Baltimore hosted the 2023 Free + Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) North America conference, a geeky tech gathering focused on mapping technology and an even more eclectic community. While I have attended many FOSS4G events since the first in 2006 in Lausanne, Switzerland it’s been a few years. It was terrific to see so many delightful people in person again to share ideas and brainstorm the future. It was particularly delightful to ride the MARC train from DC Union Station to Camden Yards – city-to-city in under an hour for $9!
To track all of the evolving technology, Robert Cheetham (of Azavea, now at Element84) shared a tremendously useful “Geospatial Technology Radar” that his team compiled over the past 6-months. Modeled on ThoughtWorks’ long-standing Technology Radar, this geospatial lens provides a good overview of the best and emerging platforms, standards, data, and processes for you to check out.
I presented on the Koop.js open-source geospatial API adapter project. Koop.js is used in various products across Esri, governments, and other technology platforms to dynamically query various API into common formats. For example, you can have an OGC Features API for GeoJSON from GithHub, ArcGIS Feature Layers, Elastic, Snowflake DB, and even consumer platforms like Yelp, Craigslist, or Zillow. There is an active community of Koop.js plugins that can be mixed and matched together.
Esri using + supporting open-source
I’m particularly proud of the support Esri has provided to the open-source communities over the past decade. There are now over 600 open-source Esri supported projects on GitHub. We also document and support integration with OpenLayers, Leaflet, Cesium, and MapLibre (née Mapbox GL). A few of my colleagues, Courtney Yatteau and George Owen, presented an “Open Source Mapping Library Shootout” which highlighted the relative feature capabilities and performance across these community maintained libraries.
In the closing Keynote, Paul Ramsey highlighted that Esri has steadfastly remained a monetary contributor to core open-source projects such as GDAL. It’s imperative that organizations support these open-source projects to ensure proper maintenance, high quality, and fixing security issues.
Making Open-Source Easy to Use and Powerful
There were numerous compelling presentations, ranging between project specific details, applied use cases, and community standards + processes. The recordings will be posted here.
A few highlights to check out:
- Catherine Oldershaw of Element84 advocated for UX simplicity to “meet the user’s mental model” and complete their “job to be done”
- Advanced optimizations for PostGIS by Paul Ramsey of Crunch Data and and data visualization by
- Robert Cheetham of Element84 shared the aforementioned Geospatial Technology Radar
- Taylor Oshan of University of Maryland brainstormed on applications of distributed open data (EASIER project) and “proof of location” in GeoBlockchain
- New high-performance data stores like Apache Sedona
- Emerging standard architectures like Cloud-Native Geospatial foundation by Jed Sundwall of Radiant Earth
- History of FOSS4G by Sophia Parafina
There were many other terrific talks, topics, and people. I’m eager to see how these projects grow, integrate, and are applied to support complex problems.