Thursday I participated in the Oracle Spatial Users Conference. It seemed to me that this was the best attended Oracle Spatial User Conference yet. There were a number of very interesting talks, but two of them struck me as not only interesting, but also important and relevant for the broad geospatial community because they were indicative of a major technical advance becoming a reality.
Both the City of Tacoma and the City of San Jose in their respective presentations described deployed municipal IT systems that shared geospatial data stored in Oracle Locator or Spatial among applications from multiple vendors. In the case of Tacoma, this involved applications from Smallworld, ESRI, and Autodesk. The City of San Jose shares its geospatial information among applications from Intergraph, Autodesk, Bentley, ESRI, and MapInfo. In both cities the IT folks that implemented geospatial data sharing had to be creative, but the bottom line is that it works. The City of Tacoma was represented at the conference by JR Smith, who gave a presentation entitled "Achieving GIS Interoperability is Like Getting PIGS to Fly", which in itself indicates that creativity is required. In both cases the key was assigning a custodian for each data item. It was interesting that the challenge was not sharing the spatial data itself, but managing the metadata about the spatial data. Metadata is vendor-specific and is managed by each vendor's application. Another challenge was annotation, which is the subject of a revision working group (SFS RWG) within the OCG. But for me the writing is on the wall, organizations are sharing data among multiple vendor applications using Oracle Spatial. When JR Smith explained to the audience that PIGS stands for Productive Interoperable Geospatial System, it became clear that Tacoma and San Jose have shown the way and that PIGS can fly.