OGC launches Empire Challenge pilot effort

The Open Geospatial Consortium is seeking researchers from government agencies, private industry and academia to participate in a pilot program to examine the suitability and performance of OGC Sensor Web Enablement and OGC Web Services standards for providing open management of and access to sensors of various types.

The Empire Challenge is an annual demonstration sponsored by the U.S. Joint Forces Command and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. It seeks to improve the interoperability of joint and coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities.

OGC is an international consortium of more than 365 companies, government agencies and research organizations that develop publicly available geospatial standards. The group demonstrated a common interface during last year’s Empire Challenge that allowed analysts to detect and access sensors from different sources.

“Let's say you're an analyst and you want [to find] out what's going on in Bellingham, Wash., and you don't know what sensors are available in Bellingham,” said Sam Bacharach, executive director for outreach at OGC. “Is there a Predator [unmanned aerial vehicle] with an electrical-optical camera [flying] overhead? Maybe there are Washington State Patrol cameras on the interstates. Right now, just to know all those things exist you have to go through an exhausting process to find them.”

“In a perfect world, in the world we’re trying to enable, all of the sensors may come online,” he added. “They would be put in a catalog so the operator could then come in and type in ‘Bellingham’ and magically get a map of all the sensors and all the data that is available covering Bellingham, Wash.”

He told Government Computer News that the standards that enable such a capability were demonstrated on unclassified networks during last year’s Empire Challenge, and three NASA satellites already use the OGC interface.

The project for this year’s Empire Challenge is to bring those capabilities into the classified environment of the Distributed Common Ground System, the architecture that the armed forces use to share sensor information and other data within the intelligence community.

Currently, the OGC interface is implemented as middleware. But Bacharach expects to see common interface capabilities eventually built into the sensors. “We expect that over time it will be advantageous to just put that interface and then processing capacity on the sensor itself so that there won't be a need for the middleman anymore,” he said. “It would just come up as a standard discoverable service.”

Bacharach added that significant savings are possible. “There's a lot of money to be saved here because it makes it a lot easier and simpler to get hold of information,” he said. “From the homeland security and emergency responder point of view, it makes a lot of sense because right now it may take you a month or six weeks to connect up to new data sources, and nobody is telling us where the next emergency is going to occur with that kind of lead time.”

Proposals are due to OGC by Jan. 14, 2009. Technology deployments will be complete by July 17, 2009, followed immediately by a two-week demonstration phase.

The request for quotation/call for participation in the Empire Challenge can be downloaded here.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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