Monday, March 15, 2010

OGC Technical Committee Meeting, Frascati

Having now made it back to Edinburgh (after a six-hour delay leaving Rome Ciampino airport on Friday due to a General Strike in Italy) I thought I should set down my impressions of the OGC meeting itself.

My presentation (PDF, PPT) about WSTIERIA to the Security working group got a fair number of questions, which is usually a good sign, and the chairman reckoned it had hit the right level for the audience (though after he had asked for an earlier draft to be made less detailed, with fewer slides!)

This was the first OGC meeting I have attended, so other than giving the talk I had two days to meet and greet new people, ably introduced by my colleague Chris Higgins, and become attuned to the feel of the event and the interests of those attending.

The OGC seems to be trying to enhance as much as possible of the web with geospatial information and queries, covering as many services and protocols as possible. This is of course a very large task, touching on most areas of current interest in web development, up to and including the Semantic Web, and so the scope is extremely wide. It is a formal standards organisation with well defined processes, strongly influenced by the ISO example. My colleagues Sandy Shaw and Ed Dee, who have both served on big standards committees, would be right at home here. Formal motions are put. I witnessed one proposal being politely but brutally ambushed and shot down but most others got "assumed unanimous consent", which appears to be an accepted idea. This is interestingly combined with free-flowing, detailed technical discussion of proposals. It's been years since I've been even tangentially involved with standards work (last time I think was an occam language binding for MPI, really...) but it all came flooding back. There was the cut and thrust of good ideas presented by clever people. My favourite here was a proposal for a one-dimensional co-ordinate system to be available in addition to the 2 and 3-D co-ordinates usually used for geographic location, to accommodate "2 miles past Junction 12 on the M6" and so on (the railway anorak in me wanted to ask about offsets in miles and chains, but I resisted).

Of course, there is also the grinding of corporate and personal axes, the impossibly annoying hair-splitting and the "wow, I didn't think of that!" My favourite in this last category was a question from the floor to a presenter looking to define a geospatial query extension to the OpenSearch interface to search engines, as used by the built-in search boxes in modern browsers. The presenter's main ambition was to keep it simple and enable mass-market adoption. The question: why does your proposed interface assume that the location is on the Earth? Apparently, the existing specialised interfaces for searching OGC service catalogues already allow for places on the Moon, Mars and Beyond!


  1. So I'd guess that they are ignoring Google (I just discoverred that my house got Streetmapped two years ago).

    Is this because Google is doing their usual steamroller through standards or because they are not viewed as being in the same space?

  2. Probably more the latter. They are aware of what Google does, and they have a "mass market" working group, but they are interested in more specialised information than just serving up GIFs of maps (classifications, features and so on). Apologies for not seeing your comment until now: the default setup doesn't notify the post author of comments. That's now fixed and I've also now enabled anonymous posts (though I'll turn it off again if lots of spam appears).