#7 – Scott Simmons

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is perhaps the best-known standards body in the lidar world. In this episode, Chief Standards Officer Scott Simmons describes the organization, its structure and processes. We also discuss lidar, especially OGC’s work with the LAS and LAZ lidar data formats and the efforts of its Point Cloud Domain Working Group. Our discussion delves further into OGC’s interactions with other standards bodies, such as the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and buildingsSMART International. We close with a review of OGC’s changing membership and its future directions.

Episode Transcript:

#7 – Scott Simmons

April 29th, 2024

Announcer:           Welcome to the LIDAR Magazine Podcast, bringing measurement, positioning and imaging technologies to light. This event was made possible thanks to the generous support of rapidlasso, producer of the LAStools software suite.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Welcome to the LIDAR Magazine podcasts. My name is Stewart Walker and I’m the Editor of LIDAR Magazine.

In both the magazine itself and the podcasts, we have very frequently encountered, discussed and reported on standards which guide our industry to meet the high performance levels that end users expect. And these standards evolve as technology and user requirements change through time.

There are numerous standards organizations across the globe and perhaps one of the most senior—if that’s the right word—is the [International Organization for Standardization] or ISO.

In the United States we’re familiar with the American National Standards Institute which was renamed from Americans Standards Association and that organization was responsible, for example, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange, ASCII. And then, there’s Underwriters Laboratory and, indeed, for a while I was on a panel developing a laser safety standard there.

But perhaps most relevant to listeners of the LIDAR Magazine podcasts is the Open Geospatial Consortium or OGC. Its standards are in daily use in geospatial practice, it’s involved with the ASPRS LAS lidar format and we’re going to learn a whole lot more about it today.

I’m delighted to welcome Scott Simmons, Chief Standards Officer of OGC. Scott, welcome to the LIDAR Magazine podcasts.

Scott Simmons: Thank you, Stewart. It’s a real pleasure to be here again and great to chat with you as always.

Dr. Stewart Walker: I met Scott first when he was Executive Director at CACI, the defense contractor formally called TechniGraphics. He left there in 2014 to join OCG and has steadily climbed the ladder there to his current position.

When I was with BAE Systems some time before I retired, I had occasion to visit CACI in Fort Collins, Colorado and learned all about Scott’s love of blowing things up. Maybe we’ll talk a bit about that in a few minutes.

Scott’s education is in geology with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University.

So, Scott, why don’t you start by telling us a little more about yourself. Your degrees are in geology. Did you use them in your chosen profession? And what did you explode? How did your career develop and progress? And, importantly, why did you leave CACI to join OCG?

Scott Simmons: Yes, Stewart. So, I did start with an education in geology and my initial career was working as a geologist in the oil and gas industry either looking for or developing oil exploration targets in North Africa, the Gulf Coast of the US, Wyoming and a whole bunch of other places.

And one thing you’ll find in geology common to a lot of other resource-oriented fields is that everything is basically communicated via map. And while a geologist, the first day I showed up for my job at Marathon Oil Company in Lafayette, Louisiana many, many years ago, I found on my desk a stack of mylar sheets and an electric eraser. I had never seen an electric eraser before, but that was a harbinger of times to come that you drew a lot of things in pencil and you did a lot of erasing.

That became quite tedious over time and I thought, “There’s got to be a way to do with a computer.” So, I figured out how to get my VAX workstation’s spreadsheet to pump out some of the calculations I needed and plot them on a big piece of paper that I could then trace—still on my mylar—and pretty soon I was doing geospatial work and over time decided that living on oil rigs was a whole lot less fun than making maps on a computer and moved on to that career.

And so I continued doing that work geospatially with TechniGraphics for a large number of years; we were eventually acquired by CACI and, yes, I loved to blow things up at that time. We had some good work doing a great cooperative research and development agreement with Los Alamos National Labs and were working on using 3D geospatial information in the OGC CityGML format as source for doing analysis for counterterrorism, disaster management and other things with respect to damaging structures.

And so, yes, I was getting to blow things up and doing it in standards the whole time. And that love of standards and all those activities I had in OGC over the years where I chaired a number of working groups eventually led to an opportunity to actually join the organization and help push these standards forward and it was really something I couldn’t turn down. All my best friends were now working with OGC either as members or staff and it was a great place to land and I’ve been thrilled ever sense.

