2012 FOSS4G-CEE Conference

Long time no post. Well the best things come to those that wait and today we have a guest blog from fellow EDINA Geodata team member James Crone. James attended the recent FOSS4G-CEE Conference which was held at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Czech Technical University in Prague between the 21st and 23rd of May. Over to James…..

Seen as an add-on to the global FOSS4G conference which attracts developers and users of open source geospatial software as well as managers and decision-makers and which will be held in Beijing this year, FOSS4G-CEE has a regional focus on all things open source and geospatial in Central and Eastern Europe.  The official language of FOSS4G-CEE was English.

The conference consisted of workshops followed by parallel presentation/tutorial streams, unconference birds of a feather sessions and post-conference code sprints. I only attended the presentation streams which ran from Monday afternoon through to Wednesday.

The Plenary session on Monday consisted of introductory talks on different strands of what is meant by Open. Arnulf Christl of OSGeo/metaspatial covered open software; Athina Trakas of the Open Geospatial Consortium covered open standards whilst Markus Neteler of Edmund Mach Foundation covered open science. A local Central and East Europe flavour was provided by Jiri Polacek of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadastre who covered cadastre and INSPIRE in the Czech Republic and Vasile Craciunescu of the Romanian National Meteorological Administration / geo-spatial.org who provided an overview of open source software projects, applications and research projects using open source geospatial software in the Central and Eastern Europe region.

On Tuesday through to Wednesday the presentations proper started. Thematically the presentations were grouped around the themes of INSPIRE, Case studies of the use of geospatial FOSS, Geoinformatics and the more technical data / development ones. As an opportunity to track changes regarding open geosptial software itself I mostly attended the technical data/development presentations.

There were many awesome things presented during FOSS4G-CEE but my top three were:

1. MapServer

EDINA have been using MapServer, the open source platform for publishing spatial data to the web for some time. The next release of MapServer 6.2 is promising improved cartography, map caching and feature serving. The first two of these were covered in two talks by Thomas Bonfort of Terriscope.

In Advanced Cartography with MapServer 6.2, Thomas described some of the improved features that will be available when it comes to rendering vector data through MapServer. Some of the nice things that will be included are improved support for complex symbols and improvements to feature labeling.

Nobody likes waiting for their maps. In a second presentation, MapServer MapCache, the fast tile serving solution, Thomas described MapServer MapCache which provides all of the features of a certain tilecaching system with added goodness in the form of increased performance, native MapServer sources without the overhead of going through a WMS and configuration directly within the mapfile.

MapServer 6.2 certainly seems like it could be a release to watch for.

2. PostGIS Topology

Vincent Picavet of Oslandia provided an introduction to graphs and topology in PostGIS.

Here at EDINA we use PostGIS extensively within such services as UKBORDERS and Digimap. Within our UKBORDERS service we provide academics with access to digital boundary datasets. As a result we`ve been tracking with a great deal of interest developments in the storage of topology within PostGIS. The benefits of using PostGIS topology are that we can store shared boundaries which is good for data normalisation and has benefits when it comes to the generalisation of boundary datasets. These and network operations such as routing were demonstrated in Vincent’s very informative talk.

Although not related to topology, in a later talk Vincent presented Efficiently using PostGIS with QGIS and mentioned numerous extremely useful features and plugins for QGIS for working with PostGIS. Once back in the EDINA office I duly installed the Fast SQL Layer plugin which has made working with PostGIS in QGIS even nicer than it was before.

3. TinyOWS

The talk TinyOWS, the high performance WFS Server by Vincent Picavet of Oslandia, showcased some of the features of TinyOWS. TinyOWS provides a lightweight, fast implementation of the OGC WFS-T standard. Tightly coupled to PostGIS, TinyOWS will be released as part of MapServer 6.2.

Real world use of TinyOWS was demonstrated in talk held during a wednesday morning session titled

IPA-Online, an application built on FOSS to assist Romanian farmers to prepare their application form for direct payments. by Boris Leukert.

The IPA-Online system allows Romanian farmers to prepare single area payment applications by drawing parcel boundaries in an online application to support EU subsidy payments and replaces a previously manual system of drawing the parcels on paper maps. Built around MapBender/MapServer/PostgreSQL/PostGIS with TinyOWS used to provide WFS-T and allowed for a very large number of concurrent users. The conclusion from Boris was that deployment of a system based on geospatial FOSS brought with it savings of time, money and the environment, saving the need for 1.6 million less paper maps having to be printed.

Overall attendance at FOSS4G-CEE was very worthwhile. Slides for these and other talks are available online for viewing over at the FOSS4G-CEE homepage.

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