Standards Based Interoperability

Definition/Description (What) – is an operational requirement needed to achieve the maximum benefit for geospatial systems investment resulting in increased access to and sharing of functional capabilities for applications, services, data, and infrastructure to meet mission/business requirements.

Purpose/Function (Why) – to serve as a reference guide to an organization in the preparation of documentation for the procurement and/or development of geospatial systems and services. Organizations and enterprise architectures will benefit from standards-based acquisitions and deployment of industry accepted interoperability solutions and technologies to meet their mission/business functions.

Stakeholder Performance Guide (Who & How) – Program Managers responsible for geospatial system and services acquisition and development of procurement language for solicitations and support services. Solution Architects for identifying, understanding and implementing systems and services using industry open standards.

Standards-Based Interoperability Approach

The requirement for Federal Agencies to implement the Federal Information Technology Shared Services Strategy[1] and to make “Shared-First” their default approach to IT service planning and delivery, will require a standards-based approach for implementation. To access and use geospatial Applications/Services and leverage existing Infrastructure investments, the geospatial investment owner must identify and implement industry open standards and best practices to derive mission value.

The Standards-based Interoperability section will focus upon identifying sources for open standards that could/should be used in the development of standards-based acquisition. The section will not:

  • Provide a definitive list or procurement-ready language for geospatial standards required for systems and/or services,
  • Include an exhaustive list of all geospatial standards in use or planned by Standards Development Organizations (SDOs),
  • Describe the SDO’s standards consensus and adoption process, or
  • Provide a technical explanation of standards or how to implement them.

[1] Federal Information Technology Shared Services Strategy, OMB, May 2, 2012

Standards Value Proposition
“The value of a [geospatial service] component increases in proportion to the number of places it can be used.”[1],[2],[3]

Geospatial service components are a self-contained process, service, or IT capability with pre-determined functionality that may be exposed through a business or technology interface. These components or “building blocks” when built in compliance with industry standard practices and technologies are more likely to integrate efficiently into a multi-agency information sharing and processing environment. Components based upon on a standard such as GML or NIEM will result in greater interoperability since a consortium of organizations have “pre-agreed” to adhere to the standard. Common standards also help ensure a compatible execution environment, which in turn benefit implementation.[4]

There have been numerous citations as to the value of standards across Information Technology in the areas of Enterprise Architecture and geospatial. The United Nation Economic and Social Council’s Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) prepared a Report of the Secretariat on the “Establishment and implementation of standards for the global geospatial information community.”[5] The findings of the report identified that:

“Standardization, the process of developing and implementing technical standards, brings uniformity, compatibility and interoperability to millions of processes, devices, and applications in all sectors of a global economy. This reliance on standards is just as relevant in the geospatial sector, where having the right standard-setting procedures and interoperability rules in place create the means for geospatial information, devices, applications, data repositories, services and networks to all communicate as one.”

The report finds that:

“Standardization is a key aspect to enhancing the integration processes of geospatial information into daily decision-making at all levels of society. Geospatial information, spatial data infrastructures and geospatial web services are now widely accessible, shared and reused in many contexts primarily because geospatial information, systems, and services are interoperable—that is, able to be integrated and shared. Standardization has contributed significantly to the evolution and development of the interoperability of geospatial information and services.”

The Principles for Federal Engagement in Standards Activities to Address National Priorities,[6] authored by the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Trade Representative and Office of Science and Technology Policy, finds that:

“The vibrancy and effectiveness of the U.S. standards system in enabling innovation depend on continued private sector leadership and engagement. Most standards developed and used in U.S. markets are created with little or no government involvement. This approach—reliance on private sector leadership, supplemented by Federal Government contributions to discrete standardization processes as outlined in OMB Circular A-119, “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities[7]—remains the primary strategy for government engagement in standards development. Consistent with the Administration’s commitment to openness, transparency, and multi-stakeholder engagement, all standards activities should involve the private sector.


[1] Federal Enterprise Architecture Geospatial Profile, Version 1.1, January 27, 2006. (no longer available).

[2] NASA Geospatial Standards Study,

[3] German DIN Study on the economic value of standards. artikel&languageid=en&cmstextid=145918

[4] Ibid.

[5] United Nation Economic and Social Council, 14 June 2013, Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management.



