OGC moves to address point cloud data

By on 23 June, 2015

point cloud data

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has formed a working group to address standards in point cloud data. The recently formed Point Cloud Domain Working Group (DWG) has published a draft charter and is now seeking comments on the charter for further development, with submissions due 18 July.

The OGC is an international geospatial standards consortium of more than 500 companies, government agencies, research organisations and universities, and already has a number of established working groups. However, the DWG will be the first to specifically address point cloud data. The initial working group members include professionals from organisations such as NASA, Esri, Oracle, USGS and Intergraph.

The draft charter describes the working group as “an open forum for the discussion and presentation of interoperability requirements, use cases, pilots, and implementations of OGC standards in the [point cloud data] domain.” The group will not aim to create new standards but will facilitate discussion to define and understand issues, requirements, use cases or barriers to interoperability that are of concern to the community involved with using point cloud data.

The working group was formed as a response to concerns raised by OGC members about the growing use of point cloud technology and data, including laser scans from aerial and terrestrial platforms (e.g. LiDAR); triangulated elevation points; and dense observations from the meteorological community.

Point cloud data is currently stored in many different formats, which has led to multiple standards across diverse applications, including multi-dimensional scientific data, LiDAR data, elevation data, seismic data, bathymetric data, meteorological data, and fixed/mobile consumer sensors (IoT). The draft charter uses LiDAR as an example, identifying issues arising from the commonly used ASPRS LAS standard format:

“End-user consumption of LAS content for analysis or display requires indexing, optimisation and/or compression of the content, with multiple methods available ranging from vendor-specific indexing schemes to commercial and free optimization and compression toolsets.  Further, more capable LiDAR encoding formats are being developed in specialised communities, such as the Sensor Independent Point Cloud (SIPC) based on HDF5.”

The move to form the DWG comes after the open letter written to ESRI in April, in which over 140 spatial developers and users expressed concern for the future of interoperability between LiDAR applications, due to ESRI choosing to implement a proprietary LiDAR format for use in its ArcGIS software.

The open letter, published on the OSGeo Wiki, states as follows:

“We, the undersigned, are concerned that the current interoperability between LiDAR applications, through use of the open “LAS” format, is being threatened by ESRI’s introduction and promotion of an alternative “Optimized LAS” proprietary format. This is of grave concern given that fragmentation of the LAS format will reduce interoperability between applications and organisations, and introduce vendor lock-in.”

The draft charter for the Point Cloud Domain Working Group is available for review at https://portal.opengeospatial.org/files/64097 . Comments should be sent via email to charter-requests@opengeospatial.org and are due by 18 July 2015.

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