Before I get my flight back home I thought I’d spend 10 minutes writing up this years AIXM Conference or should I say Air Transportation Information Exchange Conference because firstly there’s been a name change – and for good reason! In the past the conference has been the annual stateside get together to discuss AIXM (the Aeronautical Information eXchange Model) however, last year saw the introduction of WXXM (the Weather information eXchange Model) and this year FIXM (the Flight Information eXchange Model) was born, so as you see its not really fair for AIXM to take the limelight – thus the conference name change.
Anyway, onto the conference, this year was held at the NOAA offices in Silver Spring, Maryland and was very well attended I’d say somewhere near the 300-400 mark. Snowflake had a stand and Debbie and I carried over the usual transatlantic Snowflake marketing machine (see right) but this was no ordinary flight across the pond as Debbie and I were on one of the last flights allowed to land in Washington Dulles before hurricane Irene hit Maryland – to say it was an eventful flight was an understatement, all credit to Virgin for getting us there on time and more importantly alive!
Anyway, really, really, getting back to the conference. There was a good keynote from Vicki Cox Senior Vice President for NextGen, it was good to hear that prior to joining the FAA Vicki worked on the strategic missile defence initiative and the Hubble programme – now that’s what I call a career. Interestingly whilst Vicki didn’t think NextGen was even close to the technical challenges of her previous roles she did think NextGen was going to be the most difficult to implement, mainly because of the huge number of stakeholders involved (aka politics). After the keynote came Nancy Kalinowski who had a nice slide of three witches stirring a caldron of standards soup made of AIXM, WXXM and FIXM – thus the title of my blog post.
As with previous years it was a really busy show for Snowflake mainly because you can’t get a conference so spot on to what we do – data exchange using open standards from the OGC. With AIXM, WXXM and FIXM all based on GML it’s the closest Snowflake gets to commercial nirvana.
This year’s conference started with the launch of the new FIXM exchange model, so being who I am I just had to download the alpha version of the schema from the FIXM site and run it through GO Loader – after all GO Loader has a generic GML parsing engine so it should work without us having to touch the code. Guess what? It did, see for yourself (click on the image to get a larger picture).
It just goes to show that if you stick with open standards there can be vendor support ready and waiting to help accelerate adoption. This has to be a thumbs up for GML.
Moving on from FIXM I did notice that there has been a huge amount progress on the weather side, WXXM is moving at quite a pace, there’s a WXXM 2.0 in the pipeline and there was also quite a number of WFS implementations being stood up. Interestingly one of the talks mentioned that weather information covers about 80% of the data exchanged for ATM, so you can see why it has a lot of momentum at the moment – not to mention all the millions of USD lost because of flight cancellations due to Irene.
Putting the data aside, my favorite session was a trio of talks on the web services side of the data exchange picture. Navin Vembar of the FAA kicked things off explaining the Aeronautical Common Services (ACS) programme, a really interesting programme looking at creating a one-stop shop for authoritative aeronautical information. What makes ACS really interesting is how it relates to some of the thinking we had when I used to work for Ordnance Survey, the idea being you have numerous data capture systems which feed a dedicated data publication system that is solely designed for the distribution of data and services. The important principle being not to mix data maintenance with data supply as they are two completely different use cases – its good to see that same thinking in a totally different domain. Not just that but ACS is really forging ahead with WFS 2.0 so again its good to see a new spec getting put through its paces. Next up Mark Miller of NOAA and Alfred Moosakhanian of the FAA were presenting NNEWs 4-D weather cube, again WFS, WMS and WCS at its core. The trio of talks was finished off by Roger Li of LFV. Representing SESAR, Roger gave an insight into the creation of the Information Service Reference Model (ISRM) within SESAR. The ISRM sets out to define a common service definition required to facilitate data exchange throughout Europe, interestingly whilst SESAR is committed to AIXM and WXXM it hasn’t yet drawn any conclusion as to whether it will re-use the OGC service specifications or whether it will create some tighter industry specific ones. I can definitely see the need for tightened down industry specific services, but personally I think a good approach would be to wrap them around loosely coupled OGC services – a sort of layer cake with the foundation being OGC. What should be avoided it one set of services in the US and a different set in Europe.
Other talks of interest for me included one on XML compression techniques given by Aaron Braekel of NCAR. Here at Snowflake we’ve been working on similar stuff and its an interesting topic to counter the ever popular GML is too verbose argument, EfficientXML(EXI) seems to be winning the day, although Aaron did mention to me in passing that good old gzip compression is good enough which is exactly the same conclusion we’ve come up with. I must also mention Paul Bosman’s talk, whilst I couldn’t make Paul’s talk myself it was the first time in public that Snowflake was mentioned as a SESAR Associate Partner, this is something we’re really proud of winning and we’re looking forward to working with our MOSIA consortium partners on Lot 1-Information Management. In addition to Paul’s talk we also got some good coverage in Nadine’s talk on OWS8-AIM and Glen Landry’s talk on the FAA-SAA pilot that we’ve just finished (there’s a video of what we did in FAA-SAA on our YouTube channel).