Creative Map Solutions- News and Blog

Creative Map Solutions brings you the latest news in the GIS and mapping industry.

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international industry consortium of 510 companies, government agencies and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available interface standards. OGC® Standards support interoperable 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.

The advent of I3S

The future of mapping is coming — or is it here already? With the advent of Indexed 3D Scene Layers (I3S) as a community standard, everyone stands to benefit.

Discussions around creating data-display standards have taken place for decades now, most famously including VHS vs. Beta. The first attempt at 3D standards was in the late 1980s with computer graphics, but came toward maps about 10 years later. So few sets of data were collected in 3D, and 3D was (and is) memory intensive because of the six variables necessary to place an object at a point in space at the correct angles. Everyone had vested interests in standards reflecting the work they were already doing.
That last part hasn’t changed, but approving I3S as a standard means that this form of 3D will be generally exploitable by many more users in the near term. I3S is one workable and robust protocol which has been both fleshed out and vetted by a knowledgeable user community.

A map based solely on looking down cannot present to its users the difference between a two-story building and a 100-story building — and that difference is critical. There is much more content to the world than what is represented on 2D maps! It’s an epiphany of sorts, looking up at a building from the ground instead of just down from sky. Eventually, this will be the norm: The 25-and-below age group has grown up with immersive gaming experiences, so stepping into I3S feels natural, and, in a few years, when that age group is teaching, it will be native. 

Meanwhile, who benefits the most from I3S? Certainly, those who need to understand the implications of 3D are at the top of that list. This includes first responders, soldiers, and various program operators, among others. There are members of the American intelligence community who recount their days in the military and cite logistical challenges without viewsheds. But 3D applications are not limited to militaries and emergencies: The telecommunications industry cannot rely on paper maps to determine optimal placement for power lines or antennae.

With standards comes a renaissance! OGC approval for I3S makes 3D more available and used increasingly in communities. It is important to agree on a set of high-quality standards that are open to others instead of spending additional money and manpower on this all-important but seemingly exclusive facet of product development. So where do we go from here? Get data into users’ hands to build communities, of both professionals and lay users. The Internet of Things is growing, and disasters strike with perilous force. Hunters can scope out boundaries and the best places for blinds, and major professional golf courses have been mapped down to an eyelash. The potential for aid from 3D imagery is limitless. Let’s embrace the variety of applications, and welcome the input.

Vricon, like others in the community, supports OGC’s efforts to develop 3D standards and bring acceptance and commonality to the field. How can we get this next-level imagery and data to analysts, warfighters, first responders, urban planners, and all who endeavor to make our lives  — and our planet! — better?

Original author: Simon Chester
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Our newest OGC staff member: Gobe Hobona

Gobe Hobona

It is an exciting time to be joining OGC as Director of Knowledge Management (DKM). One of the reasons why I am very excited about this is that geospatial interoperability standards are increasingly seen as the key ingredient for allowing much in society to be better understood. Whether it is understanding how shoppers decide where to buy their groceries, where best to deploy resources in response to a hurricane, or even to predict which routes home from work are likely to be the least congested at a particular time, providing and implementing knowledge management strategies that facilitate geospatial standardisation will enable these and other more complex questions in society to be answered with greater confidence.

Knowledge Management is about creating an environment and strategies that enable an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and adopt insights and experiences. It is about getting the right knowledge, to the right place at the right time. The insights and experience of the OGC membership are typically reflected in the standards and other documents we produce in the consortium. So as the DKM I will be responsible for planning and managing the workflow of candidate standards through their standardisation lifecycle. This means creating a knowledge sharing environment that allows insights and experiences from the OGC membership to feed into each candidate standard. As we roll out the new OGC Knowledge Management strategy, members will see greater use of automation and autonomous analytics to enable the right knowledge to reach the right place at the right time.

