[OSGeo-Standards] OGC vote on LAS 1.4 as a community standard

Howard Butler howard at hobu.co
Mon Jan 30 08:28:49 PST 2017

On Jan 29, 2017, at 6:20 PM, Martin Isenburg <martin.isenburg at gmail.com> wrote:

> Maybe Howard Butler - also a member of the LWG - should weigh in here.

The LWG is a bit dysfunctional, although I would be much more charitable in my characterization of it than you've been. It is accurate to say that ASPRS is not a great home for making computer data interchange standards, and the (light) process that has iterated the ASPRS LAS document going forward has been too on-the-fly.  

Its results have been significant, however. There is wide adoption in the lidar community, and all of that momentum is going to act as a drag on rapid evolution of the format. There's a few things to fix, like the GPS time issue, or references to now-ratified SRS standards, but on the whole there isn't a lot more to do. Maybe the committee has the energy for another iteration, but proposals of big changes are likely to fall flat. LAS 1.4 adoption itself hasn't been super fast, and yet another tick of the document is likely to drag things out even further.

I'd note that LAS is very much just a lidar community point cloud format with a geospatial focus, and the *other* point cloud communities (point clouds from imagery, sonar, radar) all have their own formats. PDAL's take on the problem is the same as GDAL's -- application drives the data organization, but format-agnostic access to content is still valuable. There's nearly 200 raster drivers in GDAL. I don't think there's going to be 200 point cloud formats supported by PDAL, but there will be many more formats in the future as more enter this white hot field. 

> what is the point of making LAS 1.4 an "OGC community standard"? What does it accomplish?

It is essentially a stamp that defines the document in a way that some government organizations to use it as a reference going forward. For some organizations, this has a lot of impact, but for most others it has none. It is an attempt to bring to light defacto standards that have long been lurking in the background (GeoTIFF and Shapefile being the classic examples). It is also a signal to OGC membership that the domain covered by the community specification is quite settled and efforts within the organization should seek to build with or upon it, rather than in opposition to it.


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