RFP seeks GIS integration

The Open GIS Consortium Inc. a nonprofit group working to establish industry- and governmentwide geographic information systems standards is calling for vendors to propose how to tie together disparate GIS systems.

The organization issued a request for proposals earlier this year and expects vendors to submit proposals next month on what kinds of interfaces will allow different geospatial processing system platforms to exchange data. The RFP is significant for the federal government because agencies can realize large savings if agency personnel can tap other geospatial data throughout the government and the private sector regardless of what platform it resides on. Access or interoperability has been an unattainable dream for geospatial processing specialists because most federal GIS hardware and software is proprietary.

"This is what we've been waiting for " said Louis Hecht head of business development for the Open GIS Consortium. "This will enable federal agencies to share data with one another regardless of what software or platform they are using."

For example when hurricanes pounded North Carolina this year state and federal emergency officials could have used geospatial information offered by several government sources to help plan for emergency situations. Geospatial information housed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency could have helped locate disaster recovery centers and officials could have used mapping data from the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor the levels of streams and rivers. In addition the Environmental Protection Agency has geospatial data on sewage treatment plants.

Unfortunately all that information is housed on different systems that require specialized software. But with Open GIS Consortium-compliant software North Carolinians would have been able to access that data using whatever platform was in use at state agencies.

"We need to be able to provide the right information at the right time for the right reason " Hecht said. "The Open GIS specification takes a giant step in that direction."

Proposals Wanted

The Open GIS Consortium has asked vendors to submit proposals for interfaces that follow the engineering specification the group has developed for four platforms: Object Linking and Embedding/Component Object Model Common Object Request Broker Architecture Open Database Connectivity and the Internet. The proposals are due Dec. 2 the Open GIS Consortium's Technical Committee will review the proposals and choose among them next spring.

The specification will not dictate what kind of products will be made but rather what specifications must be followed said Allan Doyle senior scientist at BBN Corp. and a member of the Open GIS Consortium."It's like a phone " he said. "We may say what kind of dial tone and pitch to have and what the plug must be able to do but you still can buy a Mickey Mouse phone or a high-tech phone and they still behave like phones."

This RFP is different from the requirements that the National Imaging and Mapping Agency issued last month to begin building the Geospatial Information Infrastructure which will give military commanders on the battlefield the ability to create real-time maps [FCW Nov. 4]. NIMA's requirements developed in partnership with the Open GIS Consortium are designed to develop specific products for military use while the Open GIS Consortium's requirements are not product-specific.

After interfaces have been developed the Open GIS Consortium plans to issue a similar RFP for imaging and remote-sensing data. A third RFP will be released for catalog services that will pull imaging and geospatial data together so users can easily query the databases.

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