Standards View: Open Standards vs Open Source

Confusion in the understanding and use of the terms “Open Standards” and “Open Source” resulted in the development of a White Paper prepared collaboratively by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) to describe how they relate and how they are different.[1]


Communication means “transmitting or exchanging through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior.” Standards are a pre-requisite for communication, because standardization means “agreeing on a common system.” Geospatial software vendors, developers, and users collaborate in the OGC’s voluntary consensus standards process to develop and agree on standards that enable information systems to exchange geospatial information and instructions for geoprocessing. The result of these efforts are Open Standards. The OGC defines Open Standards as standards that are:

  1. Freely and publicly available – They are available free of charge and unencumbered by patents and other intellectual property.
  2. Non-discriminatory – They are available to anyone, any organization, anytime, anywhere with no restrictions.
  3. No license fees – There are no charges at any time for their use.
  4. Vendor neutral – They are vendor neutral in terms of their content and implementation concept and do not favor any vendor over another.
  5. Data neutral – The standards are independent of any data storage model or format.
  6. Defined, documented, and approved, by a formal member driven consensus The consensus group remains in charge of changes and no single entity controls the standard.

The OGC’s Open Standards are specifications for interfaces and encodings that enable interoperability between geoprocessing systems from different developers, whether employed by proprietary product vendors, independent integrators, application developers, or active in Open Source projects.

A standard is like a blueprint that guides people who build things. A standard documents the use of rules, conditions, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods. Standards can arise from a single company whose successful products become “de facto” standards. Standards may also be set by agreement among two or more software producers, by government edict, a government-run process, or by representatives from multiple governments. OMB Circular A-119 directs Federal agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical. Alternatively, standards can be developed, as in ISO or the OGC, through a voluntary consensus process governed by well-defined policies and procedures. These standards are agreed upon by the participants in the consensus process.

The OGC’s Open Standards are free, publicly available specifications for interfaces, encodings and best practices. They are not software.


Open Source encompasses two related concepts regarding the way software is developed and licensed. They are codified in the “Free Software” and the “Open Source” definitions. “Free and Open Source Software” refers to software which has been made available under a free software license with the rights to run the program for any purpose, to study how the program works, to adapt it, and to redistribute copies, including modifications. These freedoms enable Open Source software development, a public, collaborative model that promotes early publishing and frequent releases. The Open Source Initiative[2] has developed a set of 10 requirements of any software license that is to be considered an Open Source license.

Open source does not just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria from the Open Source Definition ( ):

  1. Free Redistribution – The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
  2. Source Code – The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.
  3. Derived Works – The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
  4. Integrity of the Author’s Source Code – The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of “patch files” with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
  5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups – The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
  6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor – The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.
  7. Distribution of License – The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
  8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product – The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program’s being part of a particular software If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program’s license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
  9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software – The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.
  10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral – No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.

It is sometimes helpful to understand that Open Source is a matter of liberty, not price. To this end, the Free Software Foundation[3] says that you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.” It means that the program’s users have the four essential freedoms (

  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
  3. Access to the source code (Open Source) is a precondition for this.
  4. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  5. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.

These freedoms are the prerequisites to Open Source software development.

The Federal Shared Service Implementation Guide[4] suggests, “When adopting a new shared service, determine whether a proprietary-based or open standards-based solution should be purchased. While it may be difficult in some situations to obtain an open standards-based solution, Customer/Partner Agencies should be aware that open standards increase their agility in moving to other providers. Open standard and constructs such as XML, or open source software, provide levels of agility that help agencies make shared services implementations more agile.”


[1] Much of the information in this section is taken directly from the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) Wiki. The content of this section is taken from an article that is a white paper (Open Source and Open Standards, May 5, 2011) jointly published by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and OSGeo.

The article is available at



[4] CIO Council Federal Shared Services Implementation Guide, April 16, 2013. Available at

Standards Governance

The Federal Open Data Policy[1] requires agencies to collect or create information in a way that supports downstream information processing and dissemination activities. This includes using machine-readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata for all new information creation and collection efforts. OMB Circular A-119[2] for Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical. It also provides guidance to agencies on participation in the development of voluntary consensus standards, and articulates policies relating to the use of standards by Federal agencies.

