It has been estimated that up to 80% of all information contains some notion of location. This is helping create a greater understanding of the utility of geospatial information as a framework for organizing, portraying and better understanding other information and the relationships of people, places, things and events. Geospatial capabilities are entering the mainstream of information technology and spatial data infrastructures (SDI's) are being implemented to bring together the technologies, policies, standards, and human resources to better utilize geospatial data. SDI's such as the National System for Geospatial-Intelligence (NSG) are using a standards baseline of ISO, Open Geospatial Consortium and other relevant consensus standards and putting service oriented architectures in place to achieve distributed, data-centric, net-centric operations. This stage of development of SDI's is bringing an unprecedented level of interoperability to geospatial data and technology and is setting the stage for an even greater level of future interoperability and data integration. The development of geospatial ontologies and semantic capabilities for integrating well structured geospatial data with unstructured geospatial information existing in other data sets will be the catalyst for this next major step forward.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is in the forefront of examining the current state, future potential and implementation requirements for a semantically enabled geospatial web. This Geospatial Ontology Trade Study is a broad survey of ontologies. An ontology is a formal, explicit, shared conceptualization of a domain and defines the concepts and vocabulary used within a community of interest. The study report outlines the characteristics of the ontologies surveyed and makes recommendations about which are best suited for certain types of uses and identifies further research and work to formalize geospatial ontologies.
The report concludes that there are a number of existing standards-based ontologies which provide building blocks for geospatial representations and makes recommendations for strategic actions to incorporate ontologies and semantic knowledge into the growing base of Geospatial Intelligence capabilities.