GeoWeb 2008 Conference Report

All of this has been enabled by search engines, which play an important role in supporting the GeoWeb, according to Goodchild. “They allow us to find things easily and they index an enormous amount of information. In the future I think they’re going to be more involved with indexing geospatial information.” He does worry about the long term future of search engines that are indexing bodies of material that are expanding exponentially and that in his words, “will eventually get out of control.”

However, even though the same companies who own the search engines tend to also develop geographic exploration systems such as Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth, Goodchild had only good things to say about those companies. “The role of Google in providing indexing schemes through Google Maps and Google Earth have been enormously helpful in growing the GeoWeb. I thing that world will continue to expand, I thing it’s naïve to assume that geospatial data being handled by the public sector are somehow less trustworthy or accurate than government agencies. In fact, the evidence suggests there is no simple difference in that sense.”

Impediments to Geospatial Information Sharing

Each day of the conference a different question was asked of participants. One such question was as follows: what are the impediments to broadly sharing geospatial information?

Ron Lake, CEO, Galdos Systems and Conference chair, reminded the audience that this was the major reason for his company’s existence. “The issues are largely technical, but there are also issues of policy and issues of people. People don’t want to share information, because it might reflect badly on them or give advantages to other people,” Lake explained. “Technology matches the needs of people.” To feel confident with information sharing, people must know that they can control what they want to share and be assured that what they don’t want to share won’t be shared. The key to enabling broader sharing of information is matching technology to political and experiential needs of people.

Ed Katibah of Microsoft stated that “The main impediments to information sharing in my estimation probably surround standards and accessibility to information. I think we’re making strides this way, however, we still have lots of proprietary data standards and we still have data quality issues. Additionally with data quality back to data standards, we have not addressed the full range, especially as we’re getting data that is not strictly planimetric and as we’re understanding the world to be round, and we start looking at how we represent ellipsoidal or geodetic data, we’re finding many holes in how we specify and interoperate with this information. These kinds of standards have not yet been addressed and they need to be before we can truly interoperate on round world data.”

“First off, simply finding the data, which is a major problem, secondly, the culture, 'I’ve paid for it, I’m not sharing it,'” said Terry Curran, Government of Canada, Department of Oceans and Fisheries, Institute of Oceans and Sciences, Sidney, BC. “Because we’re coming into it late, standards are so important. A lot of work has done in the past within databases.” If you own the database, Curran said, there are really good finding tools. “However, if you own the database, people are reluctant to take a step backwards to allow the standards to work.”

“I don’t see threats with respect to search engines getting more involved in the GeoWeb or geodata,” said Mark Brown, senior product manager for Google Earth, “I think it’s an opportunity take geodata and make it ubiquitous. It’s the first time ever we can take base map data, traffic data and aerial data and provide it as a single online service offering for developers to build their geoweb applications on top of. Kind of unique and a sea change.”

“This issue of data distribution has been the center of my practice for last ten years,” Tim Case of Parsons Brinckerhoff said. “People can point at a variety issues, but I think one of the big issues is that people are having a really hard time with sharing incomplete datasets. They may be things that are provisional and haven’t been validated. As professionals, we have a hard time submitting something that might be considered substandard or mediocre. We run into these issues in submittals for digital data designs of buildings or basemaps datasets being distributed to a community, alternative plans for a new facility or roadway being designed. People are very untrusting of others to understand the full meaning or context of this not being fully accurate and verified. And people don’t have the time to go through that validation process in their day to day workflows, so I’ve been on the pessimistic side and gotten jaded by all the enthusiasm we have had with the digital rights management movement with geodata, everything we we’re doing with OGC, the Geodata Alliance and other initiatives across the industry. But until we’ve worked on ways to build that trust connection, some of that work has started with limited success but we certainly have a long way to go.”


Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal, Onuma, Inc.
Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal, Onuma, Inc.

Another part of the GeoWeb story is how the integration of GIS and CAD and Building Information Modeling (BIM) will take place.

ONUMA Inc., both an architectural firm and a software company, explores open standards to facilitate building projects with their revolutionary BIMStorm approach to architecture. Kimon Onuma, FAIA, principal and BIM evangelist, spoke about the concept of little BIM, which is a piece of software, and big BIM, which expands it just beyond the project and looks at the data and the process of how things can change.

Since the mid 90s, Onuma has been involved in using BIM in an innovative way, focusing on the information in BIM, which allowed the company to collaborate with teams worldwide on projects. They employ the ONUMA Planning System or OPS, developed by Onuma, a BIM Model Srver and editor.

Using open standards, Onuma said they look beyond the envelope of the building to how it ties to the enterprise and the whole portfolio. All organizations have trouble managing existing infrastructure, and planning for the future. “How do we predict what we need when it’s a constantly moving target and the challenges we’re faced with as far as technology, budget, requirements, the world?”

BIMStorm is not a software, it’s a process. Onuma cited the example of a U.S. Coast Guard project they have used BIMStorm for. In 2003, using the OPS, the U.S. Coast Guard saw and developed an initiative called “The Framework for Integrated Decision-Making” which was at the core of the Shore Facilities Capital Asset Management Road Map (SFCAM) led by David Hammond in Washington, D.C.

The process employed web enabled tools and real time planning to collaborate worldwide with many users from many different perspectives. “It’s not just about the building, it’s also about the business needs and drivers and data associated with the buildings and spaces and sites and things inside buildings and how they operate and manage and support the Coast Guard’s needs,” Onuma explained. “How do we manage our entire portfolio of existing buildings, and look at a building as a database, look at it from goespatial perspective of needing to land buildings somewhere on the world and being able to do scenario planning of an entire Coast Guard inventory?” This process would tie back into their business drivers which are their ships, and then “what happens if that ship drives a need for a building?”

Without pushing the limits of using open standards exchanges the industry will not progress, Onuma said. He believes that open standards is where it’s at, and that proprietary formats will become a thing of the past. BIM is a container for data, and what is important is how the data is exchanged and the process by which this exchange is executed. Collaboration is everything; technology is not a barrier to change.

The National BIM Standard Capability Maturity Model (CMM) measures 11 areas of processes of BIM implementation, that BIMStorm can be measured against for large and small projects:

    1. Data richness
    2. Life-cycle views
    3. Change management
    4. Roles or disciplines
    5. Business process
    6. Timeliness/response
    7. Delivery method
    8. Graphical information
    9. Spatial capability
    10. Information accuracy and
    11. Interoperability/IFC support.

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