FOSS4G: OpenData, OpenLayers Mobile, Nodejs-Mapnik, OpenAerialMap

On the fourth day at FOSS4G, the first plenary sessions involved the presentation by the national mapping agency in UK Ordnance Survey, which really exposed the challenge this kind of organisation such as making data free as much as possible, but at the same time supporting data collection, integration, delivering and proper communication with the user community. His message was in clear to all managers in public mapping agency: be brave and progressive in your way of thinking as well as try to optimize the location of the line to draw between free open data and premium paid datasets.

On the presentation session, many new projects arising from the industry were demonstrated. First, OpenLayers version 2.11 supporting new improved features for mobile technology was presented. In previous edition, OpenLayers had poor navigation and interaction in mobile phones. Since the Lausanne OpenLayers Code Sprint in, touch events across the library, such as pan, zoom, draw/edition, selection and geolocation position has been developed. The library has been reduced to increase performance. At the same time, when the best OpenLayers developers are experiencing hard challenges in mobile development (e.g. no standard across mobile devices), it might be because that it is really a challenge for most geospatial developers.

Another convergence of new project is the Nodejs and Mapnik as tiling solution. In a presentation on tiling, Nodejs, as a javascript for server-side development, has been demonstrated to be effective for Service-oriented Architecture (SoA). For the need of authentification, distributed rendering, styling and tiles in a non-monolithic servers, the Nodejs-Mapnik has been a good solution. This event-driven and scalable solution has demonstrated the use of the Nodejs-Mapnik combination. However, some down-side have been identified as Nodejs is evolving so fast that it is not stable in its version compared to Mapnik.

A presentation on the status of OpenAerialMap by Schuyler Erle has exposed the need of imagery for OpenStreetMappers especially during humanitarian crisis, which users really need access to imagery to do their work properly. The example of Haiti is one of the best one and when images were donated to the Humanitarian OSM, it really serves the need of supporting emergency responders. Mapserver and Tilecache have been used by Chrisopher Smith to give imagery access to organisations in the field. Schuyler also exposes the architecture of the OAM in 3 main server components : 1) a central index servers for metadata cataloging imagery, 2) an images server to store the raw imagery data as archives and 3) a web server to publish tiles for mappers around the world in a GIS cloud computing type of environment. What’s now? The project is having problems finding volunteers to contributes, as well as corporate support and the lack of partnership with source imagery is lacking. As this project is valuable as OpenStreetMap, but as an infrastructure driven project, the OAM needs contributions from potential users, imagery providers, public organisation and university. Who is interested?

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FOSS4G: Tiles, GeoNetwork, ArcGIS, GeoScript, Emergency Apps and more…

While the presentation was on its first day in Denver, Peter Batty starts by exposing the overall success of the edition (and the slow Wifi network at the conference Hotel...) as well as the force of the open source community. In his opening ceremony, he has compiled the registration and the FOSS4G had more than 900 attendees with almost half of the crowd from the USA, around 150 Europeans and Japan as the only Asian country represented.

Secondly, Arnulf Christl presents, by showing OSGeo/FOSS4G geek T-shirt, the diversity of OSGeo around the world. Thirdly, Paul Ramsey, with his unique sense of humour, speaks about the Open source business model in his own language as it can be defines by each corporation and organisation that is working in FOSS4G as long as it keeps code alive. 

Afterward, technical and academic session were exposing what’s hot in terms of geospatial open source software. Presentations on Map tiling and the new trend as managing map tiles in a database such SQLite with MapProxy. At the same time, the Apache module called geocache, renamed MapCache, was presenting its benchmark as well as its integration in the MapServer stack. In the Geonetwork presentation, the newest 2.8 geodata catalog release now separates the client and server product, the interface of metadata editor has been improved and a tool to add shapefile on-the-fly as a layer has been developed. With a strong presence of ESRI a the FOSS4G, the City and County of Denver showed that using OpenLayers in combination with ArcGIS Server is quite effective and how their contribution to the AgsjsAdapter to support the ArcGIS tiles version 10 was beneficial.

A discussion on the WFS-Transactional versus the REST/geoJson has been helpful to understand the performance implementation of this OGC standard with GeoServer/MapFish and to raise issue on the gml format as a WFS lack of documentation and fully compliant readers in the market.

