Last June I was discussing with a colleague about Quantum GIS (QGIS - an open source desktop GIS software) after having just signed on as sole retailer of the new cloud software GIS Cloud for Australia and New Zealand. The topic of conversation was over the utility of each software and the extension of service between the two for our clients, who have been increasingly adopting QGIS as their main desktop service. It didn’t take long for conversation to stray towards the open source community and its true power of seeing a problem and being able to doing something about it.
Enter open source plugins. I’m a firm believer in the beneficial widespread use of spatial data, the greater the use of spatial applications, the better. A well rounded GIS solution utilises desktop and cloud technologies. It is therefore necessary to provide linkages between desktop and cloud systems so it can build robust work flows which take advantage of all of the available technologies.
Yes, I thought, this is what I will do – I will build a plugin between QGIS and GIS Cloud! But how on earth do I achieve it?
What technologies will I need to build a QGIS plugin?
Where will the plugin be hosted?
Which languages will I have to code the plugin with?
What objects will the plugin support?
How will the plugin be licenced?
Is there really enough time for all of this?
In truth, the only way this was possible was by standing on the shoulders of many open source programming giants, one of which is a brilliant colleague of mine. Which still means wading through the significant volume of documentation and coding on the rugged frontier. The lessons I learnt were that all (most) technologies fit together (if forcibly coerced) in a very delicate (if forced) way, finding the right parameters (trying every last one [three times]) and getting them to display correctly (kind of). But that’s only when you’re on the outside looking in, the open source community helps each other and it’s vastly expansive. Be it from questions answered on stack overflow or inspecting existing open source code the answers to each of those questions can be found using natural language.
When it works, it is awesome and the good news is, I did get it to work. Now it provides the missing link for the global QGIS community to seamlessly access all of the facilities provided by GIS Cloud. Suitable for all work flows, this plugin is capable of uploading all raster and vector datasets compatible on GIS Cloud with the click of a button. This enables the global QGIS community access to GIS Clouds world class mobile data collection, data visualisation, data sharing, data viewing and fleet management services. It also affords flexibility to existing GIS Cloud users to utilise the power of the dynamic QGIS open source environment.
As spatial data specialists, developing tools to accommodate unique work flow structures and data types has never been easier using open source tools. If you have unique spatial workflow demands, contact Spatial Vision to see how we can design tool specific solutions for your business needs and unlock your spatial data potential.
To try it out for yourself download QGIS for free from https://www.qgis.org/en/site/forusers/download.html and sign up for a free 30 day GIS Cloud trial from http://www.giscloud.com/sign-up/.