Dr. Stewart Walker: That’s super. It’s always heartwarming to hear about a career that has gone the way that the person likes and at the same time results in significant contributions.

But going back a long time, I remember this vividly in the very early days of OGC one of its first leaders, I think it was former Chief Technical Officer Dr. Carl Reed, said at a conference, “OGC is (inaudible) lines of people who used to have good jobs.” It’s changed a bit since then, hasn’t it?

Scott Simmons: {Laughter} Yes, that’s a great quote from Carl who lives just down the road from me and remains a very good friend. Yes, a lot has changed. OGC remains and always has been driven by people’s passion. People that want to commit to standardization work have to put in extra time; it’s not super-easy to get paid to do this, so it is a lot of time, personal time or a little bit carved out from your own professional time.

And as Carl indicated, for a lot of these pioneers in the early days of standardization and the early days of OGC, that meant sacrificing career aspirations sometimes. If you’re spending 10 hours a week doing some very detailed worked on standards that your employer may not understand the relevance of, it can be a challenge.

I think what’s really changed over the last decade or so is it’s become much more evident that this standardization work has both professional and commercial impact and so be it a government employee or a private sector employee, there is a lot more relevance in some of these standards now to their daily jobs and it’s easier for us in the geospatial standards community to convey the value of that work to employing organizations.

So, maybe those good jobs are going to remain good jobs for these people in the future.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Great. Well, before we go into detail on the OGC organization, please tell us briefly about some of its biggest successes. How has it made a difference to people’s daily lives?

Scott Simmons: The successes a lot of times might feel a bit indirect to many of us because the spatial concepts and the things you standardize sometimes are a bit under the hood. But OGC was founded the year after the Web was introduced to all of us.

And the folks that set up OGC instantly recognized the value of the World Wide Web as a tool in people’s lives and the fact that we needed to be able to get spatial information to the Web consistently and repeatedly.

And in doing so first publish a standard called Simple Features way back in 1988 that describes how you put the geometry of things on Earth into a database and that’s in every database you’d see, that shows up in every single Web application you know about, it’s under the hood everywhere. It’s why we can use maps on our mobile decisions and our Web platforms. And then a number of Web service standards that brought this data to the Web more natively were developed.

We so while we may not always see an OGC brand on work we’re doing, you can’t navigate with your mobile device without an OGC standard under the hood ensuring that all those rogue networks connect and are navigable.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Excellent. So, please explain the structure of OGC: there’s membership, leadership, committees, operations and so on.

Scott Simmons: Yes. OGC is established as a consortium of more than 500 organizations across the globe; those are about at the current time 40% from the commercial sector, 30% from government and 30% from research and academia. So, that consortium really is the heart of the OGC.

We maintain a relatively light staff as well with some leadership to assist those members and achieving the goals of standardization and the objectives of the consortium and we roughly divide ourselves into two major functioning elements: one is standardization, something that I look after, where we work with our members to ensure that the standards are developed, move through our process, public, et cetera.

And then we have another operation and is our Collaborative Solutions and Innovations Program or COSI and that program focuses on performing and managing applied research to ensure that those standards are meeting the needs of the real world and the community as well as identifying new requirements that perhaps could need standardization.

But as you dig in a little bit more deeper into the membership, we do organize then the members into some committees to ensure that we can have some focus and we have things referred to as domain working groups that talk about domains of interest. A very important one for today’s conversation is the point cloud domain working group, but we also have one on 3D information management and so there’s some overlap and some integration between the groups.

And we have standards working groups where we actually do the process of writing the standards and achieving consensus to assure that those standards are representative of our entire member base.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Well, I’m sure some listeners have noticed perhaps on LinkedIn or other places OCG has a change at the very top quite recently, hasn’t it?

Scott Simmons: Yes, our former Chief Executive Officer, our CEO and President, Dr. Nadeen Alameh left us in July. She was a wonderful person to work with and really made some major impact on OGC and set us ready for some future activities.

And so since that time we’ve had a search ongoing for a new Chief Executive Officer. Those of us who are the senior members of the staff have maintained the organization and continue to do what we had to do.

But we have just recently hired a new Chief Executive Officer. By the time people listen to the podcast that will probably be publicly announced; I wish I could say more right now, but we’re quite excited with new leadership in OGC, some new ideas that can, I think, help us even be more relevant to our community. And it still continues the tradition of working for the public good as the consortium objective.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Well, help us understand the process for creating and maintaining a standard. I mean, I understand that in recent months you’ve started to look harder at the maintenance side, not just the creation, but the ongoing maintenance and you told me that you’re moving from a pull process more to a push one in line with ISO. So, how does that whole process work?