With the ongoing INSPIRE project in Europe, a suggestion of using OpenStreetMap as data transfer catalyser was done and seriously discussed. The idea was in fact when local and national government will transfer their data in INSPIRE geospatial infrastructure, they could import their own data into OpenStreetMap infrastructure, then transform and extract the information from OSM to the INSPIRE specifications. GeoScript has been presented in a full packed room and demonstrated as a geoprocessing library in a variety of scripting environment (JavaScript, Python, Scala, and Groovy) based on GeoTools. A real life presentation shows how a the Quebec Public Safety ministry has been using open source software stack (MapServer, Tilecache, PostGIS, GeoExt and OpenLayers) in a web application (G.O.LOC French description) and by developing web map services to support 9-1-1 emergency call centre.

This open source collaboration project with partners organisation, such as Quebec National Public Health Institute, has been helpful to first responders and emergency manager to actually open the used of geodata in real life-saving situation.

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FOSS4G: starts your mapping engine

While the FOSS4G just began Monday, it looks that the number of attendees for the overall conference would beat the best ever in Spain last year. The first two days of the Conference started with one of the moment always appreciated by the community: the workshops. This year in USA around half of the audience of the workshops were newbies in geospatial open source community (mainly from the Colorado area) and the other half were developers, users and experts of the FOSS world.

I have attend two workshops on Monday, the first one was: Introduction to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. This organisation has been involved manly since the Earthquake in Haiti by sharing mapping resources with the affected people when needed. I found particularly interesting at the workshop is the “Walking papers” application. This idea is a way to “round trip” map data through paper, to make it easier to perform the kinds of eyes-on-the-street edits that OSM needs now the most, as well as distributing the load by making it possible for legible, easy notes to be shared and turned into real geographical data.

Walking Papers is a website and a service designed to close this final loop by providing OpenStreetMap print maps that can be marked up with a pen, scanned back into the computer with a cellphone, georeferenced automatically by the service and traced using OSM’s regular web-based editor, such as Potlatch or JOSM.

The second workshop I went to on Monday was: FOSS4G routing with pgRouting tools, OpenStreetMap road data and GeoExt. This workshops has been given in previous edition, but this time in Denver new improvement have been made. One of the topics discussed in the workshops was that pgRouting functions is an effective way to trace in one or two seconds a shortest path based on more than 500000 features by using the wrapper with bounding box. Even if pgRouting was quite effective for the OpenStreetMap data of Denver during the workshop, it does not mean that all parts of the world are well covered with topological streetsline. The osm2pgrouting is a great tool to prepare OSM datasets to routing and show if the datasets needs be cleaned and snapped. At the same time, Daniel Kastl from Georepublic, as one of the trainer at the workshops, said that pgRouting was made first for geospatial analysis and will never be as effective as the one implement in Google Maps, because the Google routing engine is precalculated and can be effective for entire continent. This pgRouting has not published a new releases since and any developer involvement or corporate supports is welcome. The entire workshops can be found at this address.

I have made a pause and I went to see the Monday Night football at the Mile High Stadium in Denver were fans were predominantly in orange jerseys to support their home Team! It was great game, in a very nice Stadium that has quite a lovely view of the City by night.

On Tuesday, An Introduction to Geospatial Open Source was the last workshops have been to before the formal presentation part of the conference starting on Wednesday. This workshops is given an overall tour of FOSS4G world and its business model and main open source projects.

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State of the Map: Mapping with OSM for humanitarian goals

Since the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in, volunteers around the world have been involved right from the start in the force task when a major event is seeking help from mappers. Over the years, OSM and its Humanitarian OSM Team (HOT) has been playing a key role in collaboration with emergency managers (e.g. MapAction, UN-OCHA, USAID, local government) and has demonstrated its usefulness. The HOT was involved in many crisis management situations, such as the Earthquake in Haiti, the Revolution of the people in Tunisia and Libya, the Ketsana Typhoon in Philippines, the Tsunami in Japan, the flooding of Richelieu River in Canada, etc.

