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Keeping up with geospatial industry innovation at FOSS4G


30 March 2015

Ubisense CTO, Geospatial Division, Peter Batty reviews the recent FOSS4G North America open source geospatial software event in San Francisco, CA:

The Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference is the leading conference for open source geospatial software and I always find these events very energizing and exciting. The open source world is leading innovation in the geospatial space these days, and FOSS4G is the best place to find out what’s new. We are always looking for new technologies and approaches that we can incorporate into our solutions. Ubisense myWorld is built on top of a number of very robust open source components including the PostGIS relational database and the Leaflet JavaScript library, and we use GeoServer for map rendering in many projects.

You can read my fairly detailed technical review of the conference on my geothought blog and you can also see me discussing the event on Hangouts with James Fee here. In summary, some of the technologies that we are most interested in investigating further for possible use in our solutions include:

Vector Map Tiles

These are interesting for a variety of reasons, but in particular they could significantly reduce offline storage requirements in future. We currently make a lot of use of raster tiles in our solution, and they have their own set of advantages - in particular they let us exactly reproduce existing GIS styles, they give great performance and scalability and they work across more browsers / platforms than vector tiles. So it’s not a case of either approach being better than the other, they have different pros and cons, but vector tiles introduce new capabilities for certain situations.


Cesium is a powerful JavaScript Library that lets you run very dynamic 2D or 3D Google Earth style applications in a browser, which could be interesting for certain applications. They had the most fun demo of the conference, which lets you drive a Monster Milk Truck into the Grand Canyon!


Drones have been a hot topic at recent conferences, these are potentially interesting in various contexts including damage assessment, which is an area where we’ve been doing a lot of work recently.

Even if you just skim my detailed review, you will get an idea of the enormous amount of new things happening on the technology front at the moment. We feel that an important aspect of the value that we bring to our customers is in keeping up with these new developments, identifying those that can be useful to utilities and communications companies, and adding those into the solutions that we provide to maximize ROI.

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