By Tom Groenfeldt
Nice data. Want a map with it?
TriMet, the three-county transportation network serving Portland, Ore. and surrounding areas, did. It had routes and schedules, but it needed an application to display them on the Web and allow users to see when the next bus was coming, or how to get from downtown to a recreation area on rail, bus and bike.
The transportation agency, which had been using a proprietary mapping application, looked at all the alternatives it could find and ran a pilot with GeoServer from OpenGeo, a provider of an open source mapping suite.
"We were very, very happy with it and with the support options with the community that is involved and with the software," said Bibiana McHugh, IT manager of GIS and location based service for TriMet. "The software is much more sophisticated than a lot of proprietary solutions out there."
OpenGeo Suite Enterprise Edition 2.0, introduced Wednesday, is the first geospatial Web-mapping solution to offer unlimited support on a complete open source mapping stack. The suite, which includes a robust geospatial development environment, is also the first to include PostGIS, a powerful spatially enabled database built on top of PostgreSQL, to eliminate lengthy implementation processes.
Chris Holmes, president of OpenGeo, said the platform differs from other GIS systems because it was designed for the Web, while ERSI was created for the desktop and is only slowly moving to the Web and Google Maps and Google Earth are aimed at consumers.
"People are starting to do more on top of it sharing those platforms, but they do less full GIS stuff and it is harder to put large amounts of data on their platform," said Holmes.
OpenGeo is highly flexible and can plug data into Google or ERSI, he added. The company works on a typical open source model with free software while making money from paid support for users who want it. Many of the users are government agencies, which have lots of data they want to put into maps. The GIS office for the state of Massachusetts has more than 600 data layers including zoning, roads and state parks, and uses OpenGeo to present the information to public users on the Web, according to Holmes.
"Our advantage is that we are super flexible and you can build applications for the Web without knowing GIS," he said. "It lets people build applications geared to the domain at hand without complex training."
TriMet has opened up its data for developers to create applications for the transportation system. They include a Braille system, which offers transit information for the visually impaired; iNAP, which provides an alert as you near your destination; and RouteShout, which searches for nearest stops, provides arrival information and displays a map. The applications also include augmented reality aids -- hold your camera phone up to a TriMet bus stop and an icon appears and tells you when the next bus will arrive. Another application will allow a rider to turn on a flashing light at the bus stop to make sure the driver knows someone is waiting.
McHugh said TriMet brought one of the OpenGeo developers out to Portland to work with the GIS team. One of the first things they asked for was a tool to measure the distance between any two points on the map so a user could see how far a bus stop was from a home or office, for instance.
"For an annual fee we get priority bug fixes and support," said McHugh. "But they also give you 100 hours of time you can use in any way you want. Having that flexibility was really beneficial. We can pay developers from Open Planning to make enhancements and know that they go back to the open source code." They provide an estimate of how many hours a project will take and she can track it on the Web.
"They are a great group of guys," she said. "Time and prices were never inflated while their support ensures the core product continues to grow. Working with OpenGeo has been a great experience and a different business model. They are providing a service so open source software applications can compete with commercial off-the-shelf applications."
Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.