Scott Simmons: Yes. So, the standardization process in OGC has an overarching rule that all standards are developed by consensus. That means that we must collectively agree that the work to be standardized is valuable for the community, is unique or useful enough that it should be standardized and that the majority of our membership agrees this is a good approach.

Consensus does not mean unanimous consent; there are times when people maybe don’t agree but we work together to ensure that it is the best work that addresses the most member needs.

And so, we need to have some formalized structure to ensure this consensus plays by rules and that everybody understands what those rules are. So, every new proposed standard in OGC must have a home in what’s referred to as a Standards Working Group that I mentioned earlier; we just call them SWGs and a SWG is established to work on or maybe multi parts of a standard focused in a particular area.

So, as an example, there is a Standards Working Group right now for an API for moving feature data—that is, objects that move through space and time—and that Standards Working Group is focused right now on that API. But the group was originally chartered to look at standards just to describe how you collect, share and integrate information about moving features.

And so, it’s evolved its scope of time. Our membership keep abreast of this and ensure that they have to vote to activate new changes to what the working group is going to do and then that working group can take off and start working on its standard itself.

Members join these working groups based on their interests; it’s not obligatory so you join those that you want to and a Standards Working Group may have anywhere from 20 to a couple of hundred very active people depending on how popular that standard is or how broad it might be in applicability to our community.

The working group develops use cases, defines requirements, targets for standardization, works against a template that we’ve developed so that all this information’s conveyed in a consistent way and over time write a draft standard that then goes through a series of reviews internally by our architecture board, we send them all out to public comment, 100% of OGC standards are released before publication to the public for their insight.

And then once all of those insights are gathered we make adaptions as needed, change the standard, go back to a vote and once approved by the OGC membership, we publish that standard and make it available for free to anyone in the world. You just go to our website, you can download the standard and you can do whatever you want with it: you can implement it as is. If you think it’s a foundation for something greater you can take it and modify it—as long as you give us credit—and do more with it.

And that’s led over the years to a changing but very healthy relationship we’ve had with ISO. As many people might be aware, ISO often is the standardization body that governments use for formal legal standards to be implemented.

And so a lot of governments like to see spatial work that we’ve been doing at OGC reflected in ISO and over the history of our relationship, OGC used to pull ISO foundational standards into our process as the backdrop, that upon which we built newer standards and that remains and that’s successful.

But in recent years as nations need more sophisticated and more user-centric standards and abilities, we have been pushing OGC standards as they’re published into the ISO process for adoption there and so the standard might be written and approved in OGC.

We then submit it to ISO for consideration, it goes through ISO’s own processes to be adopted as a standard, it’s published by ISO and in some cases that process finds little adjustments that make our standard better and we then reflect those back in our own and publish something so that you have identical standards in OGC and ISO.

And I think that’s really valuable for our community. I’ve been really pleased with how well it’s worked. I think you would find the ISO community has been quite open-minded to some ideas from OGC members that they don’t get to see. ISO, unfortunately, doesn’t get as nearly as much industrial cooperation and participation as we do in OGC and so some of those concepts and ideas emerging in our industry cannot be quickly reflected in ISO; they sort of need to step through us first.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Thank you. And now for a word from our sponsor, LAStools.

The LIDAR Magazine Podcast is brought to you by rapidlasso. Our LAStools software suite offers the fastest and most memory efficient solution for batch-scripted multi-core lidar processing. Watch as we turn billions of lidar points into useful products at blazing speeds with impossibly low memory requirements. For seamless processing of the largest datasets, we also offer our BLAST extension. Visit rapidlasso.de for details.

Dr. Stewart Walker: So, Scott, where would you say that lidar comes into OGC’s work? And in particular, you’ve mentioned the point cloud, the main working group and clearly listeners would very much like to be updated on the people involved there and the work that it’s doing.

And I think it’s worth saying that although we are LIDAR Magazine, we’re obviously interested in any of your point cloud-centric activities which could embrace, for example, photogrammetrically derived data, sonar, synthetic aperture radar and so on.

Scott Simmons: Sure. The point cloud domain working group is purposely named that because we did consider, as you noted at the end of this comment, that point cloud data are not necessarily all from lidar sources and while today I’ll focus more on the lidar content, we recognize that point cloud data are derived by all sorts of means.

