Friday, August 3, 2007

The GeoWeb and Geospatial Standards or Huh, What's That?

Here at the City of Asheville we've focused a lot of energy on enhancing our online GIS offerings.

Several months back I ran across across some information for the GeoWeb conference that occurred last week. I decided to skip my usual trip to the ESRI conference this year and instead learn a little bit more about the GeoWeb. This concept of a GeoWeb means a lot of different things to a lot of different folks. I think the focus of the conference is best summed up as the convergence of geospatial information, emerging web technologies, and standards. The conference was amazing. Keep an eye on their web page for the proceedings to be posted.

I'd like to share some of this experience with our local/regional GIS community...

Being in a small venue with only 150-200 people and hearing folks like Jack Dangermond (owner ESRI), Vincent Cerf (co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet), Michael Jones (CTO Google Earth), and Vincent Tao (director Microsoft Virtual Earth) was pretty cool. To hear Vincent Cerf and Jack Dangermond politely debate points and to be able to watch Michael Jones' facial expressions at the same is a great opportunity for insight on the industry!

The breathtaking pace of standards based innovation is what made the most lasting impression on me. Anybody here know what GML, WMS, WFS, WFS-T, WCS are? Your organization may have a WMS service that feeds NCOneMap but I challenge you to see if it is up and running... More than half of the services listed in NCOneMap catalog appear to be inaccessible. I'll use my own organization to make my point. Until this morning the WMS service that we thought was feeding NCOneMap was down and has probably been down for over a year. Unfortunately, standards have not been on the forefront of our ESRI-biased minds. I'm determined to change that. Important efforts like NCOneMap and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure rely on standards. Check out the Open Geospatial Consortium for loads of good info on standards that should be important to us.

Speaking of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, SDI is about become an acronym that we should all be familiar with. GIS finally meets IT in the mainstream.

Bunches of great opensource geospatial tools out there these days... my staff grimaces at the prospect but I have a vision of creating a separate opensource/standards-based application stack to handle our web mapping needs. Take a look at OSGeo for the latest happenings in that realm.

I'll get off my soapbox in a moment but I'd like to draw your attention to a sweet little free download from the Carbon Project : Gaia 3. This application will allow you to pull in map services (standards based) from just about anywhere you please and overlay them on the fly (one big downside: no re-projection). You can pull in Google Earth KML files, Microsoft Virtual Earth imagery, Yahoo! transparent roads, local goverment data, federal data, etc. It's a real quick and easy way to mash-up content from just about anywhere. Just think what might be possible if all of us in our local/regional GIS community implemented OGC standards and could quickly mash-up up our data on the fly... large-scale disaster response is what first comes to my mind but the possibilities are truly limitless. Download Gaia and an example file that I've posted here and check it out.

If ya can't tell, I'm pretty excited about some things that I've learned recently!

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