RealTime IT News

New Spec For Geospatial Info

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has adopted the OpenGIS Catalog Services Specification 2.0, a move designed to improve location-based services for the Web and mobile devices.

It specifies an open, standard interface that will let applications search for and query published geographic information and services, such as maps, satellite images and road systems.

The catalog spec will make it much easier and cheaper for companies to develop location-based services for the Web and mobile devices, said Christopher Tucker, CEO of Ionic Software, one of the contributors to the spec.

There's no single source for geospatial data; it may come from government agencies like NASA, regional organizations such as transit authorities or local providers of what's called "point of interest data," such as tourism bureaus. Each may use a proprietary protocol that users of the data have to follow. "You end up spaghetti coding against 12 different interfaces," Tucker said. Ionic makes middleware that enables the deployment of location-based services.

Now, there will be another option: using the specified protocols.

Just as Web services specifications open up the possibility of creating massively distributed services hosted by multiple sources around the globe, OpenGIS standards will let application and service developers add geo-information to the mix.

Geospatial information needs its own Web services catalogs, Tucker said, because it can include more kinds of metadata. "In our space, everything happens in space and time, so you can't just rely on key words [to search for information]," Tucker said. "We need metadata that lets me ask questions like, 'Show me the roads network as it was in 1990 in south Dakota.'" With a standard for catalogs, applications can query multiple data providers, chose the beset source, then simply click on it to add it to the application.

"You could have a view of a map made up of data from 20 different vendors, publishing on 20 different platforms in 20 different countries," he said.

Tucker said the ability to easily query a variety of data sources to find the best location information would make it much faster and cheaper to create location-based services, because service providers won?t have to acquire, host and update the information on their own servers; their services will simply ping the remote servers when data is needed.

The catalog spec also should lead to increased competition among data providers, and therefore to improved information. "Instead of being locked into a vendor," Tucker said, "you build your applications, and, if another vendor comes along with software that's faster, better or more full-featured, you can swap it in."

The OGC is a consortium of more than 250 companies, government agencies and universities that participate in developing open interface specifications for geospatial information.