. The service can also notify people or systems that are following along with the updates. GeoSynchronization Services use the ATOM protocol to connect to different geospatial services and messages based on ATOM format encodings.

Initial Charter Members of the new standards activity were CubeWerx and The Carbon Project, joined by the U.S. Army Geospatial Center (AGC), U.S. Geological Survey, GeoConnections - Natural Resources Canada, Ministère des resources naturelles et de la faune du Québec (MRNF), and the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Data providers make imagery access easy

I travelled down to GEOINT 2010 in New Orleans earlier this month - a fantastic event. If you're in 'geospatial' you needed to be there.

The symposium had plenty of discussion on open source GEOINT, geo-apps, emerging sensors and platforms, warfighter feedback, increased focus on human geography and lots of other topics. However, just like GEOINT Tech Days earlier this year something in the crowd has changed yet again. This time not only have both military and commercial organizations taken the lead in evangelizing standards-based online services like WMS, WFS - they've gone ahead and deployed some of the most powerful web mapping services ever seen. The result is easy, nearly instant access to an unprecedented amount of imagery.

This struck me especially strongly since I ran the first GEOINT interop demo in 2004 when some established vendors said access via open standard mapping services was a 'smoke & mirrors' trick. They were wrong - and boy did GEOINT 2010 prove it.

What's next? I'd say users will want even more 'easy access' interoperable geospatial services - and new apps to use them. In addition, seamless integration between partners, civilian, federal and international agencies are capabilities users will likely want more of as part of open source GEOINT - plus the ability to use cloud-based services to contribute and validate crowd-sourced updates. It's also likely they'll benefit from the speed, power and collaboration capabilities of new services like WMTS - the open standard for fast web mapping being advanced by folks like the OGC wizards at CubeWerx.

One thing is certain - once users get a taste of easy access the GEOINT world will never be the same.