The Federal Open Data Policy directs agencies to follow OMB Circular A-119 in the development, maintenance, and use of standards and specifications that are developed through an open, collaborative, and transparent process that is defined by the following attributes:

  • Openness
  • Balance of interest
  • Due process
  • An appeals process
  • Consensus

The National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee of Standards developed proposed policy recommendations as Principles for Federal Engagement in Standards Activities to Address National Priorities,[3] for government engagement in private-sector standards development activities. The report outlines policy recommendations for the government involvement in the standards development activities to include:

  1. Recognize that in most government-private-sector standards engagements, the primary role of the government will continue to be that of active contributor to the private-sector-led process.
  2. Identify the context(s) where Federal government leadership/coordination may be appropriate.
  3. Outline objectives for government engagement in standardization activities to support national priorities.
  4. Effective coordination and participation by agencies.
  5. Clarify agency responsibilities with respect to the full range of standards setting alternatives.
  6. Lay out key principles underpinning voluntary standardization processes.

A limited set of foundational attributes of standardization activities are called out in OMB Circular A-119, focusing on voluntary, consensus standards activities. It is important to recognize as well the contributions of standardization activities that take place outside of the formal voluntary, consensus process, particularly in emerging technology areas. The following additional attributes should also be considered, to maximize the impact of those activities on enabling innovation and fostering competition, while also assuring fulfillment of agency regulatory, procurement, and policy missions:

  • Transparency: essential information regarding standardization activities is accessible to all interested parties.
  • Open Participation: all interested or affected parties have an opportunity to participate in the development of a standard, with no undue financial barriers to participation.
  • Flexibility: different product and services sectors rely on different methodologies for standards development that meets their needs.
  • Effectiveness and Relevance: standards are developed in response to regulatory, procurement and policy needs, and take account of market needs and practices as well as scientific and technological developments.
  • Coherence: the process avoids overlapping and conflicting standards.
  • International Acceptance: as product and service solutions cross borders, the public and private sectors are best served by standards that are international in scope and applicability.
  • Net Benefit: standards used to meet regulatory and procurement needs should maximize net benefits of the use of such standards.



The pace at which organizations develop and deploy geospatial information technology applications and services exceeds the ability of Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to prepare consensus-based standards to help guide their implementation. There are a number of [geospatial] SDOs that play a pivotal role in advancing location-based interoperability standards. Readers are encouraged to review (and participate where possible) the standards, specifications, and best practices documentation these organizations have developed and continue to enhance. This section, although not comprehensive, provides a brief description and links to many of the geospatial SDOs and their efforts:

  • International Organization for Standardization on Geographic Information/Geomatics (ISO/TC211)[4] – Responsible for the ISO geographic information series of standards. These standards may specify, for geographic information, methods, tools and services for data management (including definition and description), acquiring, processing, analyzing, accessing, presenting, and transferring such data in digital/electronic form between different users, systems and As of June 2016, ISO/TC211 has published 72 standards related to digital geographic information.[5]


  • International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), technical committee L1 on Geographic Information Systems[6] – Work consists of adopting or adapting information technology standards and developing digital geographic data L1 is the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO/TC 211.


  • Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®)[7] – The OGC is an international voluntary standards organization focused on defining, testing, and maintaining standards that enable geodata discovery, sharing, integration, viewing, and processing across different technologies and vendor products, the web and wireless The OGC is an open membership organization. The OGC offers a range of membership options for industry, government, academic, research and not-for-profit organizations interested in supporting the Consortium’s global mission (see There are nearly 500 member organizations representing private sector GIS companies, commercial open source organizations, government, NGOs, universities, research organizations and system integrators.


  • United States Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)[8] – Established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Circular A-16, Coordination of Geographic Information and Related Spatial Data Activities, the FGDC is a 32 member interagency committee that promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis known as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The FGDC develops geospatial data standards for implementing the NSDI, in consultation and cooperation with state, local, and tribal governments, the private sector and academic community, and, to the extent feasible, the international The FGDC develops geospatial data standards only when no equivalent voluntary consensus standards exist, in accordance with OMB Circular A-119.


  • Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group (GWG)[9] – The GWG is a National System for Geospatial-Intelligence (NSG) forum that serves the Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the NGA Chief Information Officer who is the delegated functional manager for geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) architecture and standards. The GWG provides the forum for the coordination of GEOINT standard activities where Core members are responsible for reviewing current or emerging standards, coordinating advice with their agency’s technical and acquisition experts, and reporting in GWG meetings their agency’s position on the The GWG is led and chaired by the NGA’s National Center for Geospatial Intelligence Standards (NCGIS).


