The Open GIS Consortium Inc. (OGC) announced the public release of the OpenGIS Reference Model (ORM). The ORM documents a framework of interoperability for geospatial processing ranging from tightly coupled, real-time systems on a single CPU to the "Spatial Web" -- the open environment that enables barrier-free communication of geographic information among users of the World Wide Web. The ORM provides an overall conceptual framework for building geospatial processing into distributed systems in an incremental and interoperable manner. The ORM is a living document and will be updated periodically as OGC membership continues to advance geoprocessing interoperability. To download the ORM free of charge and to subscribe to future updates, visit

The ORM will benefit organizations that want to integrate geospatial technology into enterprise-wide applications. It shows how legacy spatial systems and data repositories can be “wrapped” with OpenGIS interfaces to allow plug-and-play into interoperable infrastructures such as Web Services. It can help providers of geospatial technology products and geographic data expand their market reach. Government departments at all levels can use it to express their complex requirements for open architectures, including architectures for decision support tools that need to share geospatial data and online services scattered across jurisdictions. Integrators can use it in conjunction with business process re-engineering to integrate spatial capabilities into enterprise architectures. Researchers can use it to structure how they publish, discover and access terabytes of previously isolated spatial data.

The ORM allows for positioning spatial technologies -- including location based services, GPS, Web map servers, spatial analysis, earth imaging, and Web-connected cameras and sensors -- squarely in the mainstream of information technology. In addition to presenting a conceptual framework for interoperability, the ORM documents sample architectures, use cases and summaries of OpenGIS interfaces. Any application, any enterprise system or any online service can be "spatially enabled" using commercial components or services that communicate through interfaces that implement OpenGIS specifications. The ORM helps people understand how to provide access to, or else how best to replace, stand-alone stovepipe Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that cannot communicate because of their proprietary architectures.

How was this accomplished? In OGC's unique process, the user community pools interoperability requirements and motivates the technology community to develop, test and document interfaces and encodings that enable interoperability. Members review, revise and approve the resulting specifications, which are then made publicly available at no cost for implementation by technology developers in products. In most cases, OpenGIS specifications are also submitted to ISO for adoption as international standards. The ORM summarizes and puts in context all the work that OGC members have done since 1994 to develop, test and deploy OpenGIS Specifications.