GIS Tech News #2

7 Feb, 2005 By: Arnie Williams

Cadalyst GIS Tech News

GIS Around the Globe

Geospatial data and tsunami relief efforts, open standards, and an anticipated, fully implemented GOS portal

Last month in our debut GIS Tech Trends newsletter, we talked about some of the GIS-related Web sites and organizations that have focused on tsunami relief efforts in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and other affected areas. This month, we'd like to call attention to two important organizations that are currently studying what can be learned from the disaster through careful research. I'll also bring you up-to-date on the Open GeoSpatial Consortium's efforts to establish open standards, as well as ESRI's announcement that it has been selected by the Department of the Interior to develop full implementation of its GOS (Geospatial One-Stop) Portal, a central site for posting metadata about agency resources.

U.S. Geological Survey's Tsunami Follow-Up
U.S. Geological Survey is studying Sri Lanka to record water levels, inundation distances and tsunami deposit distribution and characteristics. USGS scientists are also using eyewitness interviews to bolster what they learn through mapping technology. The organization had begun studying the effects of the Asian tsunami within hours of the disaster through its National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Sciences. The center provided pre- and postdisaster satellite images and other vital information to help planners and agencies make well-informed decisions. These images can still be viewed at

DM Solutions Gives Free Access to Tsunami-Area Data
DM Solutions Group, based in Canada, also moved quickly into a research-oriented help mode for organizations involved in tsunami relief by creating an interactive Web site to give aid workers at ground zero free access to spatial data of the affected areas. The Web site aims to help government departments that have obvious need for such data as well as nongovernment groups such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, CARE, UNICEF, Development and Peace and others. Among collaborators working on the DM Solutions project are the Laboratory for Applied Geomatics and GIS Science in Ottawa, Canada; the Asian Institute of Technology based in Pathumthani, Thailand; Chulalongkorn University of Bangkok, Thailand; the Media Center of Osaka City University in Japan; and others. Samples of the mapping services available through this organization can be seen at

The Power of Open Standards
The DM Solutions application was made widely accessible to relief organizations because it uses open-source mapping technologies published by the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) Standards through MapServer technology. In fact, the GIS discipline leads all other computer-aided technology providers in keeping its base technology open and nonproprietary, largely due to OGC efforts. All the major GIS players belong to this organization and are working to establish common standards for data exchange — a capability that is crucial when it comes to emergency services and disaster relief.

The OGC recognized early on the importance of interoperability in an IT age and has taken careful steps to ensure that in mapping technologies, at least, open standards become the rule rather than the exception. But the group also advocates for open standards in widespread IT technology in general. As the OGC chairman said in a recent message, "The growth of OGC is best seen not in terms of technologies but in terms of addressing the requirements of an expanding set of user communities. A major aspect of OGC's mission is to help the larger IT community understand that geospatial technology is becoming an inseparable part of mainstream IT."

One of the key initiatives of the OGC is its interoperability program, which includes

  • test beds wherein multivendor groups can define, design, develop and test interfaces and encoding specifications;

  • pilot projects for applying and testing OpenGIS specifications in real-world applications;

  • interoperability support services to help organizations with open, standards-based architecture; and

  • interoperability experiments for brief, low-overhead, formally structured and approved initiatives.

Learn more about this vital organization at

ESRI Gets Nod to Develop Geospatial One-Stop Portal
Early this week, ESRI announced it has been selected by the Department of the Interior to fully implement its GOS (Geospatial One-Stop) Portal. The first version of the portal, a prototype launched in July 2003, has provided a central site for posting metadata about agency resources. To date, more than 75,000 metadata records have been compiled at the site.

The next generation of GOS will provide an easier, faster, more integrated implementation that creates a spatial marketplace, supplying notification of planned data acquisitions as well as data needs. The GOS is based on newly established OGC specifications for improved interoperability. It employs an IBM WebSphere Portal for running portlet applications and creating a personalized user experience.

"It's hard to overestimate the importance of GOS 2 and what this next generation of Web standard technology will bring," says ESRI President Jack Dangermond. "GOS 2 implements the GIS portal vision in a simple and standards-based environment that will provide a gateway for accessing GIS services and data. GIS will become accepted across the Web and information technology world as a platform for providing geographic knowledge."

One of the first tests of GOS was Hurricane Isabel as it struck the North Carolina coast on September 16, 2003. It just so happened that the National States Geographic Information Council was under way at the time in Nashville, Tennessee. More than 200 members of the geospatial community used GOS over the next 24 hours through to check in with federal, state and county organizations to canvass existing map services relevant to hurricane planning and response.

With Hurricane Isabel serving as a crucial proof-of-concept for the portal, the Department of Interior has endorsed GOS as a part of President Bush's "E-Government Strategy," which aims to make government more responsive and cost-effective through technology implementation. At this site users will be able to search for images, geographic data sets and contacts; register for notification of new or updated data, maps and activities; view metadata and available geographic data; access large data sets through FTP; and register map services, images, spatial solutions, geographic and land reference material and other vital mapping data.

Upcoming GIS Events
Cadalyst's full calendar of events is available at

2005 GeoTec Event
February 13-16, 2005
Western Bayshore Resort and Marina, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
This event provides an opportunity for GIS professionals to interact and learn from each other's experience and knowledge.

BE Meeting Prague 2005
February 28-March 2, 2005
Diplomat Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic
Bentley meeting of business and government professionals interested in GIS technology.

ESRI Business GeoInfo Summit
Arpil 18-19, 2005
Chicago, Illinois
Summit will focus on demonstrations of ways to improve business intelligence through GIS technology.