  • In addition to its designation as an NSG Functional Management forum, the GWG is a Joint Technical Working Group that participates in both the DoD and IC standards governance In the DoD, the GWG votes and manages GEOINT standards lifecycle recommendations reported to the Information Technology Standards Committee (ITSC), the governing group responsible for developing and promoting standards interoperability in support of net- centricity within the Department of Defense (DoD). GWG recommendations for mandating standards for the DoD are approved by the DoD Architecture and Standards Review Group (ASRG). Approved GEOINT standards are then cited in the DoD Information Technology (IT) Standards Registry (DISR), helping to create a centralized database to better enable the discovery, access, integration, dissemination, exploitation, and interoperability of GEOINT.


  • Defense Geospatial Information Working Group (DGIWG)[10] – DGIWG is the multi- national body responsible for geospatial standardization for the defense organizations of member DGIWG develops and maintains a suite of digital geospatial information (DGI) standards that foster the interchange, access, and use of geographic information between the defense organizations of member nations. DGIWG has been established under a memorandum of understanding between member nations, and addresses the requirements for these nations to have access to compatible geospatial information for joint operations. The DGIWG geospatial standards are built upon the generic and abstract standards for geographic information defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO TC/211) and makes use of the service specifications endorsed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). DGIWG defines information components for use in the development of product specifications and application schemas for military geospatial data. DGIWG also establishes service specifications, encoding formats, and testing methodologies to meet military geospatial intelligence requirements.




[1] Office of Management and Budget, Memorandum M-13-13, Open Data Policy – Managing Information as an Asset, May 9, 2013. Available at












Standards-Based Acquisition Guidance: Reference Sources

Geospatial standards-based acquisition guidance in the form of procurement language and “boiler plate” templates does not readily exist across the community.

While the value of standards are clear, one of the challenges facing standardization is the combination of rapid advancements in Information Technology; the evolution of location-based applications/services as geospatial commodities; the pace of standards development keeping up with technology; and the pace of the government procurement process requiring the inclusion of standards in contracts.

Because of the dynamic nature of these challenges, standards-based acquisition guidance is not readily available or maintained and adopted for use in geospatial investments. Several attempts to identify “base-line” or “essential” geospatial standards that could be included in scopes of work or procurement compliance language are identified in lieu of an authoritative or consensus-driven guide or template. The following reference documentation have been developed over the past decade and are provided in a general sequence from oldest to most recent, although some are continuing to be maintained.


The Federal Geographic Data Committee’s (FGDC) Geospatial Applications and Interoperability (GAI) Working Group (now inactive) released the Geospatial Interoperability Reference Model (GIRM)[1] in December 2003.

“The document references standards and specifications needed for interoperability among distributed geospatial services accessible over the Internet. It describes and explains them within a structured model of geospatial processing, as they apply to the design of geospatial software and services, to guide the reader to the most relevant standards for a given design, policy, or procurement … [GIRM] is intended not as a rigid definition of standards to be implemented, but rather as a consultative tool to help decision makers define what standards apply to a given set of activities, technologies, or organizations, to facilitate interoperable geoprocessing.”



The Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) Geospatial Profile[2] document created in 2009 was released by the Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, Federal Chief Information Officers Council and the Federal Geographic Data Committee. Like its predecessor, the document included an Appendix of Geospatial Standards and Extended TRM that made limited reference to “Relevant Standards” for categories of service platform and infrastructure, component framework, and service interface and integration levels.



The FGDC, in support of the Federal Chief Information Council, developed the Segment Architecture Analysis of the Geospatial Platform[4] as a guidance document to improve the design and deployment of geospatial capabilities. Appendix D: Geospatial Standards and Extended TRM describes a number of specialized systems and standards at the service platform and infrastructure, component framework, and service interface/integration levels.



The FGDC Standards Working Group (SWG) actively promotes and coordinates FGDC standards activities. The SWG provides guidance on FGDC standards policy and procedures, facilitates coordination between subcommittees having overlapping standards activities, and reviews and makes recommendations on the approval of standards proposals, draft standards for public review, and draft standards for FGDC endorsement. The FGDC develops standards only when there is no voluntary consensus standards body for the particular domain of  the standard, consistent with OMB Circular A-119.  The SWG has advanced 27 standards developed within the FGDC[5] to FGDC endorsement at the time of this draft document.

The FGDC Steering Committee has officially endorsed over 60 non-Federally authored standards that play an important role in enabling geospatial interoperability.[6] The standards include standards from Open Geospatial Consortium; ISO Technical Committee 211, Geographic information/Geomatics; the American National Standards Institute (through International Committee for Information Technology Standards Technical Committee L1, Geographic information systems) and de facto standards.

