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Welcome Land Development Civil, Survey Professionals

The Future of LandXML.org and OGC

October 26, 2012

I would really appreciate your input on the future of LandXML. Together, we have more than a decade of great success and It has been my great pleasure to work with you all. I want to give you as much information I have on current events and some about how it started.

First of all, let me assure you that LandXML.org, the namespace and schema xsd file locations will continue to work. I control the domain and will make sure your investment in an effort I started with you continues to be secure. I can say that because I have been personally funding and supporting the domain, web site, schemas and web applications for about 6 years now.

From the Beginning

LandXML was proposed as an XML formatted design standard that grew from the proposed AASHTO E-ASE ASCII file format effort that my company had participated.

I spoke with Steve Brown at NDOR and we agreed to proceed with a different approach by converting E-ASE to a new format XSD called LandXML. The early, most concerning issue was using XML, it was not a finished standard itself, but it showed great promise. Some of the first participants from FDOT agreed and supported that approach. In hindsight we choose well.

For those that have met me personally during the effort and those that have not, I included a few pictures from the very first meeting at IHEEP in 2001. From that very first meeting, aecXML wanted to consider absorbing the newly formed LandXML. We considered, but it was not what they were about. Back then they were about pay items and left building models to IFC (now IFCXML), their initial charter excluded design data because it had been tried before and failed.

I took that as a challenge to focus on design data.

 As you can see in the pictures, at that meeting we showed a demo:


  • I had a laptop running a CAD package shown on the big screen.
  • We exported the data from CAD and it was automatically, wirelessly synced to a pocketPC running a java application that allowed editing and moving a single point.
  • A gentleman from Kentucky DOT moved a cogo point and hit save on the pocketPC. (Picture above shows Dean Bowman and Chris Pair looking at the pocketPC).
  • On the big screen, a window popped up automatically seeing changed data, prompted the user to update or insert.
  • Update was selected, everyone saw the cogo point move to the correct lot corner.
That demo showed XML data could work in intelligent applications and that LandXML provided the design data required.

Here the is the first LandXML booth when we had about 7 participants (I am the dark haired fellow).

Even with a shoestring budget, we were blown away by the amount of attention we received after the demo meeting and that validated our approach. From the beginning LandXML was about doing not talking and planning - and we did not stop until we achieved a very usable version a few years later.

 Right Now

There are tens of thousands LandXML files being used every year to design, survey and build the world’s infrastructure. There are many private and government processes that rely on a stable LandXML standard as do, well, all the software vendors, each with substantial investments made.

 Again, let me assure you that LandXML.org, the namespace and xsd file locations will continue to work. I control the domain and will make sure your investment in an effort I started with you continues to be secure. How did that happen? Six years ago all funding was stopped and I had to personally take over and maintain everything related to LandXML.org. Why? I promised LandXML.org participants that I would keep LandXML.org going and had I not taken action, it would have gone offline years ago.

 LandXML.org has not been updated and Nathan is very quite

Version 1.2 is serving the industry well and there has not been much interest in 1.3 or 2.0 version. So, it has been quite. We all know LandXML is a tremendously successful grassroots style standard that accomplished much more than the three primary goals.

As a reminder, I wrote these back in 2000:

LandXML specifies a design data structure that:

·         Transfers civil engineering / survey design data between producers and consumers.

·         Provide a data format suitable for long-term data archival.

·         Provide a standard format for official electronic design submission.

Thanks to you and your cooperation and work  we have achieved these goals and surpassed them by a long way.

 LandXML Schema Future

Please let me know if there is interest in continuing to the next version of the schema. I have heard about a couple of minor issues, but that is not enough for a new version. Please correct me if I am wrong.


LandXML.org Future

After working with you for 12 years now, it has come to my attention that it appears like at least one standards group is trying to subvert LandXML.org.

Why? One word, Success. That is only because over the past decade hundreds of us have worked together to create a really usable standard that is focused on our industry.

I have participated with ISO, ECMA and OGC for a few years. These organizations require paid memberships to participate in the standards process, on the scale of $5k-50k or more per year for increasing tiers of influence. At last count there are about 650 organizations in LandXML.org:  x*y = $$. Now that we have done the hard work making LandXML successful, according to their public document, OGC is  essentially hijacking LandXML and wants to invite you pay to have any future input. In all fairness, it does cost money to create, build and maintain data standards.

Unfortunately our success has caused other standards groups to wonder how we accomplished something they couldn’t, especially without using a formal organization.

Is the LandXML.org process perfect, no not at all, but what is?

Did we try to work with them? Yes, we did. I have tried to work with other organizations, but the fit was not right nor practical.

If you recall I worked on a research project with OGC to try to see what it would look like and how experimental LandGML would work. The bottom line is much more complex, verbose and the files were 20x larger, so it was not practical. Here are comments on the specific results.

It makes more sense for LandXML to stay in our  industry domain and perhaps work closer with AASHTO or TRB.

Nathan Crews