In Denver, the delegation of Japanese was well represented with two subjects at the State of the Map and one at the FOSS4G. In some other countries, such as Tunisia and Libya, OSM has been demonstrated to be an empowerment tool such as Facebook and Twitter during a crisis when information was at stake. Contribution of volunteers from Japan and other parts of the world (e.g. Haiti) has been done mostly in collaboration with NGO’s, public organisation, UN offices and private contributors. Finally, in the disaster risk panel, chaired by Kate Chapman from HOT, at the State of the Map conference on Sunday, a project utilizing OSM and Open Source Software for Disaster Risk reduction in Indonesia was presented and general discussion was made on what is so challenging for mapping Team in such exercise (e.g. using commercial imagery, government trust and licensing problems).

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State of the Map: How to map the world and have fun doing it!

While the first day of the State of the Map in Denver was a bang on Business day and Mapping Party, the second part of the Conference has been schedule as the Weekend – Community. During these three beautiful sunny days in the Colorado Capital City, technical development, ethics, grassroots mobilizing effect, quality control, humanitarian mission, symbology enhancement were some of the subject presented and discussed.

The total number of registered persons was estimated around 255 (as one of the biggest ever) and more than 15 sponsors supported the Conference. This Denver edition marked a step forward maturity for the OSM Foundation and its related OSM projects (OpenCycleMap, OpenTrailView, OpenStreetMap-3D, etc.) as well as its presence in North-America (will see after the event). With more than 400 000 members, OSM is one of the biggest open source project in the world in terms of members participating within the same environment. This edition of marked a point where the community has a vibrant presence in many continents and looks more diverse than ever (Africa: Tunisia, Middle-East: Israel, Australia, Americas, Europe and Asia: Philippines and India). State of the Map Conference is very different than usual or formal IT/GIS Conference, it just lets sense of humour, Humanity and Engagement been expressed and playing a role in all contribution and activists presentation. The fun-filled atmosphere lets the community to learn unique story of OSM mapping projects (e.g. blind mapper in the Philippines, live balloon photography to document the size of protests in Chile, Address Hunter multi-player game), their positive changes all over the world (e.g. Mapping for Changes) and at the same time what is yet to be develop for the upcoming years (e.g. Road Sheilds, OpenTrailView, Local Chapter).

While there is still new private partners involved recently with OSM, such as ESRI (e.g. ArcGIS Editor for OSM), this “Do It Yourself” (DIY) type of mapping project looks now as a datasource that cannot be ignored by public (e.g. USGS, Ordnance Survey) and private (e.g. MapQuest, Bing, Yahoo! and Google) geospatial data provider in their business model.

OpenStreetMap annual event finished Sunday night with its General Meeting with new board members, but the presence of OSM at FOSS4G during the week ahead will still be active in Denver in workshops, presentations and discussion on Open Data.

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The week ahead in Denver: sharing ideas on a Free and Open Geo World!

The upcoming week is looking to be very interesting for the industry of geospatial in the USA as well as the "open source / open data" world. As lucky as I am, I will be the on-site Slashgeo editor representative (Slashgeo is also the media partner for both Conferences) in both events in Denver, Colorado: State of the Map (Annual conference about the progress of OpenStreetMap and free geo-data in general) and FOSS4G (global conference focused on Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial, organized by OSGeo).

State of the Map is almost sold out in terms of registration and as the first FOSS4G in the USA, it might be the biggest FOSS4G conference ever in terms of number of attendees. Denver will be THE place to be for sharing new ideas on a Free and Open world which sharing geospatial information and tools is needed from everyone, everywhere and everyday.

First, my planning at the State of the Map weekend event is to look at what is next for OpenStreetMap in terms of quality, real applications, its role when dealing with major disaster event, ESRI/Microsoft contribution to OSM, crowd sourcing with OSM for public organisation such as USGS, etc.

Secondly, the FOSS4G might be a good gathering for social networking in the open source high tech world, but also to see the new trends coming from the industry, such as WPS, cloud map and tiling services. My planning for the FOSS4G is to attend presentation or workshop related to: geocache, WFS Transactional, WPS project, GIS in the Cloud, mobile applications, PgRouting, PostGIS, Open Data with Open Source, Web Mapping Performance, etc. I will keep you posted with some quick impression and nice pictures of the main geospatial open source and open data social and technical events. Denver is looking open, global and free for the entire week!

Nicolas Gignac, on-site Slashgeo editor representative at the FOSS4G and State of the Map

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