The FGDC Steering Committee endorsed these standards in accordance with the FGDC Policy on Recognition of Non-Federally Authored Geographic Information Standards and Specification.

The list comprises a broad range of geospatial standards that include: Reference and Abstract Standards, Common Encoding Standards, Common Service Standards and Content/Code Standards. The FGDC maintains the standards list.

The FGDC maintains a standards tracking spreadsheet that tracks over 300 standards from FGDC, INCITS L1, ISO/TC 211, OGC, GWG, and other standards organizations. It has been maintained for over five years and can be accessed from the FGDC web site at:



The Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Cookbook is sponsored by the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association identifies: existing and emerging standards, open-source and commercial standards-based software solutions, supportive organizational strategies and policies and best practices. Standards Suites for Spatial Data Infrastructure has the following Problem Statement of:

“SDI initiatives worldwide are implementing a variety of international standards for data and service discovery, data access, visualization, and analysis. The use of different combinations and/or versions of these standards limits interoperability between systems and initiatives. Guidance on best practices and approaches to solving these interoperability issues is critical to our ability to define and implement a SDI.

This document seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What standards make up the SDI standards baseline?
  • Which versions of core standards should be cited in the SDI standards baseline?
  • What tests shall be performed to make sure that software is compliant with standards?”

The SDI Cookbook notes that geospatial specific standards may be dependent upon other foundational standards. The SDI Cookbook estimates that, “well over 75 standards, including underlying Internet standards, may be relevant to the geospatial domain.” Therefore procurement language would need to be inclusive of those industry standards for an effective and interoperable investment.

To address the diversity in the number and type of relevant standards, the SDI Cookbook proposes the establishment of “an SDI standards baseline that allows for the federation of provider-operated services and data to be discovered, visualized, and assessed by Web browsers and software applications,” based upon criteria for inclusion. The standards baseline is one of the best examples of a concise listing (e.g., tables) where standards are identified that could be included within procurement language for geospatial investments. The following tables and supporting narrative are taken directly from the SDI Cookbook chapter on standards.

Table 1 lists foundational standards on which geospatial standards may be dependent. Not all of these standards are required for implementation, but may be required or expected to be present in a community’s operating environment.



Table 1. Standards Used in Deployed SDIs

W3C Recommendation: eXtensible Markup Language (XML) Version 1.1

W3C Recommendation: XML Schema Version 1.0

W3C Recommendation: Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) Version 1.1

W3C Recommendation: SOAP Version 1.2

W3C Note: Web Services Description Language (WSDL) Version 1.1

Oil and Gas Producer (OGP, formerly EPSG) Geodetic Parameter Dataset, Version 6.9 (2006)

Geographic Tagged Image File Format (GeoTIFF) Version 1.0

JPEG-2000 (ISO/IEC 15444-1:2004)

Information retrieval (Z39.50)–application service definition and protocol specification (ISO 23950:1998)

W3C XLink 1.1 Schema

Tables 2 through 4 list core, supplemental, and possible future standards for the SDI standards baseline.

Table 2. SDI Core Standards

OGC Web Map Service 1.3

OGC Web Feature Service 2.0/ISO 19142:2010

OGC Filter Encoding 1.1

OGC Web Coverage Service 1.1.2

OGC Geography Markup Language 3.2.1

OGC Catalogue Service 2.0.2 HTTP protocol binding (CS-W)

OGC Catalogue Service 2.0.2 HTTP protocol binding (CS-W) ebRIM and ISO Profiles

ISO 19115:2003 and ISO/TS 19139:2007


OGC WPS 1.0 + corrigenda

GeoRSS-Simple, GeoRSS GML


Table 3. SDI Supplemental Standards

OGC Styled Layer Descriptor 1.1

OGC Web Map Context 1.1/Corrigendum 1




Table 4. SDI Future Standards

OGC Web Coverage Service 2.0, corrigenda, and KVP, XML/POST, XML/SOAP, and GeoTIFF extensions


OGC Filter Encoding 2.0


The SDI Cookbook is inclusive of contributors from public and private communities and was last updated on February 21,2014; these tables should be updated as new revision are made available



GEOINT standards support specific elements of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) architecture and represent approximately 25% of all the standards relevant to the architecture. They are formally defined as documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics to ensure that materials, products, processes, or services are fit for the analysis and visual representation of physical features and geographically referenced activities.

