There's always been a partnership between big science and little hacks. Global Positioning System (GPS), the technology that lets you track a vehicle or vessel on, or near the surface of, the Earth using satellite signals, is a prime example. GPS was started by the government to track missiles accurately. Today, we rely on GIS for drawing maps for biking, boating, camping, hiking or for drawing street maps.
OGC is the body that researches and develops map APIs for use by companies such as Microsoft and Google, the latter of which is a member of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Some companies are trying to go it alone but, for the most part, OGC is behind almost every map seen on the web. Raj Singh, who runs the OGC Network, believes that the OGC does the really difficult stuff. His aim is to get the complicated work done and handed to the developers so that they can utilize the API easily to build cool applications. Developers - as is their way - usually want to get going as fast as possible and the geospatial groundwork isn't best suited to that kind of approach. OGC's new contribution, GeoRSS (Geography Markup Language), is an XML markup language that describes spatial and geographical information and which has a 300-odd page specification document that would take almost 6 months just to understand. A key challenge for the OGC is to get this into a more lightweight framework to enable developers to start working on it immediately.
The consortium has contributed a lot in the areas of Web maps, data requests, large-scale information requests, vector maps, and imagery. The most important of all these is the location of the censors that tell us about the ozone layer, or predict an imminent earthquake, or the next tsunami. The OGC mapping API also gives the industry the ability to style a map for different purposes and this is one of the reasons for the different formats of maps from Google or MSN, for instance.
Raj ends his presentation with a preview of OGC's plans for the coming year. The most important of these will be the release of the Web Feature Service. The Web Feature Service is an API for requesting vector data, which will let you source geographical data in either a bounding box or in a buffer. This becomes important when you don't have a Geographic Information System (GIS) behind you, and you want to get your data out of a non-spatial database.
Raj Singh helps run the Interoperability Program for OGC. He works on interoperable technology prototyping projects, helps design geospatial information architectures, and manages the OGC Network - OGC's new site for developers and architects.
This free podcast is from our Where Conference series.