An article co-authored by Benjamin Pross, Christoph Stasch, and Albert Remke, of the 52°North Initiative for Geospatial Open Source Software GmbH; and Satish Sankaran and Marten Hogeweg of Esri describes a development that should interest anyone who uses geospatial data. The 52°North Initiative for Geospatial Open Source Software has developed an open-source extension to ArcGIS for Desktop that enables access to Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), Web Processing Services (WPS). The result? This initiative makes it possible for these services to be used in the same manner as native ArcGIS geoprocessing tools. In other words, they appear in the list of tools just as a standard buffer or overlay tool would appear. Yes, it could be just that easy.
The article explains that “while ArcGIS allows geoprocessing tools to be published as a WPS, [ArcGIS] does not offer a WPS client interface. Consequently, it is not easy to access external non-ArcGIS geoprocessing tools such as simulation models, rich data interfaces, or processing capabilities from any other legacy software that supports the WPS interface.” This points to the reason why this initiative offers such promise: “The 52°North Extensible WPS Client for ArcMap was implemented as an open-source extension to ArcGIS that fully integrates into the ArcGIS for Desktop environment. It enables OGC WPS to be accessed and used in the same manner as native ArcGIS geoprocessing tools. This makes it easy to run WPS-based processes and integrate the results of that processing into ArcMap for use with other applications.”
In plain language, because the complex issues grappled with by GIS analysts often require major investments of time to generate models, services, and customized workflows and code, why should each analyst have to create all of this from scratch? An enormous time savings could be realized if there was an easy way to share these things. This article both explains recent progress in this area but also encourages the community to think creatively about how to pursue further collaborative methods.