I have previously been employed as the Consultancy Team Leader and Head of Applied Research at Envitia Ltd, an OGC member. During my time at Envitia I worked on a number of consultancy and applied research projects for government and commercial customers. Prior to joining Envitia, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Newcastle University and the University of Nottingham. During these previous roles, I actively took part in multiple OGC working groups. I have also worked as a consultant to OGC on the GEOSS, INSPIRE, GMES Action in Support (GIGAS) project initiated by the European Commission during my time as a postdoctoral researcher.

I hold a PhD in Geomatics from Newcastle University, achieved with a doctoral thesis on Web-based Discovery and Dissemination of Multidimensional Geographic Information. I also hold a 1st Class Bachelor of Science degree with honours in Geographic Information Science from Newcastle University. After a number of years working in both academic research and the geospatial software industry, I was accepted as a professional member of both the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Most of my previous involvement within the OGC has been as a participant of the OGC testbed series. I have had the privilege of working collaboratively with many OGC members involved in the testbeds, trying out new technologies, developing new ones and feeding lessons learnt into the working groups of the consortium. These testbeds provide a valuable knowledge resource for each Standard Working Group (SWG) and Domain Working Group (DWG) within the consortium. So, I am looking forward to working with colleagues and members to enable the knowledge generated from these testbeds and other OGC initiatives to reach the wider geospatial community in the form of consistent and high quality standards.

Original author: Gobe Hobona
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OGC GeoPackage: Expanding the Realm of Geospatial Capabilities

This guest post was contributed by: David Wilson, Geospatial Engineer Strategic Alliance Consulting, Inc.; and Micah Brachman, PhD Lecturer, Center for Geospatial Information Science University of Maryland, College Park.

Viewshed using the UK Ordnance Survey Elevation GeoPackage

Viewshed using the UK Ordnance Survey Elevation GeoPackage. Image from: OGC 16-094r3 GeoPackage Elevation Extension Interoperability Experiment Engineering Report.

An OGC GeoPackage is a portable database that may contain raster maps and imagery, vector features, and elevation data. GeoPackages are optimized for sharing and displaying these types of geospatial data on mobile mapping systems, and GeoPackage extensions may be developed to support additional types of geospatial data such as routing networks. This blog post will discuss what GeoPackage extensions are, how they are developed, and how they can provide new geospatial capabilities to meet the requirements of a diverse user base.

A GeoPackage extension is method by which new requirements are added to the existing set of requirements in the OGC GeoPackage Encoding Standard. These new requirements expand upon the existing capabilities of GeoPackage by enabling the use of additional data types, styling, and other geospatial functions through the addition of tables, rows, and columns to the existing standard. Extensions can enhance existing capability of GeoPackage (i.e. incorporating Non-Linear Geometry Types) or add a completely new data type entirely (Elevation, Other Media, etc).

Anyone can extend GeoPackage to fit their needs, but custom extensions can come with their own set of interoperability risks. In OGC, extensions must be approved to be “Registered-Exenstions” under the GeoPackage Encoding Standard. A “Registered Extension” is one that’s been vetted through the GeoPackage Standard Working Group (SWG) and has undergone community exchanges and interoperability experiments. This ensures that the broadest scope of industry, academia, and government consumers of GeoPackage participate and influence the outcome of the extension.

GeoPackage extensions are usually developed to fulfill a specific need. The Extension for Tiled Gridded Coverage Data was developed specifically to support terrain visualization and analytics such as line-of-sight on cell phones and other lightweight, low-powered computing devices. The first step in developing this extension was a whitepaper entitled “Envisioning a Tiled Elevation Extension for the OGC GeoPackage Encoding Standard” which identified uses cases, defined terms, and proposed a technical approach for the adding tiled gridded elevation data to a GeoPackage. This whitepaper was discussed and approved within the GeoPackage SWG, and was then socialized with the broader OGC community to build a consensus on the technical approach. An OGC Interoperability Experiment (IE) - known as the GeoPackage Elevation Extension Interoperability Experiment - was then conducted, which included participants from industry, government, and academia to build and test prototype GeoPackages that included tiled gridded elevation data. The technical approach continued to be refined as to not limit the scope the extension. A report of the IE is available here.

