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Within the past decade, four organizations have began working on information technology standards to benefit the real estate market and related sectors such as mortgage, property valuation, architecture, engineering and construction markets. The four–the Open Geospatial Consortium Inc, the Appraisal Institute, the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization and the Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate–have distinct but complimentary functions.

Each group addresses the data needs of different stakeholders, explains Sam Bacharach, executive director of the Wayland, MA-based OGC, an industry consortium supporting interoperable solutions that “geo-enable” the Web, wireless and location-based services and mainstream IT. He continues, “Data standards represent agreement. The agreement is one between individual firms—often, competitors—to use a common format for data interchange. This agreement does not threaten any competitive advantage held by these firms. Rather, reducing unnecessary complexity in an area common to all firms allows innovators to concentrate on their core competencies.”

But for the uninitiated, the challenge is understanding the different roles of each group. GlobeSt.com asked Bacharach for a guide to the multiple organizations. So here’s a primer to help you sort it out.

1.The Appraisal Institute initiated its first data standardization projects in 1998 with the development of an appraisal data standard for residential properties. It followed it up in 2001 with a set of appraisal standards for commercial properties. As the trend toward electronic communication became increasingly clear, the AI made a to a framework for interoperability with other standards development organizations. Real estate professionals say the Appraisal Institute’s development of these standards improved efficiencies in the industry vertical of appraising real estate and helped streamline the interchange of data between different residential appraisal software packages.

2.The nine-year-old Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization is a non-profit subsidiary of the Mortgage Bankers Association that develops XML-based data standards for the mortgage industry. It has published specifications that support mortgage insurance application, mortgage insurance, secondary, bulk pricing, real estate services, credit reporting, and underwriting process areas. The specifications are freely available via the MISMO website for industry implementation. The organization is committed to working with other standards bodies to attain interoperability in methods that work for both.

3.The Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate International drives the development, synthesis and adoption of e-business standards that enable the real estate industry to function effectively and efficiently. It’s goal is to facilitate greater coordination, standardization and collaboration among key stakeholders in the real estate industry–corporations, public agencies, service providers, management consulting organizations, software vendors, and suppliers. Web-based technology is central to this effort. The need for a standard methodology and language is fundamental for the corporate real estate “supply chain” to operate and communicate within today’s e-business environment. The supply chain represents all the players involved in the corporate real estate business, such as corporate real estate departments, owners, developers, property management firms, brokerage firms, various service providers, and suppliers. Regardless of the industry, all real estate groups have the same needs, even if they speak different languages.

4.The Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. is leading the development of standards for geospatial and location based services. “Geospatial” online services provide data or information about things and events that are referenced to a specific location. Geospatial data might describe a land use zone or flood zone; the business occupying a specific floor in a building at a particular street address; the position, orientation, and technical specifications of a surveillance camera, for example. ‘‘Location-based services” are services that tell you, for example, via your cell phone, that the nearest gas station is four blocks ahead on the right-hand side of the road. The OGC is a horizontal standards organization whose standards are important in multiple industries. Geospatial standards matter in the real estate industry because it features land parcels and permanent man-made improvements and structures on the land. Standards are particularly important in the world of information technology, because massive networking of information systems potentially yields powerful benefits, and networking is impossible without standards. The benefits of network-based information systems are obvious in many industries, but widespread and thorough application of such systems has been slow to arrive in the real estate industry and related industries. This is partly because the standards issues are more complicated. But these issues are now being addressed by the aforementioned organizations and by the OGC. A large number of OGC members are particularly interested in Building Information Models (standard schemas for recording and conveying virtually any information about a building), CAD/GIS Integration (integration of computer-aided design and geographic information systems), and Open Location Services standards, all of which will benefit stakeholders in real property value chains. The OGC is involved because all of these types of standards have an essential geospatial or geographic location component.

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