Last week I attended the JIIDE conference, that took place here in Sevilla. This is the official conference for both portuguese and spanish spatial data infraestructures. The presentations were diverse and rich in content and there were working groups for INSPIRE and conformance running in parallel.
Trends on GeoSpatial
You could see some trends in how SDIs are evolving through all the Iberian Peninsula. Geograma explained to us that hiding data behind paywalls or registering sites makes us less compliant. But on the other hand, maybe it doesn’t matter because as José Fernández (IECA) showed us, data is going more and more open and free. Why should someone pay for data generated on a public administration? It has already been payed by taxes and a paywall is just another stone on the way of generating added value to the data. And above all this, every country has a different payment and access system, so it is virtually impossible to query the same data on different countries easily, which was one of the goals for INSPIRE.
Transparency, interoperability, quality, conflation,… keywords through all the conference. As an example of conflation and reusability, IECA was created by the union of the geospatial information department and the statistics department of the government of Andalucía. This allows them to localize statistic data that, once the privacy details are removed, can be easily shared. Creative Commons is the main license for all their products.
On a statal level, now we have the CNIG, who unifies all the data from Spain and allows us to download (or buy) data. Here, the map is not the central issue, but just another product you can use.
And still, there are many things INSPIRE has yet to solve. There are a lot of abstract requirements the nodes are not sure how to solve. All data has to have quality metadata associated to it, but, is there any quality minimum required for the data? How close the scales should be? What precision? And above all, how are the different public administrations supposed to handle all this without specific financing from Europe? Or what is worst: why do Europe ignore the conclusions reached by several working groups on different countries? Why reinventing the wheel?
Open Data on JIIDE
There was another subject running through all the conference: why do SDIs have less users than open data portals? Is it because the type of data? Is it because we don’t focus on usability? Why do they choose data from worse quality (or not government certified)? It looks like we have to work more on usability and user interaction.
Should SDI focus on developing applications around the data? Or should they just focus on being a data repository third party companies can query to generate added value? Should we merge with the opendata portals even if that means lose part of the focus on spatial data?
Javier López, explained the problem about persistent identifiers. We have to assume that the entities generating data will not be persistent. But their data should survive those entities and we should be able to trace back who created the data and who have been maintaining it. How to achieve this without being too dependent on some specific platform? How to create a standard that survives through the years?
We also had the visit of Rodrigo Barriga Vargas (IPGH) who told us about GeoSUR, an initiative to create, conform and share quality spatial data in America. He told us how lucky we are to have INSPIRE as a gubernamental initiative to force us to follow standards.
But the best thing was to see how GeoNetwork is being used more and more and we have happy users advocating that it is the only SDI that makes sense. In conclusion, JIIDE is a good conference where to check the state of the art in geospatial!
Last week I had the privilege to attend the main osgeo conference: the FOSS4G. This time it took place on Seoul, Korea. Exotic place I strongly recommend to visit, but better to focus on non-cultural surprises on this post.
It’s impossible to write everything on a single blog post, as it was impossible to assist to all the interesting parallel threads that run on those short five days. But let me guide you through my steps so I can share part of my experience until we get access to the full videos of that awesome week.
First there were the workshops. I have to confess something: my first options for workshops were cancelled. But it doesn’t matter, as I had problems deciding on first place. So, I started with the WS02 workshop:
Exploring the Sensor Observation Service Standard Enhanced by IstSOS Special Features
Let me summarize it: if you want to work with sensors, take a very close look at IstSOS. Combining PostGIS, Python, GDAL and Apache you get not only a complete sensor service, but a complete sensor data management system. Easy to use, easy to install, easy to everything!
Quality Assurance is integrated on IstSOS to make sure the sensor doesn’t go mad. This process are sometimes done asynchronously to conflate your own sensor data with other sources. It doesn’t just return a basic boolean, but a statistic value of confidence based on previous data.
Another interesting feature is the virtual sensors, which allows you to create your “own” “sensors” based on data from real physical sensors. Useful to conflate data and offer it on a unique endpoint as sensor.
As if this workshop wasn’t good enough, we got some real arduino and sensors to play with them.
WS08 Build your own data portal using GeoNetwork 3
Besides some Windows issues (surprise!), I think that the workshop was very successful. Assistants not only built their own user interface style for GeoNetwork, but asked us about advanced features and how to implement them.
As Florent said: “We are the experts of GeoNetwork, so if you have any questions, it is now or never.” And we had questions asked.
Jet-lagged day finished after this workshop. So we went to the hotel to try to rest a bit more and start with renewed strength the following day, which I started with:
WS19 Beyond GeoServer Basics
If you already run a GeoServer, most of this workshop is already known to you. But if you don’t… bad you missed it! There were a lot of fancy features to play with, like regexp on parameters for sql layers (surprised that very few knew what regexp meant!).
And, of course, WPS already useful in production now. You can even use WPS inside SLD definitions!
After refreshing knowledge on GeoServer, I went for the last workshop:
WS21 OpenSource 3D GIS
Yes, you are right, 3D GIS has too much hype right now. But Oslandia did a great job on this workshop. If you don’t have experience with 3D, I strongly advise you to try to follow the workshop, posted on github.
We even had some docker introduction. And the second day was finished, but we still had energy to went for the last one. Or some more beers:
I was already on the first slot of the FOSS4G conference, during the Opening Ceremony, when I first noticed that we talked too much about open instead of free.
Besides that, Venkatesh made very clear that we need more Geo4All, specially on developing countries.
Very interesting the national SDI of Korea presentation about the workflow of open source. While I don’t fully agree with their vision, it is always refreshing to see new perspectives on this subject. Maybe we should make more clear that free software can have a professional customer support as good as any closed source software. Probably even better in most cases, as there are more companies that can offer it.
Now the conference divided on so many threads at the same time that it was impossible to follow them all. QGIS (new useful plugins to develop) and MapServer (now faster than ever) before lunch and the sensor and crowdsourcing session after lunch. There, between the ISA server for indoor spatial data, Apache Spark, Ontologies and CartoDB, we presented Cobweb. The day couldn’t finish without a very productive and promising BOFH session about crowdsourcing… and more!
Thursday was a hard day: jet lag started to go away, but taking #geobeers every night does not help much.
Alysa Wright started with a cool presentation about why and how did she start on the spatial world. We should never forget that, as a community, we come from very different places and perspectives. And still, we share a common view about freedom.
On the last session of the day, I learned about OpenDroneMap. I couldn’t stop asking myself why didn’t I knew about this incredible project before. Where drone software is even more awesome than the drone hardware.
Finally, Paul Ramsey talked about sustainability of free and open software and why we should care about who maintains it.
Last day of conference is here. Friday tastes bitterweet. And not because of the food! María Brovelli starts with a keynote about crowdsourcing and VGI and how they can change our community. Because even if we don’t deal directly with the data, the software is also affected by all this. The next keynote was from Marco Hugentobler, talking about the qGis community from a developer’s perspective. Because, yes, “developers are human and not everyone is aware of that”. What a surprise! In any case, never trust someone with the “expert” label, just trust the community. After the coffee break, I attended a very instructive presentation from Henrik Lund Pedersen about caching fresh data. Is it possible to have a cached and updated server for GIS data?
Jody Garnett talked about documentation and why we should be very careful when writing it: not only to help advanced developers but also to not scare newbies. Never use the word “easy”, for example. If you use it and the reader don’t find it easy, he will go away to look for something easier for him. And maybe the original documentation was easy, it’s just that it hasn’t been updated with new features.
Then we had another Cobweb session on the main grand ballroom, this time by Panos, talking about the mobile part of the framework.