GEOINT standards characterize GEOINT data, data constructs, data services, products, and interfaces. They enable the collection, processing, analysis, and exploitation of GEOINT. They also govern GEOINT access, dissemination, and storage. The use of common GEOINT standards reduces the use of multiple and incompatible sets of data and makes it possible to create and share suitable, accurate, comprehensive, and timely GEOINT.

Examples of various types of GEOINT standards are shown in Table 5.

Table 5. GEOINT Standards Baseline


•    GEOINT metadata

•    Geospatial referencing

•    Still/motion imagery content/format

•   Information transfer

•    Sensor modeling

•   Data compression

•    Geographic feature encoding

•   GEOINT reporting

•    Feature data dictionaries/catalogs

•   GEOINT product specifications

•    Geographic portrayal

•   GEOINT web services

As NSG functional manager for GEOINT, the NGA endorsed a suite of web services and other standards developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). This suite of OGC standards, along with other standards adopted into the DoD IT Standards Registry (DISR), comprise the current NSG GEOINT Standards Baseline. Standards are added to the baseline as they are matured, approved, and implemented across the NSG. Key standards that compose the NSG GEOINT Standards Baseline are shown in Table 6.

Table 6. GEOINT Standards Baseline


OGC® Standards

Other Standards

•  Web Features Service (WFS)

•  Web Map Service (WMS)

•  Web Map Context (WMC)

•  Web Coverage Service (WCS)

•  Geography Markup language (GML)

•  Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD)

•  Catalog Services (CS-W)

•  Filter Encoding Specification (FE)

•  ISO 19115 Geographic Information – Metadata

•  ISO 19119 Geographic Information – Services

•  ISO/IEC 15444-1:2004 Information Technology – JPEG 2000 image coding system: Core coding system

•  NSG Feature Data Dictionary (NFDD)

•  NSG Entity Catalog (NEC)


The GEOINT standards that support the NSG architecture come from a variety of private sector and government standards bodies. Adopted national and international standards are used whenever feasible in order to reduce reliance on government developed standards. This prevents the development of unnecessary and costly government standards that may be duplicative of existing commercial standards.

The Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group (GWG) serves as a technical working group under the DoD Information Technology Standards Committee and recommends the adoption of standards into the DoD IT Standards Registry (DISR). The GWG governs a total of 128 GEOINT standards and as of the time of this draft document. The DISR is updated three times each year. The GWG produces a “Pocket Guide” (see Figure 1) that contains all of the IC and DoD GEOINT mandated and emerging schemas, implementation specifications, and web service standards required for use in GEOINT development and acquisitions. The pocket guide provides the list of standards and other additional information like applicability and where/how to acquire the standard.


Figure 1. GEOINT Standards Pocket Guide



The DGIWG creates and maintain standards and implementation profiles for geospatial
web services which foster the discovery, retrieval, exchange, and use of geospatial data
and products. It addresses the technical issues related to geospatial information services, respective interfaces, and required formats. The DGIWG geospatial standards are built upon the generic and abstract standards for geographic information defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO TC/211) and makes use of the service specifications endorsed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

DGIWG released the Web Services Roadmap – 909[9] as a technology Roadmap for the integration of new interfaces and services within the DGIWG community. This roadmap has been developed in order to facilitate current and future planning of DGIWG Web Services activity. DGIWG requires a Web Service Roadmap that looks three years into the future from the Roadmap completion (2013 to 2016) for current standards and up to six years to track industry for future research and development (emerging standards).

DGIWG defines Base Services as those that allow users to discover, access, and view data. Base services can be further defined as

  • Viewing services – provide an interface for users to visualize geospatial data.
  • Data access – provides an interface for users to access and write geospatial data.
  • Data discovery – allow users to search using metadata from the data.

DGIWG also identifies Emerging Services that will require long term projects to develop profiles or services (e.g., Cloud Computing). The relationship between OGC standards and DGIWG Base Services for profiles and projects can be seen in Figure 2.


Figure 2. DGWIG and OGC Service Types and Profiles[10]



OGC standards are technical documents that detail interfaces or encodings. These standards are the main “products” of the Open Geospatial Consortium and have been developed by the membership to address specific interoperability challenges. The OGC Reference Model (ORM) provides a framework for the ongoing work of the OGC. The ORM describes the OGC Standards Baseline[11] focusing on the relationships between the various OGC standards. The OGC Standard Baseline consists of the approved OGC Abstract and Implementation Standards (Interface, Encoding, Profile, and Application Schema – normative documents) and OGC Best Practice documents (informative documents).

