If one looks back at the history of GIS, open source has a large part to play in both the use and adoption of the technology. Quietly sitting in the background, without fanfare, GIS open source pioneers like Paul Ramsey and Frank Warderman were have long been building extraordinarily useful GIS tools. Many of these tools have found their way into proprietary GIS vendor software suites.
I’m hesitant to say that open source GIS has come of age (since it has always been important). But there has been an enormous growth in adoption and interest in solutions built with open source technology. Indeed, never have proprietary vendors been so worried about the ‘threat’ of open source GIS. Open source GIS conferences like FOSS4G continue to grow in size and importance.
Three key factors I suggest are driving the increasing popularity of open source:
- Emergence of new GIS software companies providing products built on open source stacks (Mapbox, Boundless, Carto etc)
- Restrictive, inflexible business models of many of the established GIS software vendors.
- The exponential growth of the geospatial sector, with silicon valley start-ups (Uber, Airbnb etc) looking to build their own solutions using open source software.
Giving back to the open source community has been important. See Mapbox and vector tiles as one good example.
Organizations new to geotechnology have been keen to adopt open source GIS solutions. Long term users of GIS have been challenged to migrate from long established GIS proprietary stacks to open source. But we are slowly beginning to see a change here.
New Open Source Platform
At WebMapSolutions we have always worked with a mix of proprietary and open source GIS software. We have noticed a number of recent trends emerging:
- Dislike of named user licensing – Many users of GIS technology dislike the new named user models a number of vendors have introduced. Resistance here is driving interest in alternate open source solutions.
- The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has huge geotechnology implications. Devices, vehicles, appliances with embedded sensors are distributed. That means maps and geo-analytics.
- Growing interest in 3D GIS and the integration with Building Information Modeling (BIM). Engineers, planners, architects have long wanted a seamless integration between GIS and BIM for both visualization and analysis.
Driven by the recognition of these trends, we have been building an open source platform which will provide focused solutions in each of these areas. Due for release in Q2 2018 we will be discussing the platform in greater depth in future blog posts.