OSGIS 2012 – Day 2


The second day of OSGIS 2012 saw a full day of short paper presentations and a couple of workshops.  The day started with a keynote from Prof. David Martin, University of Southampton.  David is  Director of the ESRC Census Programme and his talk looked at the data that will come out of the 2011 census. It also discussed the future of census programs in the UK.  The take-away points for David’s talk included:

  • Lots of new fields such as “do you intend to remain in UK?”
  • 16th July 2012 – age/sex distribution LADs released
  • Nov 2012 – release to the OA level which will be of interest for Geographers
  • Spring 2013 – multivariate stats and some new stuff like time dependant location data which will be interesting for disaster management/response and answering questions such as “who is where/when?”
  • Access to longitudinal data and data about individuals will still be restricted to secure labs

David made some interesting points including crediting the CDU in Manchester for making the census data far easier to access and analyse.  The data is in excel format and has the crucial area codes which we geographers love.  

He showed some analysis of work place zones which modifies the census units based on where people are during the day (work place) which should make disaster planning more efficient. It was also noted, light-heartedly, that this could be used to determine where to locate your burger van during the week.  

Next up was Ian James, Technical Architect for the Ordnance Survey. Ian’s presentation was on how the OS was embracing the open source opportunity.  The OS now use open source solutions for internal activity and client-facing interfaces.  It took a while to convince the whole organisation that open source solutions were more than capable of handling large and valuable datasets.  It is now clear that some open source solutions are in fact better than their proprietary counterparts.  However, Ian stressed that open source was not free.  There is always a cost associated with software, with open source solutions there is no up-front licence fee, but there is cost associated with training users and administrators or buying 3rd party support.

After coffee, the conference split into parallel strands, I switched rooms to catch certain presentations and my write up will reflect this.  You should be able to watch the presentations on the OSGIS 2012 website.

Matt Walker, Astun Technology demonstrated the open source system Loader, a simple GML loader written in Python that makes use of OGR 1.8.   Matt showed us how Astun were providing TMS/WMS for various clients and how they managed to run it all through Amazon web services.  Top tips from Matt included:

  • Amazon web services are great, you can even have fail-over instances, but be sure to manage your system or risk running up bills quite quickly
  • Use PGDump to increase postgres load times (4x quicker)
  • MapProxy rocks
  • UbuntuGIS makes life easy
Next up was Fernando Gonzalez who presented the possibilities of Collaborative geoprocessing with GGL2.  GGL2 is an evolution of GGL which was a scripting application for GIS.  GGL2 makes scripts much simpler, fewer lines of code makes it easier us humans to read.  GGL2 is available as a plugin for gvSIG and QGIS.  If you want to find out more about GGL2 the look at gearscape.org
EDINA’s Sandy Buchanan gave a demonstration of Cartogrammer which is an online cartogrammer application. It allows users to upload shapefiles and KML files and then create cartograms.  This is very neat and really does remove the technical barrier in producing interesting info-graphics.  The service makes us of ScapeToad and is available as an online service, a widget and an api which can be called from your own website.  We will let you know when it goes live.
Anthony Scott of Sustain gave an excellent presentation on the work he has been doing for MapAction.  If you don’t know what MapAction is or what they do, they provide mapping and GIS services areas that have suffered natural and humanitarian disasters.  Infrastructure is important if aid is to be delivered and this requires knowledge of the what is on the ground at the time, and in some cases, what is left. Take 5 minutes to look at their website and if it sounds like something you would like to support, hit the big red donate button.
Jo Cook, Astun Technology, looked at how you might use open source software and open data to do something useful.  She looked at taking GeoRSS feeds from sites such as NHS Choices and PoliceUK to extract location specific information, link it with other open data and then make this publicly available. According to Jo, you can do quite a lot with very basic python scripting. The last slide of Jo’s presentation has a list of useful resources, seek it out when it is made available on the OSGIS website.
The best presentation prize went to Ken Arroyo Ohori, TU, Delft. Ken demonstrated some code that he had written which fixed overlapping and topologically incorrect polygons.  PPREPAIR looks brilliant and is available in GitHub.  Ken plans to make it into a QGIS plugin when he has time, i think this will be really useful.  Nice aspects include being able to set a “trusted” polygon class which would be assumed to be correct if two polygons intersected.  Ken demonstrated ppgrepair’s capabilities fixing polygons along the Spanish/Portuguese Border. Because two mapping agencies have mapped the border independently, when you combine the two datasets you get horrible overlaps. Ken’s presentation was clear and informative and his ppreapir really does look useful.
The event finished with Steve Feldman of KnowWhere Consulting.  Steve has been working in GIS for many years, but is, by his own admission, not a techie.  He approaches the subject with a business hat on and it is useful to hear this perspective.   Steve reiterated the point that Open Source was not Free software.  It is commercial software with no massive up front lumps sum and no long term contract. You can pay for implementation and support.  You can fund developments that you want, rather than functionality you dont need. Steve suggested that the “Free” was a confusing term, but a member of the audience suggested that Free also related to not being tied to a contract or service provider.  You can opt in and out as you wish.

FOSS4G 2013

Steve then took the opportunity to officially launch FOSS4G 2013, which will be held in Nottingham in September next year.  This event will be huge and is definitely one to put in the calendar now and make sure you get along to it.  There will be over 500 delegates from around the world all focused on doing more with open source geospatial tools.  In fact, better than that, volunteer to help at the event.  The local organising committee needs extra people to help make FOSS4G 2013 a success. If you want to help, pledge your support on the pledge page and someone from the loc will get back to you.
 So, another great event.  Thanks to Suchith, Jeremy and their team for making it happen.  OSGIS will not happen in 2013, but FOSS4G will more than make up for it.