Table 7 provides an extract of the OGC document types describing Abstract and Implementation StandardsaswellasBestPractices.

Table 7. OGC Document Types



OpenGIS Implementation Standard

A document containing an OGC consensus, technology dependent standard for application programming interfaces and related standards based on the Abstract Specification or domain-specific extensions to the Abstract Specification. There are five subtypes: Interface, Encoding, Profile, Application Profile, and Application Schema.

Abstract Specification

A document (or set of documents) containing an OGC consensus, technology-independent standard for application programming interfaces and related standards based on object- oriented or other IT accepted concepts. It describes and/or models an application environment for interoperable geoprocessing and geospatial data and services products.

Best Practices

A document containing discussion related to the use and/or implementation of an adopted OGC document. Best Practices Documents are an official position of the OGC and thus represent an endorsement of the content of the paper.


The OGC provides considerable guidance documentation for standards understanding and implementation. The following links provide several key resources for open standards:

  • OGC Standards List:
  • OGC Abstract Specification: Abstract Specification provides the conceptual foundation for most OGC standard development activities. OGC standards are built and referenced against the Abstract Specification, thus enabling interoperability between different brands and different kinds of spatial processing The Abstract Specification provides a reference model for the development of OGC standards.
  • OGC Implementation Specifications: Implementation Standards are different from Abstract Specifications. They are written for a more technical audience and detail the interface structure between software components. When two or more software engineers independently implement an IS, the results are plug-and-play components at that
  • OGC Best Practices: Documents containing discussion of best practices related to the use and/or implementation of an adopted OGC document and for release to the Best Practices Documents are an official position of the OGC and thus represent an endorsement of the content of the paper. Schemas for some of these documents can be at Any Schemas (xsd, xslt, etc.) that support an approved Implementation Standard can be found in the official OGC Schema Registry.
  • OGC Schema Updates:
  • OGC Cookbooks are free, online, easy-to-use technical documents for
  • On-line demonstrations of OGC specifications and interoperable software are available from previous OGC Interoperability Program
  • OGC Network contains information on OGC-compatible software, services, and information models (e.g., GML profiles, SLD examples, ). From this site you can quickly locate OGC-compatible geospatial web services, the latest XML schema documents, discussion forums, conformance testing resources, and GML profile working areas.



The United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) is “an inter- governmental mechanism spearheaded by the United Nations which seeks to guide the making of joint decisions and set directions on the production and use of geospatial information within national and global policy frameworks.”[12] It provides a forum to liaise and coordinate among Member States, and between Member States and international organizations to improve policy, institutional arrangements, and legal framework; thereby making accurate, authoritative, reliable geospatial information readily available to support national, regional, and global development.

The UN-GGIM is mandated, among other tasks, to provide a platform for the development of effective strategies on how to build and strengthen national capacity on geospatial information. It is also tasked to compile and disseminate best practices and experiences of national, regional, and international bodies on geospatial information related to legal instruments, management models, and technical standards.

In keeping with those objectives, the UN-GGIM Secretariat requested from key standards organizations—International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee 211, International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)—to advance a “core essential standards guide” for use by member nations to improve their understanding of the value of standards, and guide the adoption and application of open geospatial standards to meet their geospatial missions.[13] The UN-GGIM’s A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management (hereafter called the UN Standards Guide) is intended to “inform policymakers and Program Managers in Member States about the value in using and investing in geospatial standardization and describe the benefits of using “open” geospatial standards.”[14] The goal is an easy to understand, and relatively non-technical document focusing on communicating and educating key decision makers within member nations on topics such as:

  • Role and value of open geospatial standards
  • Core geospatial standards and related best practices explained
  • Implementation examples
  • References (e.g., national, regional, and international cookbooks, Spatial Data Infrastructure guides, etc.)

The UN Standards Guide provides “Geospatial Standards and Related Best Practices for Geospatial Information Management” that frames the phases of an organization’s geospatial capability maturation and the adoption and use of key geospatial standards used to achieve those capability levels. It is hoped that this Guide, will provide a line- of-sight for a sequence of standards identification and adoption for an organization to adopt and implement.  The Companion document on Standards Recommendations by Tier[15] is also available.  It recommends standards that may be appropriate for use in each of the Tiers identified in the UN Standards Guide.






[3] The information in this section is taken from the Segment Architecture Analysis of the Geospatial Platform, Version 1.0, May 14, 2010.




