Autodesk's Liam Speden on how open source can help coordinate our world

Speden explains how the open source community and Autodesk can work together to make sense of the surge in location enabled and spatially aware information.

How will it benefit the open source community?

The community will no longer need to re-engineer coordinate conversion technology. CS-Map technology offers features that existing open source coordinate conversions technologies, such as Proj-4, do not. These include:

  • A user extensible dictionary of coordinate systems
  • Robust support for re-projecting coordinates and performing datum shifts
  • Support for identifying coordinate systems through EPSG codes as well as multiple flavours of OGC WKT
  • A variety of utility functions such great circle distance measurement

When are you expecting to donate the software as an open source project?

Autodesk is currently organizing and preparing the software for donation and we expect this donation to be finalized and completed by the end of 2007.

What value does Autodesk get from donating to the open source community generally?

Autodesk gets to draw on a vast community of users and developers in the open source community that bring unique ideas and talent to improve the software at a much faster pace than Autodesk can in its internal development cycle. For example, the MapGuide Open Source community now includes over 600 members and the software has been downloaded over 38,000 times.

Autodesk is incorporating many of the innovations developed in the open source community into its enterprise software. The Autodesk MapGuide Enterprise 2008, for example, incorporates significant Ajax usability enhancements developed by the MapGuide Open Source community.

What do you find most rewarding about managing this project?

The innovations coming out of community involvement in open source projects are very exciting for us. Autodesk last year donated the source code for two of its geospatial technologies - MapGuide and Feature Data Object (FDO) - to open source and since then, the community of users and developers has grown significantly. We're now starting to see applications and new functionality added to the software that was developed by the community, which everyone can benefit from. Many smaller organizations that wouldn't have the resources to consider commercial alternatives now are able to create customer applications that fit their unique needs.

What are some examples of these applications developed by the community? The Urban Forest Map in San Francisco and the localized Spanish and French language versions of MapGuide Open Source are great examples of how the community is building on and improving this technology.

Prior to joining Autodesk, Speden worked in a variety or roles in the industry, including senior systems analyst, technology manager, consultant and, most recently, director of strategic development. His area of expertise includes management of strategic software solutions for international government and military markets.

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