Geospatial data: Who are the key players in Canada?
To provide Canadians with location-based information via the Internet, the federal government established the GeoConnections program in Natural Resources Canada to act as a focal point for the provision of geospatial information and services. However, this effort requires the cooperation and collaboration of a significant number of key organizations and committees who contribute to the ongoing development of Canadian and international geospatial standards and data.
Treasury Board of Canada
The Treasury Board (TB), a federal Cabinet committee of the Canadian government, is responsible for accountability and ethics, financial, personnel and administrative management, comptrollership, and approving regulations and most Orders-in-Council.
The Treasury Board has an administrative arm known as the TB Secretariat. It is tasked to build effective policies and management frameworks, and empower its federal partners to manage their resources efficiently and effectively, and to report results in a timely and informative manner.
To provide a policy framework and direction for federal departments and agencies to manage geospatial data, the Treasury Board has published the TB Standard for Geospatial Data. For additional information concerning the roles of the Treasury Board and the Secretariat, please visit http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/.
Natural Resources Canada, GeoConnections Program
The Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) is an initiative of the Canadian government to respond to the challenge of providing Canadians with better access to digital geospatial information, so that social and economic decisions are taken with the benefit of the best, most comprehensive information. The CGDI is facilitated by the GeoConnections program in Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).
The GeoConnections program mandate is to build the CGDI, in partnership with federal, provincial and territorial governments, and its academic and private sector partners. The goal of the CGDI is to ensure fast, consistent and harmonized access to geospatial data and services for all Canadians.
To develop and adopt common international standards, GeoConnections and the CGDI support and rely on the work of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)in Geneva, Switzerland , and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) in the USA.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
The ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies established in 1947. The ISO is anon-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. The mission of the ISO is:
- To promote the development of international standards and related activities in the world, in order to facilitate the international exchange of goods and services; and
- To encourage cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity.
For additional information about the ISO, please visit http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm.
The ISO/TC 211 Geographic information/Geomatics Technical Committee:
The ISO/TC 211 Geographic information/Geomatics Technical Committee is responsible for the ISO geographic information series of standards. ISO/TC 211 provides standards for:
- Geospatial data, including imagery and information;
- Geospatial data administration and information management; and
- Geospatial services, including location-based services.
The overall objectives of ISO/TC 211 are:
- To increase the understanding and use of geographic information;
- To increase the availability, access, integration, and sharing of geographic information;
- To promote the efficient, effective, and economic use of digital geographic information and associated hardware and software systems; and
- To contribute to a unified approach for addressing global ecological and humanitarian problems.
ISO/TC 211 seeks standardization in the field of digital geographic information, to establish a structured set of standards for information concerning objects or phenomena that are directly or indirectly associated with a location relative to the Earth. For geographic information, these standards specify methods, tools and services for data management (including definition and description) for acquiring, processing, analyzing, accessing, presenting and transferring such data in digital/electronic form between different users, systems and locations. The work is linked to appropriate standards for information technology and data where possible, and provides a framework for the development of sector-specific applications using geographic data.
Many bodies are actively engaged in the work of ISO/TC 211. These include national standardization bodies such as the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), international professional bodies such as the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) and the International Cartographic Association (ICA), UN agencies, and sectoral bodies such as the Defence Geospatial Information Working Group (DGIWG) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A representative of the Standards Council of Canada is a participating member of ISO/TC 211.
More information about the Committee can be found at www.isotc211.org where it is also possible to make contact with the Committee Secretariat, should you have any queries.
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international industry consortium of more than 400 companies, government agencies and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available geospatial interface standards. The OGC began in 1994 in an effort to create a technical committee that would agree on open interfaces for network interoperability of geospatial systems. Since then, OGC collaborators have participated in specification development programs to promote interoperability of geospatial data access and applications.
The OGC has concentrated its efforts in the following areas:
- The encoding of information in software systems (data format standards and data transfer standards);
- The naming of features and feature relationships (data dictionaries); and
- Schemas for descriptions of data sets (metadata).
The OGC seeks to serve as a global forum for developers and users of geospatial data products and services, and to advance the development of international standards for geospatial interoperability. OGC standards support solutions that "geo-enable" the Web, wireless and location-based services and mainstream IT. The standards empower technology developers to make complex spatial information and services accessible and useful with all kinds of applications.
As a sponsor, the GeoConnections program contributes to the development of specifications by OGC members. In return, GeoConnections endorses OGC’s standards and specifications for the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI). This provides the CGDI with a comprehensive set of geospatial standards that act as a foundation for interoperable services within the CGDI and with other compliant services provided outside the CGDI.
The OGC manages both an abstract specification and a growing number of implementation standards and specifications:
- Abstract specification: The OGC Technical Committee (TC) has developed an architecture to support its vision of geospatial technology and data interoperability called the OpenGIS Abstract Specification. It provides the conceptual foundation for most OGC specification development activities. Open interfaces and protocols are built and referenced against the Abstract Specification, thus enabling interoperability between different brands and different kinds of geospatial processing systems.
- Implementation standards and specifications:These are different from the Abstract Specification, and are written for a more technical audience. They detail the interface structure between software components. As a test, an interface specification is considered to be at the implementation level of detail if, when implemented by two different software engineers in ignorance of each other, the resulting components ‘plug-and-play’ with each other at that interface.
