The GeoPackage Encoding Standard describes a set of conventions for storing the following within an SQLite database : vector features; tile matrix sets of imagery and raster maps at various scales; non-spatial data attributes; extensions.

The primary use case for designing GeoPackage was mobile device use, and that's why SQLite was chosen as a platform.

If all you need is simple exchange and display then GeoPackage may be overkill and something like GeoJSON may be more appropriate. If you are looking for database capabilities like random access and querying then GeoPackage is a platform-independent, vendor-independent choice.
— Open Geospatial Consortium "GeoPackage"



The year is 1978 and the place is the Champaign/Urbana, Illinois in the United States. Home of the University of Illinois (35,000 students) and the Army Corps of Engineer's Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) (about 200 people).

Harvard University had graduated Jack Dangermond with a M.S. in landscape architecture in 1969 and he was now offering geospatial services to clients through his business called the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Harvard had developed a series of GIS capabilities (including SYMAP and ODYSSEY), and the commercial ARCINFO built on the experiences with these systems.

We, at CERL, decided to purchase ARCINFO and entertained Jack Dangermond twice at our laboratory. ARCINFO was clearly the most capable and useful GIS software at the time and Mr. Dangermond was a person that we really wanted as a part of our GIS efforts. Unfortunately, we were not able to fund the $15,000 cost of the software and the $60,000 cost of the minicomputer required to run it.

We decided to develop some marketing tools by demonstrating GIS capabilities using an inexpensive Cromemco Z80 micro-computer. It had about 32KB of memory, ran at 8 Mhz, had 8-inch floppy disks, and a 377x241 pixel 16 color monitor. Between 1978 and 1980 I developed a small GIS package called LAGRID - the Landscape Architecture Gridcell analysis system, for a M.S. thesis project. I ported the FORTRAN-based LAGRID software to this machine and created some sales material, which generated a little bit of funding from the environmental office at Fort Hood, Texas. Unfortunately, this was not enough to enter into the hoped-for long-term relationship with ESRI.

So, we created the Fort Hood Information System (FHIS) using the wonderful programming skills of L. Van Warren. At this time, we tapped into available computers and software : the PDP-11 and the Unix operating system. Unix was developed at Bell Laboratories for their own use, but the government did not allow this telephone company to market their creation. Instead Unix was shared with all interested parties and a growing movement within computer science departments at universities was resulting in lots of software being contributed into the Unix freeware community.

FHIS was UNIX-based and made use of new 300-baud modems (300 bits per second, 40 bytes per second, 0.04Kbps) to connect the Fort Hood users on a vector-based CRT with the software running at the University of Illinois 900 km away. A dot-matrix printer was used to generate black and white maps. Printers at this time did not have associated drivers, but rather manuals describing the printer's language that software needed to generate.

FHIS was successful enough to attract interest from the Fort McClellan, Alabama environmental office, but still not enough funds were available for Jack's ESRI software.

The 300-baud modem experience proved unworkable and we determined that a computer must be placed at the user's site. It is now 1983 and the first small Unix computer was being offered by the just created Sun computer company. Michael O'Shea joined our little group as a programmer and we purchased a Sun-1 computer for our development purposes and one for Fort McClellan.

We delivered a system called IGIS - the Installation GIS. This system moved data from inside the programs (as in FHIS) to data bases, making it possible to use the same software for multiple locations. IGIS sported a Sun color monitor, which was separate from the monochrome monitor used to enter commands. Our Fort McClellan customer, Ray Clark, chief of the environmental office was impressed with the new computer and software for his office. Upon seeing the first map image on the screen, he asked "Can you rotate it?" The Star Trek TV series had really raised expectations within our target user community.

With the success of IGIS we now had interest coming in from several potential customers and we continued adding more capabilities. Another new company offering Unix within a small computer called MASSCOMP provided us with the need to port our software. Also, new color dot-matrix printers allowed us to create our first color hard-copy maps. With a swelling of new customers the need to maintain the software on multiple computers running at multiple sites, we packaged our 20 programs and called the turn-key solution GRASS - the Geographic Resource Analysis Support System. The name continued a series of GIS names based on plants : SAGE (a DOS-based GIS) and MOSS (Mapping Overlay Statistical System) developed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Our suite of GIS demonstration programs, intended to attract enough interest from our user community to allow us to become one of the first ESRI customers, was now packaged and named as a real GIS system. This baby grew rapidly and we abandoned our hope (and need) to purchase ESRI software.

—James Westervelt (2004) "GRASS Roots" Proceedings of the FOSS/GRASS Users Conference Bangkok


GRASS GIS has been under continuous development since 1982, when the US Army Corps of Engineer's Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (USA/CERL) started exploring the use of GIS for environmental research, monitoring and management of military lands. Since no other software package available back then met all their requirements, they designed and developed their own. GRASS GIS was born under the name of Fort Hood Information System (FHIS). Meanwhile, other US federal agencies and environmental offices became interested and the more general purpose GRASS was born. Several universities adopted GRASS as an important training and research environment and many conducted short-courses for the public, in addition to using GRASS in their own curricula. A large number of US federal agencies, universities, and private companies got also involved in the development during the 90's.
—GRASS Development Team "GRASS GIS history"

Open Geospatial Consortium

Its origins are owed to the creation of Geographic Resource and Analysis Support System (GRASS) -- an open source, UNIX-based software developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The GRASS community, motivated by the increasing availability of spatial data, grew from 300 users in the mid-eighties to over 6000 by the mid-nineties. This large user group, which included governmental agencies, industry and academia, required effective support which was sought from the private sector. This inspired the formation of a non-profit organisation -- the Open GRASS Foundation (OGF), whose role was to stimulate private sector support for GRASS.

Demands for interoperability grew further as a result of government's widespread user of commercial GIS software bringing to light the issue of data sharing and "technical interoperability". GRASS's limitations become more apparent. It had an open data format, but that was not sufficient to enable interoperability with other software packages. In 1992, through financial support from Sun Microsystems, OGF created a project -- Open GIS Application Environment (OGAE), who proposed that multiple product organisations work together to integrate a functionally interoperable geospatial development environment, including raster and vector GISs, a database, and statistical software packages.

The concurrent advances of computing in the early 1990s made way for further evolution of the OGAE whose vision, as of 1993, was of diverse geoprocessing systems communicating directly over networks by means of a set of open interfaces and thus, the OGIS (Open Geodata Interoperability Specification) Project was created.

Due to OGF being a foundation, organisational changes were required to develop such specifications which necessitated an industry consortium. Therefore, in 1994, OGF was incorporated as "OGIS Ltd." and later in the year changed the name to the "Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc."
— Dominic Taylor and Joseph McGenn "Introduction to OGC Standards - When was the OGC formed?" Landmap Geoknowledge