There are many other GeoPackage extensions that have been developed in addition to the Tiled Gridded Elevation Data extension. The latest version of the GeoPackage Encoding Standard has eleven Registered Extensions, including an RTree Spatial Indexes extension to improve the rendering performance of large vector feature GeoPackages and a Metadata extension to allow additional information about vector or raster data to be stored within a GeoPackage. While most of these registered extensions provide a method for improving upon the existing capabilities of OGC GeoPackages, there are also several custom extensions that truly expand the geospatial capabilities of GeoPackages.

All in all, GeoPackage is a dynamic product format that will continue to be extended and improved. However, with as many great concepts for possible extensions, OGC’s top priority will always ensure that extensions do not break interoperability and open to everyone to implement.

David Wilson Bio:

David Wilson is a Geospatial Engineer for Strategic Alliance Consulting, Inc that specializes in Geospatial interoperability with a focus on GeoPackage standards compliance, testing and use. David has over 10 years’ experience working in the Army and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA).

Micah Brachman Bio:

Micah Brachman is a Lecturer in the Center for Geospatial Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He holds a PhD (2012) and MA (2009) in Geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a BS (2000) in Geography from the University of Minnesota. Micah has extensive professional experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in the commercial, government, and non-profit sectors, and recently transitioned from a Geospatial Scientist position supporting the Army Geospatial Center to teach in the new Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) program at UMD. In addition to GEOINT, Micah is also actively engaged in teaching and scholarship in Hazards and Emergency Management, Network Science, and Active Transportation.

Original author: Simon Chester
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Geomatics Web Services Used in Recent Quebec Floods

Editor’s note: This article has been jointly written by Nicolas Gignac and Serge Legaré from the Ministry of Public Safety in Quebec. It was originally published on

During Spring 2017, a major flood occurred in Eastern Canada, centered around south west Quebec. This flood was created by abundant rainfall lasting two months during the melting season. It was among the most severe floods since 1974. It impacted heavily populated areas of southern Quebec near Montreal and Gatineau. Hundreds of square kilometers of flooded areas exceeded the 100-year record.

Pic 1. 2017-04-01 Abundant rainfall warnings and precipitation in real time (GeoMet Web Service Weather Radar) issued by Environment Canada.

Rainfall tends to last for weeks in Eastern Canada, as snow melts in the northern area as early as the beginning of April. Public Safety Quebec Emergency Operational Center (PSQ-EOC) monitors the situation 24/7 by coordinating assistance with its partners in all regions of Quebec. As flows started rising at the end of April, the Quebec government decided to move its PSQ-EOC from Quebec City to Montreal to be closer to the affected area. The flow peaked on May 8. The situation needed good coordination and planning, as experts, emergency teams, and army were mobilized on the ground to assist citizens and the municipal manager.

Pic 2. © [2017] Airbus Defense and Space, License by Planet Labs Geomatics Corp.,

Here is a summary of statistics for this unusual flood in southern Quebec:

Active operations of PSQ-EOC lasted from 5 April to 5 June 23 conference calls were held between May 5 and 19 78 reports were published by PSQ-EOC to follow up and inform partners during operations 1,500+ employees were mobilized in various Government of Quebec departments and agencies 261 municipalities were affected; State of Emergency was declared in 22; 170+ used the provincial financial assistance program 5,371 residences were flooded 4,066 people were evacuated ~550 roads were damaged 3 deaths took place 2,600 Canadian military personnel were engaged in operations As at June 2, $13,581,663 was paid through the Quebec's Specific Financial Assistance Program for Floods

It was important to closely monitor the situation, especially: meteorological events; hydrological impacts; past, present and future flood areas; affected municipalities; status of the road network; and the level of flows. Related information was requested to assist emergency managers working in this wide and densely populated region. Consequently, PSQ-EOC and its partners had to request, access, purchase, integrate, and publish various geomatics products to support decision making. During this event, one of the mandates of PSQ-EOC operations was to coordinate all those geomatics operations. In such a major disaster, organisations, journalists, and citizens typically look for near real-time information. They usually search web maps to provide a quick overview as 'a picture worth a thousand words'!