[7] Much of the content in this sub-section is taken directly from the Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group web site and is available at

[8] The content in this sub-section is taken directly from the Defense Geospatial Information Working Group (DGIWG) web site and supporting documents and is available at

[9] DGIWG – 909 Web Services Roadmap, Version 1.1.0, 16 November 2014. This document is approved for public release and is available on the DGIWG website,


[11] The Open Geospatial Consortium Reference Model, Version 2.1, December 12, 2011, Reference number OGC 08-062r7. The document is available at




UNGGIM’s A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management, (Draft version), May 30, 2014. Prepared cooperatively by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC); ISO/TC 211, Geospatial Information/Geomatics; and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). External identifier of this document:

[15]The Companion document on Standards Recommendations by Tier

Stakeholder Performance Guidance

It is incumbent upon an organization’s procurement documentation to ensure the inclusion of the appropriate standards compliance references when contracting for geoprocessing software, data, technology, applications and services; whereby promoting vendor neutrality. This will enable exploitation by a broad range of technology offerings leading to the purchase of solutions that implement the use of standards-based products and interchangeable services and components.

While geospatial standards-based acquisition guidance in the form of procurement language and boiler plate templates does not readily exist across the community, there are several organizations and sources that provide lists of “key” or “baseline” geospatial standards and maintain status updates as new standards evolve. The Performance Guidance (Table 8)provides asummation of the key decision points to facilitate the identification, adoption, and use of geospatial standards for the efficient design, development, and implementation of geospatial system investments.


Table 8. Stakeholder Performance Guide: Standards







Executive Leadership

• Develop and adopt Standards Policy within and across the Geospatial Executive Steering Committee and your Department or Agency.

• Ensure all geospatial procurements/awards have the appropriate Standards Compliance Section included in the contract language.

• Standards resourcing for subject matter expertise (SME) and SDO involvement.

• Working with Executive Leadership across geospatial investments, the Office of the Chief Information Officer; Financial Management Office; and Grants Office, agree upon and include Standards-based acquisition language for procurements and awards.

• Review procurement action prior to sign-off and the assign Program Manager the responsibility to include the necessary language in the procurement/award action.

• Budget for a staffing position (e.g., full or part time) to perform standards guidance. Position would participate on and provide into to SDOs and cross organization geospatial investments.

• Ensure contract continuity and compliance for consistent geospatial investments. Enforces vendor neutrality and promotes competition for industry standards adoption. Drives interoperability across investments.

• Ensures procurement/award consistency and compliance.

• Provides awareness and understanding of standards requirements, benefits and advancement in geospatial standards development and adoption.

Program Manager

• Coordinate across other internal Department and Agency investment PMs for identification and agreement on content for Standards Policy development.

• Prepare “boiler plate” standards-based procurement language for inclusion need contracts/awards.

• Determine resourcing requirements and availability for geospatial standards capability development for:

◦ Subject Matter Expert

◦ SDO participation

• Draft Standards Policy for procurement and grants guidance. Work with and vet for completeness and currency across organization and review SDO listings.

• Work with OCIO, OFM, and Grants Offices to determine process for standards-based procurement / grant language inclusion within policy guidance and contract vehicles.

• Prepare Position Description for Geospatial Standards SME as a core competency within job category (e.g., GS-2210: Information Technology Management Series). Participate on and/or contribute to geospatial SDO initiatives.

• Provides awareness and understanding of baseline and current standards requirements. Allows for a definition of “Value Proposition” of standards- based interoperability.

• Policy-based guidance for government and industry understanding and compliance.

• Increase internal capacity for geospatial standards understanding and compliance.

Solution Architect

• Document current standards in use within/across organization geospatial investments.

• Contribute to development of baseline standards for inclusion into Policy Guidance.

• Contribute to identification of SME resource for geospatial standards. Ensure awareness of geospatial standards for inclusion in system procurement and development.

• Coordinate with SAs across organization’s geospatial investments to identify and document geospatial standards usage.

• Develop baseline of key geospatial standards derived from Federal and SDO current and emerging standards documentation.

• Provide input for Position Description for Geospatial Standards SME. Participate on SDOs for awareness of geospatial standards development and update.

• Technical vetting and validation across investments for As-Is standards usage.

• Ensure broadest possible technical review and allows identification of gaps and deficiencies for enhancement.

• Strengthen breadth of geospatial standards awareness across organization’s geospatial investments.

Updated on February 4, 2020