FOSS4G Exhibit Highlights and News

The exhibit area at FOSS4G wouldn’t rival a show like GITA, bit it was hopping. Here are some of the tidbits I learned from exhibitors.

Sierra Systems

Sierra Systems is an IT consulting group in North America with about 25 geospatial folks. A big believer in standards, the company did its homework on open source convincing itself it was a viable option for geospatial. Internally, the company is moving steadily to Linux and open source, but it respects its clients requirements. Still, when called up to offer strategic directions to clients like the Integrated Land Management Bureau (something like the BLM of Canada) open source is offered as an option.


Timberline is Tyler Mitchell’s “old” company, a company focused on natural resources management. The company uses a mix of proprietary and open source (PostGIS/Grass/MapServer) to serve its clients. The big limitation in open source? Creating top notch cartographic output. For that, the company uses ESRI technology. For many other geospatial tasks, open source is the choice in part due to speed. The Timberline rep also noted the diversity in the attendees this way “from game developers to academics.”

Refractions Research

I attended a paper highlighting use cases of uDIG, Refractions open source desktop GIS. The use cases showed the variety of developer add-ons and customizations all over the world. When an attendee asked the difference between uGID and the other “hot” open source desktop solution, QGIS, the answer boiled down to uDIG really being strong as a developer framework. The good news for all users? A new stable release candidate is coming soon.

Refractions is also behind PostGIS, the “spatial add-on” for PostGresSQL, the open source database. (I don’t think I ran into anyone today who is not using PostGIS…)It’s becoming the defacto standard.

A side note: There was a session this morning highlighting a study of PostGIS vs. MySQL performance. It’s a bit early; for now they are still documenting the protocol, but stay tuned! And, note that most commercial databases will allow such benchmarks be done, but in their licensing will not allow the results to be published. I hear that one vendor may be backing down on that…again stay tuned!)

MySQL has had basic geospatial data storage for some time and uses the same libraries as PostGIS (GEOSS, a port of the Java JTS libraries to C). Still MySQL lacks many of the spatial search and query tools. The Refractions reps I spoke to don’t expect the addition of spatial to SQL Server to impact their user base much, save to further educate about spatial.


Google’s Office of Open Source was exhibiting mostly talking about the success of the Summer of Code. “Flip bits not burgers” is the theme and yes, the student coders get paid! The reps made it clear the office’s job is to promote open source inside and outside the company. I spoke to one attendee who served as a mentor to a Summer of Code student. He questioned his mentoring abilities saying all he really did was help refine the project scope and the student pretty much did the work himself.

DM Solutions

The company had two big announcements noting MapServer and MapGuide Open Source services with NAVTEQ and DigitalGlobe data. That is, the data is pre-tiled and ready to use. The big impetus for this partnership? A client that needed nationwide data (“as good as Google”) to serve real estate users. One note from me on this - part of the value add here is that DM did all the licensing negotiations for you!

The other big news: DM will be putting MapArt‘s (the Rand McNally of Canada) hardcopy atlas for Toronto online as of November 1 [corrected date 9/27]. The app is coded to the hardcopy atlas which apparently every Canadian has. More of Canada is to follow and in time the maps may well appear on phones. Now, get this technology stack: The maps (lovely maps I must say) are created in ArcGIS, rendered in PhotoShop, tiled by DM and rendered on the Web via OpenLayers. The routing and geocoding is PostLBS, an open source solution from Orkney in Japan.

DM has moved to OpenLayer from its own ka-map.

Safe Software

From the open source front: FME is an FDO provider of not just vector data, but also raster data. (Recall that FDO is an open source way to connect to different data types. It came from Autodesk originally.)

From the future’s front: Safe is moving into 3D. The company sees the writing on the wall as it were: Oracle 11G support for 3D, use of CityGML (mostly in Germany but spreading) and wider use of Industry Foundation Classes, IFCs, a standard from the CAD world. The work is still early but the vision is to be able to read in IFCs (it can already) output 3D PDF (it can already), support for ESRI multi-patch, Oracle 11G… And, there’ll likely be some analytics too - like “slicing” a 3D building in two.


Ok, I’ve not heard of Talend and the e-mail I received from a PR representative confused me. Luckily, I ran into the VP of marketing in the CamptoCamp booth who set me straight. Talend offers IT integration tools - open source ones. CamptoCamp has taken those and added geospatial to make, drum roll, an open source spatial ETL (extract, transform, load) solution. You use visual tools to lay out what you want to do, push a button and it generates the Java code.


Leica is not offering open source, but it does have “free” in its Titan client. This week a new beta appears with new functionality including:

Custom Drawing Toolbar/KML Creation: Create points, lines and polygons and adjust viewing properties in the Leica TITAN Client. Save to KML and subsequently load KML into Leica TITAN Client or Google Earth.

- More Data Details: The Geospatial Instant Messenger now supports extended information for shared datasets, including dimensions for raster datasets and feature count for vector datasets.

-  Navigational Compass: An on-screen compass now indicates the direction of North as you navigate around the globe. 

- Terrain: The Leica TITAN Client now supports topography, creating a true 3D effect by exposing the vertical dimension.

The big news is the future as Titan matures into the free client for an enterprise imagery management system. That system ideally will be the hosting solutions for organizations with lots of data that needs to he shared internally, and perhaps, externally via this free client. Titan in the free and enterprise versions is a cataloging (limited data in free version, full FGDC in enterprise) and publishing solution.

Published Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Written by Adena Schutzberg