FOSS4G-NA Maps Out Open Source Alternatives

Disclaimer: This article is written about an event on May 22, 2013. Due to not being published it is now here.

Free and Open Source Software for Geospacial – North America (FOSS4G-NA) 2013 kicked off yesterday at the Marriott City Center and celebrated the 10th anniversary of the MapServer Users Meeting hosted at the University of Minnesota. This meeting led to the eventual formation of the first international Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference in 2006.

David Bitner, the conference chair, said “as of the beginning of the conference we have 375 registrants, 34 states, 8 countries, 250 companies and 11 percent women participating in this year’s event.” Bitner said a major goal of this year’s conference was to increase diversity, and that was represented in a number of sessions.

Erek Dyskant opened up the conference with the first keynote focusing on his work as a team lead for geospatial analytics development at the Democratic National Committee during the 2012 presidential election, where his team built a web-mapping tool that allowed field organizers to explore “programmatic activity.”

“Using an open source stack made us more agile in the field,” Dyskant notes. “It was a real testament to open source that our field analysts could build on top of GeoServer from multiple locations.”

Many attendees showed up to learn more about open source alternatives to programs such as ArcGIS and the Google Maps API.

David Murray, GIS Coordinator for the city of Westminster, CO, explained that his team was using ArcGIS for years, when suddenly they announced they would be charging for their service.

“ArcGIS pulled this bait and switch on our team. All of a sudden they told us we needed to pay $20k for 70 users, and we weren’t even storing data,” Murray explains. “So I’m here to find out what other options I have.”

Sessions dealt with OpenStreetMaps, GeoServer, GeoScript and other open source platforms. Paul Morin, director of the NSF and the NASA funded Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, closed the first day with a keynote on his work mapping both the Arctic and Antarctic at sub-meter resolution.

Other keynotes at the conference include Bibiana McHugh, IT Manager of Geographic Information Systems and Location-Based Services for Trimet and Eric Gunderson, CEO of MapBox.

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