The Open GIS Consortium (OGC) is a unique organization of GIS users and vendors developing standards to guide the application of new distributed computing technologies to geodata and geoprocessing. State and local governments will be principal beneficiaries of the Open GIS Consortium's Open Geodata Interoperability Specification (OGIS), a geoprocessing standard that will enable a much higher level of GIS interoperability than can be obtained with data standards and data translators alone.

The OGIS will make it possible for geodata and geoprocessing resources to communicate information about their content and capabilities to a user's application, transparently and in real time. OGIS will also make it possible to share - with other GIS and non-GIS applications - data and processing that are currently confined within "monolithic" GIS applications.

World Wide Web browsers like Mosaic preview for us how these capabilities can work across global networks just as they can work across local networks or across a SCSI cable connecting a PC and a CD player. The OGIS extends this model of distributed computing to geodata access and geoprocessing, so that OGIS compliant applications will automatically and often invisibly manage, in real time, the many complex and incompatible types of geodata and GIS software.

OGIS-compliant applications will be layered on distributed computing architectures such as the Object Management Group's CORBA, Microsoft's OLE/COM, and remote procedure call (RPC) schemes common in UNIX environments. Data will have metadata (data about the data) attached as headers or object "wrappers" which will enable automated searching and selective processing. In some implementations - such as at sites that publish geodata to users via the Internet - programs resident with the data will extract and send only the area coverages and data layers requested.

Many concerns that involve geodata - environment, transportation, economic development - overlap jurisdictional boundaries. Within a city, agencies would often like to share data contained in dissimilar GIS databases. States seek to gather local data into statewide databases for multiple users and multiple uses, as do federal agencies with data collection and distribution missions.

The OGIS will lower the cost of maintaining data and make it easier for agencies to provide data to taxpayers, commercial entities, and other agencies. With online data, agencies will be able to improve services and reduce budgets by using the new supporting technologies for security, version control, digital payment, and fast search and retrieval of massive databases that are being developed by vendors. Geodata interoperability will accelerate the implementation of new GIS applications that will rely on wireless communications and inexpensive global positioning system (GPS) devices.

OGC, founded in August, 1994, now has 40 members, including vendors such as Oracle, Intergraph, ESRI, Genasys II, Digital Equipment Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun; universities and state agencies such as UCLA, Rutgers, University of Arkansas, and the Resource Department of the state of California; federal agencies such as U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Defense Mapping Agency, and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; and integrators including BBN, MITRE, GTE and Autometric.

For more information contact the Open GIS Consortium Inc., at 508-655-5858. Fax: 508-655-2237. E-mail: lmckee@ogis.org.