And we want to have some uniformity in how point cloud data are considered because if they’re spatial in nature and they’re tied to the Earth’s surface, be they underwater or above air or any place in between, they still need to have common reference, common accessibility and the ability to integrate with other standards be that for analysis, for presentation, for further calculations and such. And so we have a domain working group to talk about point clouds in all of their various forms and use cases.

This domain working group is brilliantly chaired by Stan Tillman of Hexagon and Jan Boehm of University College London; they’ve done just utterly brilliant work in bringing together a very diverse community with a lot of diverse opinions. All of you in the lidar world know there are 40-something accepted formats for storing lidar point cloud data right now in the marketplace. Some like LAS are adopted as standards by many in the community, others are somewhat casual, ASTM has the E57, et cetera.

That landscape is complicated. The last thing the world needs is OGC to make one more. I think there’s an (inaudible), the comment about that recently. Rather, what we want to do is identify commonalities, how those standards are used, how the specifications might be further modified in the future and identify the best places to integrate those within our framework of standards or be open to point cloud data in its myriad of forms and help people converge their data for common analysis and common planning.

So, the working group has over the past few years focused on taking surveys of our community to see who’s using what formats and how they’re using the data, what scales of data are being analyzed and it’s focused a bit more now on, again, trying to harmonize across those various specs and standards for integration of the data and, more importantly, to be able to push it through a pipeline to be used in a standards-based ecosystem.

So, how do you bring point cloud data into your enterprise and push it out via Web service that’s standardized, one of the OGC Web services or API interfaces? How might you bring in point cloud data that is going to eventually be used to calculate data that you’re going to store in a data cube or an (sounds like: evoxal) basis and so how do we bring point cloud data and integrate with HDF5 models or Zarr or other things.

And that discussion continues in the working group and I think has been very, very productive over the years and one of those places where our process works well and we’ve done a very good job of accepting that other things embedded elsewhere are better than something we can create and let’s accept that.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Yes, I know John and talked to him extensively at the ISPRS Geospatial Week in Cairo last September. So, maybe I’ll leverage that and see if I can persuade him to write something for us about that domain working group.

Well, you mentioned there the ASPRS LAS specification and that is an OGC community standard. So, what does that actually mean? How does it work? How is LAS maintained?

Scott Simmons: Yes, that’s exactly what I ended on earlier was that we recognize that there are other specifications and standards that were developed external to OGC that are perfectly suited for their purpose and were developed by a community of experts that don’t need us to do something new.

And so, we built this new process several years ago of community standards where we acknowledge and externally develop specification as being very valuable and our members endorse it as part of our standards baseline.

We work with the originators of that specification to ensure that it can be freely shared as all of our other standards are, that they’re willing to submit it to us for consideration; and they take a stable snapshot of their spec that is widely adopted, bring it to us and with review and voting by our members, we then publish a version of that.

We leave it as identical as humanly possible to what was originally published—ideally we just put another cover page on it—make it available to our members and then access that as a foundational element of the rest of our standards.

So, LAS, we worked closely was ASPRS to bring that into OGC as a community standard version at 1.4. The rules for the community standards are we don’t own the work nor should we own the work nor should we develop revisions.

And so ASPRS as the expert holder of that standard will continue to develop it at their pace with their insight and when they come to a next stable version and consider it to be widely adopted in the community, they have the right to bring it back to us and ask for an update and we will then update the community standard.

We might gently pull and beg them to give it to us for an update because our user community will want that and anyone in the OGC community who has insider ideas is free to share those with ASPRS and we’ll help facilitate that and bring some of those ideas to ASPRS. There’s no obligation for the last community to take those into consideration, but they do. They’ve been very welcoming of ideas.

And so, LAS will evolve, as run by ASPRS, but ideally with some insight from other members of the community who maybe weren’t involved in the past.

For maintenance, again, it’s that whole process of benchmarking at stable releases. So, we do demand of a community standard that it be used widely in the community, widely as defined by that maybe they use their base. Obviously, we’re not using LAS for a whole lot of things, but we are using it for point cloud data. And that each of those versions be maintained in a stable fashion, that they’re not living documents.

