Archive for May, 2008

The old adage about the importance of location has never been truer. When buying a new home or setting up a business, location is crucial. Details about the suburb, its demographics and whether it has access to a freeway or other major transit routes are all essential details. In surveying and GIS location is also vital.

Surveying involves the measurement of dimensional relationships i.e. horizontal distances, elevations, directions, and angles, on the earth’s surface particularly for use in locating property boundaries, construction layout and mapmaking.

The incredible detail that this actually involves was brought home to me when Antonie Kruger, Chief Surveyor-DP5, explained the surface surveying work being conducted on the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link Project. Any work involving the location of the huge cement segments making up the viaducts has to take temperature, cement shrinkage and other kinds of variables into account.

As a result surveyors on the Gautrain project are constantly taking measurements to monitor movements and changes on the site. If these measurements are not worked out accurately, are not applied correctly and are not monitored consistently, minor discrepancies of a millimetre or two can project to major discrepancies further on. And discrepancies on a project the size of the Gautrain can end up costing millions.

GIS, on the other hand, combines information and location. Data that were previously presented in thick reams of papers are now presented in map format allowing analysis, which previously took weeks if not months, to be undertaken in a matter of minutes. As a result location intelligence is being used increasingly in combination with business intelligence technology to enable companies to obtain a better understanding of their markets, clients and operations.

As the number of GIS and location intelligence users grows, the issue of interoperability becomes increasingly important as does the need for standards. Last year the government’s decision to implement free and open source software wherever feasible put interoperability high up on users’ agendas. Since then very little has been heard on progress in this implementation of free and open source software. However, there is no escaping this issue.

The phenomenon of open source is here to stay, bringing with it many benefits, and likewise proprietary software with its own advantages is also here to stay. From 29 September to 3 October 2008 users of open source and proprietary GIS packages are encouraged to attend the 2008 Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G 2008) conference in Cape Town. GISSA is the host for this year’s conference, which has been amalgamated with GISSA’s annual national conference.

The conference has been organised in conjunction with the internationally renown Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) a not-for-profit organisation which promotes the collaborative development of open geospatial technologies and data, and also encourages the implementation of open standards and standards-based interoperability in their projects.

Anyone for whom location data is of importance is encouraged to attend the event.



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