REFLECTIONS ON FOSS4GNA NORTH AMERICA 2018: DRIVING OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE AND DATA INNOVATION

By: Eddie Pickle, Radiant Solutions, Managing Director Open Source Programs

Posted on Jun 06, 2018

In mid-May, attendees from business, government and research organizations gathered in St. Louis, Missouri for FOSS4G North America 2018 to share their passion, expertise and ideas about how to use open-source software to collaborate and accelerate innovation. The Maxar Technologies’ Radiant Solutions team was there as well to present, learn—and as a corporate sponsor—since we share the mission of FOSS4G: to develop new and better ways to leverage free and open-source software to drive geospatial insights.

This year’s conference showcased record attendance, innovative open source projects, a strong foundation of corporate sponsorships and the most extensive-ever participation by the U.S. government as well as attendees from outside North America—reflecting the growing interest in and use of open source geospatial software.

Maxar Technologies is at the nexus of the new space economy, positioned at the intersection of what’s new and what’s possible.  With the combined capabilities of our four businesses (SSL, MDA, DigitalGlobe and Radiant Solutions) Maxar does what no single company can, deliver integrated space solutions -- including ones that leverage open innovation -- to solve our customers’ most complex challenges.

As Maxar’s geospatial analytics business, Radiant Solutions, reveals insights enabled by open source software and open data innovation. We believe that breakthrough insights unlock infinite possibiliites.  To get to that place of possibility faster, we’re all about making open source more effective in three major ways:

  1. Improving open source software. At the conference, we were able to engage with users and developers on two of our most important projects: GeoWave and PDAL. GeoWave, developed by Radiant Solutions, is an open source software library that leverages the scalability of cloud computing, enabling users to quickly and efficiently index and search massive sets of multi-dimensional data. Our GeoWave development team (Rich Fecher, Michael Whitby and Eric McDonald) did two presentations and a workshop about the improvements we are driving for GeoWave. PDAL (Point Data Abstraction Library) is open source software for processing point cloud data. Our PDAL/Point Cloud/algorithm lead Brad Chambers presented on current and future improvements to PDAL.  Improved open source software leads to better tools and technologies for extracting actionable insights from vast data to drive to decisions and actions with speed and confidence.
  1. Making open data more accessible and effective for open source software developers and other users. OpenStreetMap is a map of the world, created by hundreds of thousands of people and enabled by imagery and open license map editing software. Radiant Solutions’ Josh Sisskind led a panel on Working with OpenStreetMap,” which is something we should spend even more time on at FOSS4G events.  More people spending more time on OpenStreetMap focused on under-mapped areas of the world leads to a more complete and up to date map of the globe available to support disaster response and humanitarian missions. In addition, Todd Bacastow led a “Birds-of-a-Feather” session to gather together like-minded developers to engage in the SpaceNet Challenge. SpaceNet is Radiant Solutions’ way of helping developers access commercial satellite imagery and labeled training data designed to accelerate the development of machine learning algorithms for extracting information from imagery.
  1. Building out the open source ecosystem to make it the best model for geospatial projects, partnering and solutions. Radiant Solutions Scott Clark led an excellent workshop on Delivering Solutions Using Open Source Software and how FOSS4G enables creating and running a successful project. I organized a B2B networking event that brought together 50 attendees from more than 30 companies, agencies and NGOs who are using and/or producing open source geo software. 

Here are a few of the many highlights of the event:

  • The strong participation by NGA (the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), both in number of attendees and its highly visited exhibit-hall booth. NGA’s Mark Munsell kicked off the conference with a great keynote (“May the FOSS Be With You”) that reflected his software development background, his humor and his affinity for the crowd of engineers, as well as NGA’s strong support of open source geo projects going back many years. My bet is NGA engaged a lot of software developer recruiting prospects in St. Louis!
  • In his outstanding keynote. “Towards a Queryable Earth,” Chris Holmes hit a home run with his blend of FOSS inspiration and down-in-the-weeds tech that really resonated with the developer-heavy FOSS4G NA crowd. Chris’s clear, nine-step roadmap for making the world of geospatial tech more open (and more effective for “The World”) was a huge hit.

I’ll wrap up by noting something that was not, strictly speaking, on the agenda of FOSS4G NA: the highly successful GDAL barn raising effort. Led by Howard Butler, this effort to get FOSS4G-using organizations to fund core IT that drives our ecosystem (GDAL) was one of the hot topics of the conference, and a great reflection of the overall strength of the FOSS4G community. It was a great coda to a super event!

For more about Radiant Solutions, visit www.radiantsolutions.com