But those are relatively minor considerations and, quite frankly, for something like LAS, I don’t think there’s any desire to have it changing every three weeks with little subtleties.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Well, that sounds very much like a successful synergy. And in the same vein, I know that you’ve been talking to rapidlasso, our sponsor which develops supports and markets LAStools about its LAZ compressed lidar format. Where does that activity stand?

Scott Simmons: We’re very enthusiastic to be working with rapidlasso on LAZ. We have had a number of discussions over the last two years about how that might be something suitable from the OGC process. As you’re all aware who are listening to this today, LAZ is very widely used in the community as well and so it meets all those criterial we might have for a community standard.

And so, (Inaudible) has heroically dedicated a lot of time and budget to recasting LAZ which is primarily right now code and technical publications that describe some of the math behind the code and recasting that into a specification.

And so we have a proposal for LAZ to enter OGC as a community standard and the work is nearing completion. I have seen early drafts that are absolutely brilliantly written and quite clear and quite implementable.

And as such, once LAZ can enter OGC as a community standard, it would be at a benchmark and that benchmark would obviously be tied to the underlying source LAS and that would make, one, the standard available to our membership as part of standards baseline.

Perhaps even more importantly on the second case as by being an adopted OGC standard it becomes procurable by a lot of government agencies. Particularly here in North America, US, Canada and Mexico have all mandated that OGC standards as approved by the governments’ internal agencies that maintain those standards can be formal US standards and then approved as such, or Canadian standards or Mexican standards.

And having LAZ in that formal bucket as an approved standard is certainly good for our community, certainly good for rapidlasso and something that our membership would very much widely welcome.

So, it’s going exceptionally well. I hope to see a lot more by our next member meeting coming up in June in Montreal, Canada.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Well, in my mind I associate OGC with standards for data transfer and our conversation thus far confirms that. ASPRS on the other hand provides a standard called [ASPRS Accuracy Standards for Digital Geospatial Data] that edition two of that has been published quite recently.

Now, that’s not a data transfer standard, but it’s a standard nonetheless. Is it, therefore, not of interest to OGC?

Scott Simmons: It’s an interesting answer because it’s both of incredible interest and absolute non-interest at the same time.

Going backwards, OGC recognizes that there are places where other experts are going to do the most applicable work possible far beyond what we could generate and those experts are already accepted by the community.

When we look at things such as data accuracy and data quality, we recognize that there is a history going back literally hundreds of years of this kind of work being done by organizations such as ASPRS and plenty of other governments and such. And they should continue to own that expertise in those standards because they’ve been successful and so we should not try to replicate those.

But that being said, we understand it’s foundational to everything we do. If we’re going to have a standard that exchanges data, it is best if those data are attached to some metadata that talks about accuracy in positional – precisional accuracy. And those metadata need to be in a common format and we need to understand what that means.

And so, instead of working on those measures and those accuracies, we are focusing on building standards and registries for storing data quality measures in a fashion—if they’re electronically accessible—so that your data can be accompanied by a link to a record in a registry that states the positional accuracy is per the ASPRS position accuracy standard with any other identifying information about the characteristics of that accuracy and that you have knowledge that that is an authoritative body that has developed that standard and the linkage to that work in the metadata ensures that the data you are exchanging meets that standardized accuracy.

So, we want to make that kind of accuracy standard accessible to those that need to use the data transfer or Web service and such OGC offers, we want these communities to continue to develop these standards and do them in a fashion that we can then link back to them and nothing more.

And it’s been quite valuable. I’ll give another hats off to Ivana Ivanova with Curtin University in Australia who has been leading a joint effort in OGC and ISO Technical Community 211 to ensure that these registries are available to the entirety of the geospatial community and perpetuity and for free.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Thank you. That makes sense and I agree with you. That is the most constructive way to make progress and ensure that these standards are used in a practical way and metadata is key.

Now, you mentioned there and you’ve mentioned a number of times ISO. What are the kinds of formal relationships between OGC and other standards organizations? Are you members of each other or do you have a memoranda of understanding? How does that work?

Scott Simmons: We do work with a number of other standards bodies, not just in the geospatial field but in related or fields that require geospatial information or geospatial insight.

And there’s a handful of means; most of them are memoranda of understanding and so we establish a mutual membership in each other’s organizations and are able to provide a couple of OGC members and staff back into that other body to assist them and vice versa. They bring some of their staff or members into our organization to work with us.