To reuse web mapping products and minimize administrative barriers in this time-critical situation, the decision was made to openly offer all products through public URLs as standard Web OGC services. They included:

Web Map Service (WMS): for overlays with a clear symbology Web Map Service Time (WMS-Time): for historical analysis for near real-time data Web Feature Services (WFS): for raw open data to process and mapping Web Map Tile Service (WMTS): for base maps

All these services were hosted in a solid Open GIS Infrastructure, called IGO (Open Geomatics Infrastructure: IGO was developed by the Quebec government and hosted by Public Safety Quebec. Adding to this, there was also an easy-to-use interactive web mapping application adapted to mobile devices that universally depicted the evolution of the event using these web services.

Here are the main facts related to the high demand of these geomatics services during this period:

45 million web requests occurred just in May on geomatics Public Safety Quebec Web GIS servers A maximum of 100 queries per second and 6-7 million queries per day occurred on May 7-8, 2017 on these same servers 30+ satellite images products were shared and published (Radarsat-2, SPOT, Pleiades) 50+ map layers in OGC Web services (WMS, WFS) and in a web map application through regular browsers and mobile devices Activation of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" in Eastern Canada on May 6th, 2017 Several requests were made for thematic mapping products and spatial analysis on flooded areas for different operational and administrative needs

Usually, Public Safety Quebec requests radar imageries to monitor ice river conditions and mapped ice jamming with certain known high risk flood areas during the spring season, under its Radarsat-2 agreement with Public Safety Canada. However, in April and May of this year, emergency events were more related to flood in open water situation, not the usual ice jam situation. Quebec Public Safety therefore had to adapt its processes and ask Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Emergency Geomatics Services group (EGS) to test a new NRCAN image processing algorithm for the first time. This emergency service was developed in a near real-time event to map the extent of floods in an open water situation. This new algorithm for open water situation was recently developed by using high-resolution radar satellite images (e.g. 9m resolution). This was like the ones that were already ordered by Public Safety Quebec.

Pic 3. Map of polygon extent

Maximum extent polygons were then generated derived from a system operated by NRCan's Strategic Policy and Results Sector (SPSR) using radar satellite imagery products (ex. Radarsat-2, TerraSar -X, Sentinel) from PSQ-EOC. These mapping products were then shared with partners and processed by SPSR for quick validation by PSQ-EOC. During the event, these products were distributed in near real-time, depending on imaging availability (approximately every three days for Radarsat-2). These polygons products represented the extent of water in urban and vegetated environment. It should be noted that the product was a near real-time interpretation of satellite data and was not fully validated during the emergency phase.

Pic 4. Second map of polygon extent

In order to monitor the evolution of the water level on the infrastructure more effectively, and to map historical maximum of the flood, other satellite imageries in the visible and infrared spectrum (SPOT 1.5 m resolution and Pleiades resolution 50 cm) were also purchased and processed. These images were acquired in particular through PSQ-EOC with Ministry of Energy and Resource of Quebec in order to ensure coherence between public safety needs and various sensors available on the market. To facilitate the exchange of information between government and agencies, discussions were held real-time through an online collaborative platform. The acquired images were made available by the Government of Quebec a few hours after data capture to RNCAN for validation. Moreover, these images in the visible and infrared spectrum were made available later in the summer to the general public with the agreement made with the private operators of the satellites (Distribution Astrium Services, Airbus Defense and Space) a few weeks later by Web service and in the Open Data portal: Données Québec (

Pic 5. Includes equipment © CNES (2017), Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image Corporation, USA, all rights reserved

PSQ-EOC also received the support from Transport Canada through its National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) to acquire oblique images for the impacted areas. Two aircrafts from Transport Canada, the Moncton-based Dash-8 and the Ottawa-based Dash-7, flew over flooded areas from May 7th to 16th and acquired more than 14,000 oblique images. NRCan's developed a standardised web-based service (WMS) shared with Public Safety Quebec to get an overview of these 14,000 oblique images acquired and integrated into their Web mapping applications. These oblique images were also used by NRCan to validate their polygons for the extent of open water in their process.

