Group establishes common specs for GIS mapping

The Open Geospatial Consortium has approved two new specifications designed to ensure greater interoperability among geospatial applications by standardizing their architectures.

One benefit would be that emergency responders from different jurisdictions would all be able to understand the symbol sets on GIS maps.

The Styled Layer Descriptor defines how user-defined symbolization of feature and coverage data works with Web map services. More specifically, the specification prescribes how users determine which features or layers are rendered with which colors or symbols.

The other specification ' the Symbology Encoding Implementation Specification ' defines Symbology Encoding, an Extensible Markup Language-based method for styling information that can be applied to feature and coverage data.

'Say you've got wildfires in the West, and they're bringing in firefighters from all over the country,' said Sam Bacharach, executive director for outreach and community adoption at the Open Geospatial Consortium. 'But they bring in firefighters from Canada and from some of the states, and now all of a sudden you've got people from a half-dozen different communities trying to fight the same fire. The problem is, only folks from one of those communities understand what the symbols mean. Everybody else has got to learn a new symbol set. Using this specification, each of them has the ability to have their map displayed in their own symbol set.'

Bacharach said the firefighter example isn't hypothetical. As it happens, federal agencies have already designed an emergency management symbol set using the specifications.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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