Some we do formalized liaisons. ISO has an exceptionally formal process for linkage and so with a number of ISO working committees, technical committees, we have what’s known as a Category A Liaison which means we’re an authoritative standards development organization, our work can be considered for inclusion in ISO and we represent on an observer basis our organization in the ISO process, so we can help comment and deliberate it, even help them develop standards; we just don’t get to vote, but that’s perfectly acceptable.

And so not just the geomatics and geoinformation that’s Technical Committee 211, we work with Technical Committee 204 in ISO that deals with intelligent transportation systems, we work with our imagery communities, their artificial intelligence, smart cities, et cetera.

And that’s also reflected in a lot of other bodies. A very successful relationship in recent years that deals with point cloud data a lot is that we have with the International Hydrographic Organization, so IHO. IHO is dedicated to safety and navigation across the seas, IHO is the body that develops the standards for nautical charting, including the source information like bathymetry and such.

And so we’ve been working very closely with them on integration of standards. Obviously moving across the globe on the ocean is still a geospatial problem, so how can they use the latest developments from OGC and in modernizing their standards and how can we ensure that we write standards that are supportive of their use cases?

And a lot of that lately has been working on bathymetry and so the BAG format, the Bathymetric Attributed Grid format for point cloud bathymetry data is being considered also as a community standard in OGC as a means to help integrate our communities better.

Dr. Stewart Walker: And, coming back from the seas onto land, one of the organizations with which you’re working increasingly is buildingSMART International. That’s an organization that manages processes and standards for data related to built assets. For example, building information models, BIM.

I think that’s important in view of the rapidly growing importance of digital twins for which lidar is a primary data source. So, could you say more about your relationship with buildingSMART International?

Scott Simmons: Yes. buildingSMART International is an excellent example of a really fruitful relationship where we have an interesting opportunity in that our two work areas may come from different perspectives but there is an overlap and that overlap is where we can best meet and identify information about data exchange, data interoperability and data lifecycle management that addresses both of our perspectives but yet keeps each of the expert fields able to do the work in their own way.

And the example of BIM is if you were developing an actual physical building, you have architects and engineers, perhaps, who are going to design that building, that building is designed on a cartesian coordinate system: XY with a local origin; a corner of the building and you’re ten meters north and – or ten meters in one dimension on a piece of paper away from that where you’re going to start a column. And, of course, a lot of that data is in 3D.

And further, as the buildings were built they may be then better measured with as-builts derived from lidar data and so we may have point cloud data all operating within that building identity, its location relative to some origin in the building.

But that building is part of a larger campus or a city or a community or a globe and that is somewhere in the real world. And so tying the very local nature of building development to the global reference system that the geospatial community offers as well as understanding that that building probably went through a permitting process and that permitting process was very largely geospatial in nature, because you had to consider the view shed, you have to consider pavement and whether that pavement was going to alter issues such as runoff and flooding concerns, et cetera, many of those operations occur in a geospatial sense.

And so that continuous movement between the building space and the geospatial space is really important to us and so we’ve worked very closely with buildingSMART International for years now on identifying those aspects of where we can work on common understanding.

We actually jointly developed a standard for alignment, that’s how you do sort of linear referencing at an infrastructure level so roads, railroads, pipelines, et cetera, because that infrastructure level is really where the building meets the geography and that was a place where we could find some common standardization. And so now we share a fundamental alignment model upon which we’re building other standards.

We also fully understand that the BIM community developed some very, very detailed information about buildings and they might capture an exceptionally dense point cloud data to describe the interior of a room that is really not relevant from a geospatial sense.

And so how do we aggregate or thin that data to be useful in a geospatial sense and what amount of data might need to make a round trip? Bring it out of BIM, into GIS and back again. And what doesn’t need to make a round trip?

And so those are the deliberations we’re having how in working quite closely with buildingSMART and continue to do that in joint meetings via conferences. Stewart, you and I both are on the advisory board for Geo Week, we talk about that a lot during the Geo Week conference. It’s an excellent relationship and I think we found some great places to work, again, so our sort of grey overlap area.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Yes, more good news about OGC. So, as we’re coming towards the end of our conversation, I want to circle back and then by talking a little bit more about OGC the organization and in particular the membership. Is your membership growing? Is it diversifying?? You’ve already indicated that it divides into the commercial, government and academic research communities. But what about its geography or any other forms of categorization that you use?

Scott Simmons: Yes, the growth and diversity has been really fantastic in the last decade. OGC has grown in number of members, in region of members and on the regional fractional makeup of our membership.

