Last week saw the second OSGIS event held in the UK. OSGIS is a conference on Open Source GIS software and is hosted by The University of Nottingham. The 2009 event was a huge success but the organisers decided to tweak the conference format for 2010 in response to feedback from delegates. So, this year the conference spanned 2 days with the first day being devoted to workshops and the second being formal presentations. Initial feed back seemed positive and the delagates i spoke to found the workshops particularly useful. The workshops that were run are listed below, unfortunetly i was not able to attend the workshop day.
- gvSIG Desktop & Mobile Workshop – (gvSIG Association,SPAIN)
- Databases and Web Mapping, the Open Source Way – (Jo Cook, Oxford Archeaology North)
- Workflows for Earth Observation Systems (GEOSS, GMES) Workshop – (CGS, University of Nottingham)
- OS OpenSpace Developer evening – (Ordnance Survey, UK)
Day Two saw the focus move from hands on work to formal papers and presentations. The key not presentation was given by Prof. Ari Jolma of Aalto University, Finland. This outlined the 4 problems of using spatial data;
- Presentation – maps
- Interaction – display/keyboard/mouse
- Modeling – algorithms/spatial analysis
- Development – software/tools
Ari reminded us all that we should be developing software and tools that enabled users to solve actual problems, rather than just playing around with functionality. This development or refinement could be in any of the areas outlined above.
Next to take the stage was Steve Ramage, the new Executive Director of the Open Geospatial Consortium. Steve gave an overview of what the Open Geospatial Consortium was and how it worked alongside the OSGeo foundation. He stressed the importance of open source software and that the current economic climate should be seen as an opportunity to increase the use of open source software in all sectors. However, the open source opportunity must realise its value and help organisations to measure the value of open source options. If the bean counters cannot measure the value of something then they are unlikely to invest in it.
Arnulf Christl, current president of the OSGeo foundation, rounded off the first session by bringing everyone up to speed with what was going on in the OSGeo. This included a potted history, a description of what the foundation stood for and what its future plans were. One little nugget that i picked up was the firefox plugin, WMS Inspector. WMS Inspector provides a set of tools for integrators and developers that work with the Web Map Service (WMS) standard. Useful and new to me, but i am sure some of you will already know it and use it.
The rest of the day was made up with presentations that focused on both the development of software and its implementation. The crew from gvSIG gave a couple of presentations, one described the gvSIG Association which is a an initiative where small companies can sign up to the Association in order to form collaborations with other organisations when bidding for or delivering project. This helps small companies bid for larger work and has helped gvSIG become a recognised alternative to proprietary software.
Other presentations that stood out were Tim Waters overview of what was going on with Open Street Map. OSM has gone from strength to strength over the last year and has emerged as a useful resource in disaster management. An active contributor community can add features to areas that are poorly mapped, update maps much quicker than larger mapping organisations and map temporary structures such as refugee camps. Anthony Scott, Cranfield University, gave an interesting overview of how you might use open source software to work with Ordnance Survey Mastermap data. Anthony used a use-case example of investigating combined heat power at a building level. He used QGIS and was able to customise widgets to make repeat analysis easier for less proficient users. However, i am not sure i would class this example as a simple GIS task as it still involved quite a bit of detailed modeling and analysis which would require some GIS know-how. Also, it would have been great to see how the results compared when OS OpenData was used instead of the quite costly Mastermap data.
The day was rounded off by Tyler Mitchel, OSGeo Executive Director and Jo Cooke, Oxford Archeology/Archaeogeek). Both called for a concerted push to stimulate the OSGeo(UK), the UK chapter of OSGeo. This would certainly help to make others see the value of Open Source GIS software. Many organisations have started to move over to OpenOffice, the same shift is possible in GIS and OSGeo(UK) has a major role to play. But, this is dependent on the community in the UK doing something to make it happen. You can start to get involved by joining the OSGeo mailing lists:
I have signed myself up and volunteered my services. Anyone else?
Overall, the OSGIS event was again a success. The new format of one day of workshops and one day of lectures worked well and there was a good mix of attendees from the academic, public and private sectors. A big thanks to all the team in Nottingham for working so hard to make the day a success, especially Suchith. I am looking forward to the 2011 event.