Anthony Quartararo, president and CEO at SpatialNetworks attended the ‘Free and open source for geospatial’ a.k.a. FOSS4G North America meet in Washington last month and has kindly allowed us to cherry pick his blog from the event. Quartararo witnessed ‘enthusiasm and passion’ from the open source community along with three main themes as follows.
1) FOSS for geospatial is cool but currently lacks a business model for long-term sustainability. One notable exception is OpenGeo, which has open source products alongside a composite licensing model. Most FOSS4G companies charge for support, training and custom development—putting them in more of a consultancy role.
2) The lack of a visible business model is made up for by the abovementioned passion and ‘a higher percentage of passionate, dedicated professionals than any other community or company I’ve experienced, even my own.’
3) Free and open-source software for geospatial will usurp the incumbents within the next 5 years. Note however that it is unlikely that a single FOSS4G company will replace companies like ESRI, Intergraph or Google. But the technology innovation of the FOSS4G and OpenStreetMap community will best the combined efforts of all the industry giants above. The writing is already on the wall, or more accurately, it’s written on Github. FOSS4G provides a steady stream of breath-taking technology innovation. Traditional GIS software companies spend too much on marketing and propping up their hegemony and not enough on solving problems.
ESRI-bashing is a popular sport at FOSS4G and, for Quartararo, is largely deserved—although, as a self-confessed ‘persona non grata’ from ESRI, he is ‘not the most objective person at the moment.’ But the growth in FOSS4G ‘poses an existential threat to ESRI, Google and the like in terms of dominance over all things geospatial.’
Since Quartararo blogged his blog, the FOSS4G presentations have been posted. We took a quick look and spotted Enterprise Web Mapping for Utilities and Telecom Companies by Peter Batty of Ubisense whose myWorld app embeds open source components including PostGIS, MapFish and OpenLayers and is positioned as the as the kind of disruptive technology mentioned above.
Another interesting pitch came from Nicholas Knize of Thermopylae Sciences and Technology which has leveraged a NoSQL ‘big table’ implementation of MongoDB to tackle dynamic geospatial data at massive scale. Customers include the US Dept of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, US Army Intelligence Security Command and US Southern Command.
You might also like to check out David Bitner’s (Metropolitan Airports Commission) presentation on the use of PostGIS, PL/R, and range data types for real time and post processing of 4D flight track data. More from FOSS4G and from Quartararo’s blog.
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