Originally in the earliest years there was a very heavy emphasis in North America and then European members became more and more common and eventually others in Asia and other parts of the world.

And if you look at our makeup now, the North America and Europe are fairly similar in proportion. Asia is our fastest growing region with membership, the Asia-Pacific area. But we do have now increasing membership coming from Africa which has really been exciting to see that kind of diversification.

I think I’ve done the calculation correctly that we have a member in all but two of inhabited time zones in the world, so that global nature of OGC is real. We really are global in our makeup and we’ve, perhaps most importantly, have all diversified our highest levels in membership, those that help form our strategy from being very, very much North American-based to being globally based.

We have strategic and principal members, our highest categories of members, in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa at this moment. And so that diversity and insight means that we have to be a bit more focused on ensuring the work we do is relevant to (inaudible) the communities and communities of different levels of sophistication and what type of infrastructure they have, what type of connectivity they have, et cetera.

And I think that diversity has been really good for us. I’m not saying it’s the only reason, but it’s an important reason why if you look at OGC standards developed in the last seven or eight years in particular, they had tended to be mush simpler, more focused, solving one little problem at a time and not monolithic, one-standard-to-rule-them-all approaches.

And a lot of that comes from these members who tell us that we don’t need to adopt some giant sophisticated thing that’s going to require us to have 20 developers on staff. We need something that we can do with our more limited resources and this has just been invaluable.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Thank you. So, to end, what do you think about the future of OGC? Do you intend to be part of that future? And I guess this is the time to talk about strategic insights if you want to.

Scott Simmons: Well, I certainly plan to be part of the future. I love working for OGC, it’s a lot of fun. It’s mostly because of all these great members I get to work with all the time every day. That’s what I spent my entire day doing is talking to these folks about problems we want to solve, what we want to do.

And I think when you look at our future, this internationalization is a major part of it, becoming far more responsive to the needs of diverse communities and communities in regions of the world that have not necessarily been doing some of these spatial things for 30, 40, 50 years.

We have opportunities – for instance, we’ve been working quite closely with Ukraine over the last couple of years where they look at the opportunity to leapfrog a lot of other nations with new infrastructure, new technologies and such as we rebuild their nation.

And members we have in Africa that are coming to us with disconnected data management is a really important topic for lots of their areas and how do we ensure our standards perform well in those areas.

So, yes, for strategy it really is to be able to address this greater diversity in our stakeholders, and to be able to integrate new ideas from regions where we’ve really not worked as much in the past and we’re seeing a lot of that with new work coming particularly out of China in recent years.

And the strategy is to continue that. And, in fact, I think we will see under our new leadership even more effort to integrate with the developing world and more effort to try to work with those people who are actually hands-on doing the work.

We now have run code sprints, at least three or four a year, where we bring software developers into one of our environments and work against these standards with the real developers who do the work, not the policymakers who some steps above them tell those developers ultimately what to do.

And so that democratization of our work with respect to the levels of expertise is also going to be very important in the coming years.

Dr. Stewart Walker: Scott, thank you very much indeed. I’ve really appreciated this conversation and I wish you well in your work leading OGC through challenges and adaptations as the years unfold.

Scott Simmons: Well, thank you, Stewart, so much for allowing me to join you today on this podcast and thanks to your listeners and all the great work at LIDAR News. It’s been really fantastic for the LIDAR Magazine work in the last few years. So, thank you so much.

Dr. Stewart Walker: I’m sure listeners will have thoroughly enjoyed your company and comments today. I hope that we’ll be able to have further guests from OGC on our podcasts.

I also want to underline our gratitude to our sponsor, the popular LAStools lidar processing software.

We hope that listeners will join us for forthcoming podcasts. We are expecting some guests whom we believe you’ll want to hear. Thank you for listening and good day.

Announcer:           Thanks for tuning in. Be sure to visit lidarmag.com/podcast/ to arrange automated notification of new podcast episodes, subscribe to newsletters, our print publication and more. If you have a suggestion for a future episode, contact us. Thanks again for listening.

This edition of the LIDAR Magazine Podcast is brought to you by rapidlasso. Our flagship product, the LAStools software suite is a collection of highly efficient, multicore command line tools to classify, tile, convert, filter, raster, triangulate, contour, clip, and polygonize lidar data. Visit rapidlasso.de for details.