gvSIG: Open Source GIS and Spatial Data Infraestructures.It’s about time.

In nowadays world changes are continuous and they occur as fast as sharig information speed.Those changes have a clear influence in technological evolution, in bussiness models and in administration management politics.Cartography and Spatial Information Systems is nowadays in the middle of as change.In this context appears gvSIG.
At the end of 2002, the "Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte" of the "Generalitat Valenciana" (Regional Goverment of the Comunidad Valenciana) starts a global migration process towards open systems under Linux.Within this process it gets special relevancy the GIS and CAD software migration, due to the final users working within the "Conselleria" and to the fact that GIS and CAD are nearly unknown areas in the Free Software World.
An study about the Free Software World comparing the Geographycal Information Systems projects with the most comercially extended propietary software and considering the requirements of the "Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte" was made.To analise the problem globally, we designed a survey which gathered all the information regarding current and future users requirements working with Geographycal Information.The survey collected a great deal of data such as tasks and performances of software and hardware of the surveyed users, considerations on graphycal and non graphycal data, GIS / CAD tools used, formats and cartographycal data types, common operations, actualization frequency and implementation software...
With all this information, of both requirements study and the available software within the Free Software Comunity, we concluded that their was not a well enough developed GIS /CAD software project which could lead to change from Propietary to Free Software.We challeged a development project aimed to cover the current deficiencies and which could make reality the change into Free Software.
The "Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte" issued a public bidding on GIS development, such a project should fulfill users requirements and have the following features;
• Portable: being multiplatform hardware / software, Linux and Windows to start with.
• Modular: extendable with new functionality.
• Open Source: being a Free Software project with available source code.
• License Free: and Installation Free without any limitation in installation numbers.
• Interoperable when developed, can access data from propietary programs without changing format.
• Accomplishing Standards: following the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and UE directives.

The chosen programming language, after evaluating C and Java pilots, was Java, fulfilling therefore the multiplatform requirement.
The gvSIG project participants are:
Generalitat Valenciana through the Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte as the project driver.
Universidad Jaume I, member of the TeIDE consortium, as coordinator and supervisor of the development following the internatial standards (Open Geospatial Consortium)
IVER Tecnologías de la Información, company winner of the public bidding and being the development driver.
During the gvSIG development we faced an item which modifies the plannification of the project : the "Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte" receives the task of elaborating an study of the new model emerging when working with Geophysical Information, the Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs).The study of the INSPIRE european initiative and the public SDIs turns gvSIG ( a GIS client) into an SDI client.Therefore, the gvSIG projects becames a study and set up of the Free Software SDI implementation.

gvSIG turns into a completely GIS client (incorporates WMS, WFS-T and WCS), adding up a catalogue (WCAT) and integrating inthe same view, data from different origins together with local data.
We developed an spatial metadata generation protocol according to the International ISO 1915 standards in those aspects lacking from concreteness, joining the working team which defines the NEM (Núcleo Español de Metadatos) for the Spanish Spatial Infrastructure Data (IDEE) and using a tool of Free Software (CATMDEdit).
Regarding the Map Servers, we are making several tests with Mapserver, Geoserver and Degree, betting for PostGis as the database manager, Spatial module from PostgreeSQL.
This is the working line drived by the "Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte" with the aim of putting into work different Free Software Technologies which could give an answer to the challenge of setting up Spatial Data Infrastructures.
At the same time, gvSIG serves as the foundation of a new Free Software area at IVER, with this we try to present in any Geographycal Information issue, and alternative and a solution based in a Free Software development.
Fronting the current close market, we open a branch of possibilities thans to the advantages of the Free Software, namely:
Indepdency and control of the product
Ivestment in added value generation.The whole investment is dedicated to develop and not in licences.
Maximization of client rights.

With this new model we try to reach the potential market of new GIS users, which currently can not afford the use of those technologies.Therefore, administrations and companies with limitated finantial capacity can access the software.
At this point we consider the benefits which could give the Free Software at software bussiness companies .As every new bussiness model, the benefits may not be following the traditional way.So, gvSIG is the center of all IVER service offers: consultancy, software implementations, I+D projects, courses, technical support ....
Ery society statements front itself with new concepts of reality vision, those have direct or indirect influence in their life.Thus, the cartography world is not excepted.The information transmission speed, the globalization, the standarization, the new european concept, the investment optimization, the interoperability between public administrations, are elements to consider when analizing the changes in progress or still to come within the spatial management technologies.
We confrintate a new reality where everytime more technology is added up, those technologyes must understand each other, thus standards are neccessary.
This new scenario, makes betting for Free Software dvelopment projects, with technological independency and added new values such as sharing of knowledge, investment optimization, industrial quality far from the software development monopolio.
The current situation of comercial software distribution companies is such that the local branches are suffering as well this close dependency to the main office.
The last years, a new vision comes into the picture and causes some enterprise movements, those movements are basically the creation of new scenarios where sharing ideas and adding up effords are considered a sign of progress.As a result we end up with a group of developers, well prepared and willing to colaborate in Free Software projects and with a software companies network which offer different services, all together building up those new scenarios.

The benefits are clear, not only for the client, but for the companies as well, the reason is dual, first of all the access to a more fare market which does not have the hard conditions of the software propietary companies, second of all the we expect a growing new market because investment are from the first euro dedicated to develop and not to speculate.
This lead us to talk about GPL licence.
A GPL License let us a binary distribution of source, and therefore a access to source code.Making modifications is openly allowed, but only integration is possible if we play with two similar or compatible licences, when public code is reliased under GPL licence, it is no longer possible to change those GPL conditions.Thus it will never be possible to change a GPL program into a propietary one.This licence maximize the client rights and they see that as a guarantee.
GPL license allows to propose alternatives to the current bussiness models, and is the esential feature of gvSIG.
It is difficult to accurateky know the market movements, the technology ad society direction in the next years, but it seems logical to think that we are facing a market diversification.

gvSIG: www.gvsig.gva.es
IVER, Open Source Area: www.gvsig.org
Inspire: inspire.jrc.it/home.html

Published Thursday, March 31st, 2005

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