Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Health Domain Working Group

May 31, 2013 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Open Geospatial Consortium

An ad hoc Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) ( Health Domain Working Group meeting will be held May 31st 2013, from noon until 2:00 p.m. EST. The meeting is being held as a webinar, free and open to all who are interested. Register here. The purpose of the meeting is to review a draft charter for an OGC Health Domain Working Group.

This proposed working group would support collaboration, exchange of best practices, and assimilation of requirements for new open encodings, interfaces, best practices and extensions to spatial standards serving needs in the health care marketplace. Those of us who drafted the charter seek an open spatial standards framework for health mapping, spatial analysis, and hospital planning and operation. See more in this recent OGC Blog post.

In the Open Geospatial Consortium's consensus process, users and providers of spatial information technologies develop open interface and encoding standards for spatial technology domains. Software products, data products and Web services that implement these free and open standards can interoperate with other software, data and services that implement the standards. All of the major providers of open source and proprietary geospatial software and Web services are members of the OGC, which has been in operation since 1994. OGC standards are the dominant industry standards in the geospatial Information Technology world. Many of them have been adopted as ISO standards, and many of them are embedded in other standards  from other standards organizations to provide an industry standard spatial component in those standards.

Interestingly, the OGC was born out of an earlier effort to promote an open source Geographic Information System (GIS), the Geographic Resource Analysis and Support System (GRASS). Quoting from the OGC History:

"Instead of focusing solely on open source software, the group [now] aimed to create a process that might (1) make more commercial as well as non-commercial geoprocessing choices available in the marketplace, (2) act as a sounding board for the user community to articulate its requirements to the developer community, and (3) speed up procurement by aligning the needs of the users with the product plans of the vendors. GRASS, though free, modular, and maintained in a process driven by user input, did not provide a full interoperability solution. It had an open data format, but that was not sufficient to enable interoperability with other software packages. The OpenGIS Project, which preceded the formal launch of the current Open Geospatial Consortium … (OGC) in 1994, defined … a vision of diverse geoprocessing systems communicating directly over networks by means of a set of open interfaces…."

Today, GRASS is one of many open source GISs that communicate with other open source and proprietary GISs through OGC interface and encoding standards. Some proprietary geospatial interfaces, such as KML, the application programming interface for Google Maps and Google Earth, have been contributed to the OGC by their owners to make the interfaces part of the OGC's open standards portfolio. The reference implementations that guide implementers of OGC standards are open source, and the OGC compliance test engine – the TEAM Engine – is an open source tool hosted on SourceForge.

However, the OGC is NOT an open source company! The OGC is rigorously neutral with respect to the development models and ownership models of software, data and services. The OGC board of directors includes Chris Holmes – Chairman and Founder of OpenGeo, but it also includes executives from leading GIS companies – ESRI and Intergraph – as well as executives from corporations such as Google, Oracle and Digital Globe. And, of course, the board includes leaders in the geospatial technology user community.

An OGC Health DWG could help spawn pilots, interoperability experiments, exercises and test beds, which would focus investment in real-world applications, enterprise solutions, or loosely coupled Spatial Data Infrastructure, combining the best of standard encodings, data schema, processes, architectural and semantic design, with available ‘real estate’ – such as web, mobile, desktop applications, dashboards and thematic Atlases, to serve the health marketplace and the public.