The term ‘Geospatial Platform’ has been tossed around for several years now. It denotes a set of services that provide a single resource for managing, visualizing, and analyzing geospatial data. It also implies a certain level of interoperability with other geospatial tools. How has the term Geospatial Platform changed over the years? What denotes a Geospatial Platform today, and what are the benefits to my organization?
As geospatial analysis began to grow in popularity, the concept of interoperability began with file format support. As new file formats such as JPEG, MRSID, and NITF were created, the ability for a geospatial platform to read and analyze different types of data was a standard which defined the quality of the product. Today, while file format support is still very important, the ability to access and consume web-based data and services has become a new standard by which software is measured.
With the release of the WMS 1.0.0 standard by the Open Geospatial Consortium in April of 2000, the first decade of this millennium ushered in an explosion of internet-enabled services and applications. What started as web-based visualization of geographic information quickly became the ability to serve vectors and metadata for information, tiled maps for portal speed, full resolution images for download, and even the ability to run geospatial processes on remote server resources from mobiles or over constrained bandwidths. As these capabilities became standardized by the industry, the need for software platforms to support them became standardized as well.
The ability to utilize a single resource to access and analyze all of the different data and information an organization needs provides a value to that organization. Centralized software with enterprise-wide support for all aspects of geospatial analysis enables collaborative decision making at a reduced cost.
Geospatial platforms can be provided as a service to a larger community, as is the case with the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s (FGDC) Geospatial Platform. More information about this initiative can be found at http://resources.geoplatform.gov/about. According to the FGDC’s Geospatial Platform Value Proposition, “The Geospatial Platform will be an Internet-based capability providing shared and trusted geospatial data, services, and applications for use by government agencies and partners to meet their mission needs and by the public.” It aims to provide, among other things, “Tools for the centralized discovery, access, and use of data and services…problem solving applications…services based upon common, secure, and scalable open standards…shared geospatial capabilities”. The goals of this platform are to “Address Issues of National Importance, Support Decision Making, and Meet Common Business Needs”, which implies that the implementation of a geospatial platform will serve these goals.
This is an important point. The US Government believes that the implementation of the Geospatial Platform will aid in addressing issues of national importance, support decision making, and meet common business needs. This is saying that the platform will make the organization run better across the board. It indicates that without the platform, the organization will be less informed and less efficient. These statements are not focused on specific time or resource-saving applications of the platform, they are blatantly stating that a Geospatial Platform is a necessary component of an optimally running organization. Oh yeah, and if you want a list of specific efficiencies associated with the platform, read the 30 bullet points under ‘Appendix B: Benefits of the Geospatial Platform’ in the Value Proposition. Some of the headers include “Increasing Return on Existing Investments”, “Increasing Government Efficiency”, and “Decreasing Development and Management Costs”. To access the FGDC’s Geospatial Platform, go to http://www.geoplatform.gov/home/ .
So, what are your thoughts? What do you see as the definition of a Geospatial Platform? What are the benefits? Do you think the FGDC is moving in the right direction? What should be considered when developing enterprise-wide geospatial software and services?