Pic 6. PNSA 2017-05-15 Lake Saint-Pierre at Highway 40

Here is a summary of the geomatics data used and made available to the general public:

Geomatics work will continue during the current recovery phase to more accurately determine the historical maximum flood by reusing NRCan's polygons maximum extent and validating them with field operations to be made in the upcoming months. Discussions with OpenStreetMap community of mappers about their involvement will also take place.

Recently, Public Safety Quebec was also able to test a new web mapping application adapted for mobile devices and developed by the government ( This solution called Open Geomatics Infrastructure version 2.0 (IGO2: was offered from a mobile device to easily track floods. IGO 2.0 is an open source GIS development project carried out in partnership with many organisations in Quebec. This solution follows the latest web trends (mobility, API searching tool, simplicity, offline tool) and geomatics (OGC web service, time analysis). It will be enhanced in the coming months with new features. This solution is based on other open source projects, such OpenLayers 4, Google Angular 4, and Google Material. For now, it has been made available to the public in the application gallery of Quebec's Open Data Portal: Données Québec ( At the same time, another internal secure version of IGO2 for Public Safety organisations was successfully tested on mobile devices at the PSQ-EOC.

Pic 7. Web mapping application – IGO2.

An indication that GIS Web services or products were needed by citizen and the media was that much data and web GIS application were intensely used to inform the public. These geospatial data and maps available on the Web have been widely publicized by various media during this major events. These include (some only in French):

GIS Web services has proven to be very useful by the media and popular to follow other disaster events this year, such as Forest Fire in British Columbia and Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Original author: Anonymous
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Advancing standards for marine data

Bathymetric Map courtesy of NRCan


The OGC has long maintained standards that are used in the marine domain. These standards have been applied to studies of bathymetry, ocean science, navigation, logistics, and more. Long-standing Domain Working Groups (DWGs) in the OGC provide expertise in ocean science (Meteorology and Oceanography DWG) and safety of navigation (Defense and Intelligence DWG). However, only a small subset of the diverse disciplines that work in the marine environment have representatives in OGC’s membership. Thus, in 2016 the Marine DWG was established to provide a forum for discussion across marine topics and to link the OGC with other organizations in the field.


As the Marine DWG was being established, the OGC also formed an alliance with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO -, a body dedicated to ensuring that the world’s navigable waterways are surveyed and charted, and that the data are accessible to all stakeholders through the use of international standards. The OGC and IHO now regularly support each other through attendance at each others’ events, and together they jointly chair the OGC Marine DWG. The Marine DWG is already promoting a future Concept Development Study for a Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) and is considering various whitepaper topics to illustrate the advantages of standards and data accessibility to the marine community.


The OGC and the IHO are also key participants in the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM - The UN-GGIM has a broad mission to develop global geospatial data and associated infrastructure, primarily in support of the UN Sustainable Development goals. Now, with the support of IHO and OGC, the UN-GGIM has established a Working Group on Marine Geospatial Information (MGIWG) in recognition that marine data are a critical part of a global geospatial data infrastructure. For an excellent summary of the UN-GGIM work in this area, please see IHO Circular Letter 47/2017.


So, how can you get involved? The Marine DWG is open to all. Subscribe to the mailing list and visit the public wiki. Consider joining the OGC or working with your national representatives to the IHO to have your opinion heard. And finally, take advantage of the output of these efforts: discoverable and interoperable data are of benefit to all of us.


Image courtesy of NRCan:

Original author: Scott Simmons
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