Open GIS Consortium Focuses on Interoperability

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2003-07-07 Print this article Print

Standards are key to the interoperability and wider use of geographic information systems technology.

With so much—and such disparate—geo-spatial and location information available, standards are key to the interoperability and wider use of geographic information systems technology.

The Open GIS Consortium, an international standards body comprising 258 companies, government agencies and universities, aims to address these connectivity issues.

Founded in 1994, the Open GIS Consortium has a membership that includes organizations such as Mitre Corp., the United Nations and Harvard University. The city and county of San Francisco, which became a member last year, was one of the first to join as a local government associate member.

Historically built as stand-alone applications, GIS services werent made to easily communicate with other applications and systems. The standards developed by the Open GIS Consortium, called OpenGIS Specifications, support interoperability with open interfaces and protocols.

As with many standards bodies, the Open GIS Consortium has been working with Web services and XML. In February, the organization released an approved GML (Geography Markup Language) Version 3.0 implementation specification. GML—an XML grammar written in XML Schema for the modeling, transport and storage of geographic information—provides a variety of object types for describing geography. In April, the Open GIS Consortium issued a public call for comment on the proposed OpenLS (OpenGIS Location Services) implementation specification, which defines XML for location services.

The Open GIS Consortium has six guidelines for how geospatial information should be made available across any network, application or platform:

  • Geospatial information should be easy to find, without regard to its physical location.

  • Once found, geospatial information should be easy to access or acquire.

  • Geospatial information from different sources should be easy to integrate, combine or use in spatial analyses, even when sources contain dissimilar types of data or data with disparate feature name schemas.

  • Geospatial information from different sources should be easy to register, superimpose and render for display.

  • Special displays and visualizations, for specific audiences and purposes, should be easy to generate, even when many sources and types of data are involved.

  • It should be easy, without expensive integration efforts, to incorporate into enterprise information systems geoprocessing resources from many software and content providers.

    More information on the Open GIS Consortium can be found at

    As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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