The panoply of OGC web services can be considered as part of an architectural framework that complies with the Reference Model of Open Distributed Processing (RM-ODP). In this framework, systems are described according to viewpoints which focus on certain aspects of concern to an observer having a particular role. The RM-ODP standard uses five viewpoints to define the web services architecture: Enterprise, Computation, Information, Engineering and Technology. Based on OGC specifications, OGC web services are largely defined in the Computation and Information aspects of the architecture.
The implementation of an OGC web services architecture can be accomplished in a wide variety of technologies, which may require enterprise-specific engineering and technology considerations. One possible conceptualization of a ‘typical’ OGC service configuration is depicted below, in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Typical OGC Web Service Configuration
OGC standards are developed using a unique consensus process supported by the OGC's industry, government and academic members to enable geo-processing technologies to interoperate, or ‘plug-and-play’. OGC is the brand name associated with the standards and documents produced by the OGC. OGC® and OpenGIS® are registered trademarks of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The OGC trademark is also associated with products that implement OGC standards and that have obtained the “Certified OGC Compliant” brand.
For more information about the OGC, please visit http://www.opengeospatial.org/.
Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is a 19-member inter-agency committee in the United States, originally established in 1990, to promote the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis. This nationwide data publishing effort is known as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The NSDI is a physical, organizational, and virtual network designed to enable the development and sharing of national digital geographic information resources.
The FGDC is an organized structure of federal geospatial professionals and constituents that provides executive, managerial, and advisory direction and oversight for geospatial decisions and initiatives across the US federal government. Numerous stakeholder organizations participate in FGDC activities representing the interests of state and local government, industry and professional organizations. FGDC activities are administered through the FGDC Secretariat, hosted by the US Geological Survey.
For additional information concerning the FGDC and its activities, please visit http://www.fgdc.gov/.
Standards Council of Canada (SCC)
The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is a Crown corporation established in 1970 to foster and promote voluntary standardization in Canada. It is independent of government in its policies and operations, although it is financed partially by Parliamentary appropriation.
The SCC promotes efficient and effective voluntary standardization in Canada in order to advance the national economy, support sustainable development, benefit the health, safety and welfare of workers and the public, assist and protect consumers, and facilitate domestic and international trade.
The SCC is a participating member of the ISO / TC 211 Geographic information/Geomatics Technical Committee.
For more information about the Standards Council, please visit http://www.scc.ca/.
Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)
The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) is a Canadian government organization that offers client-centred, comprehensive standards development and conformity assessment services to support the economic, regulatory, procurement, health, safety and environmental interests of its stakeholders in government and industry, and among consumers.
As an active participant in the National Standards System of Canada, the CGSB offers a wide range of standards development services (including development of the National Standards of Canada (NSC), CGSB standards, specifications, and Government of Canada (GC) forms). The CGSB also supports the development of international (ISO) standards.
The CGSB is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada as a Standards Development Organization, which is contingent upon CGSB providing a consensus process for standards development. Standards and specifications are developed and maintained by committees of volunteers following the prescribed CGSB process. These volunteers are experts in their field and represent a balance of interested parties in both the public and private sectors.
The CGSB also maintains a network of international contacts with governments, international and national standards organizations, associations, non-governmental organizations and private firms. This network enables the CGSB to learn from other international leaders and provide its clients with the most up-to-date and globally recognized products and services.
The CGSB publishes and sells several geomatics standards, most notably the North American Profile of ISO 19115:2003 -- Geographic Information -- Metadata (NAP -- Metadata) (CAN/CGSB 171.100-2009).
For more information about the CGSB please visit http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ongc-cgsb/index-eng.html.
Canadian Council on Geomatics (CCOG)
The Canadian Council on Geomatics, created in 1972, is the major federal-provincial-territorial consultative body for geographic information management. The Council defines geomatics as the science of managing, gathering, analyzing, distributing, and using information related to a geographic location.Members of the Council include representatives from the federal government and each province and territory.
The aims of the Council are to provide a consultative forum of federal, provincial and territorial government representatives for such purposes as discussion and exchange of information on common issues and concerns, current and future programs, legislation and new ideas, technology and procedures related to geomatics. The Council also seeks to develop, promote and promulgate national and international geomatics standards and supports the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI). It promotes cooperation and the exchange of geomatics data to reduce duplication of effort and to facilitate easy access to and use of digital geographic information by all Canadians, and can formulate recommendations and resolutions which may from time to time be deemed appropriate.
The Council meets at least annually, and conducts its business by consensus. The Earth Sciences Sector of Natural Resources Canada provides secretariat services for the Council.
For more information, please visit http://www.ccog-cocg.ca/index_e.html.
Geostandard Interdepartmental Implementation Committee (GIIC)
The Geostandard Interdepartmental Implementation Committee (GIIC) is the federal interdepartmental working group formed in 2009 to provide best practices for the effective and efficient implementation of the TB Standard on Geospatial Data by federal government departments and agencies. NRCan is the lead department for the GIIC which is chaired by GeoConnections. Specifically concerning the TB Standard, the GIIC is expected to:
- Establish, share and promote a set of best practices for its implementation;
- Provide a collaborative, consultative forum for the federal geomatics community on issues related to implementation;
- Advise the TB Secretariat on the development and maintenance of a reporting framework for federal departments and agencies implementing the Standard; and
- Advise the TB Secretariat on maintaining and updating the Standard.
Non-Governmental Organizations, Academia and the Private Sector
While the GeoConnections program encourages these organizations and institutions to access and use Canadian geospatial standards and data, and their feedback and contributions are always welcome, there are currently no established committees or facilities for consultation.