In today’s modern IT world, agriculture requires data collection from many sources – yield monitors in harvesters, crop health imagery captured by drones, precipitation sensors – which has created an explosion of Big Data that growers must grapple with. Open source geospatial software, through the use of interoperability and standards, has become essential to supporting this. Beyond the cost savings, agriculture companies are also gaining increased abilities to innovate without impediment and reduce time to make critical decisions.
Along with this, also what is increasingly becoming important is to contribute open source geospatial code to the Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial community (FOSS4G). With an aim to meet both the ends, Boundless — a pioneer in open source GIS – and Monsanto – a global modern agriculture company – have recently collaborated.
Among the contributions is an OAuth Plugin that was donated to enable modern authorization of users within the Quantum GIS (QGIS) open source desktop project. This contribution enables the users of the most widely used open source desktop GIS software to utilize user-based authentication to determine what data on the system the user can access. The code only covers the authentication process and does not share any company information or data from Monsanto or any of its customers.
Making it simple to understand, Anthony Calamito, Chief Geospatial Officer, Boundless says, “OAuth is a simple way to publish and interact with protected data by supporting the authentication and authorization of data within your existing identity management systems. Contributing this plugin back to the community enables all users of the most widely used open source desktop GIS software to utilize user-based authentication to determine what data on the system the user can access.”
This contribution marks part of a larger open source initiative Monsanto is undertaking. “Modern open source technologies, like those stewarded by Boundless, enable us to scale our enterprise to support and handle more geospatial information than we would have ever been able to support with proprietary GIS technologies,” said Dr. Martin Mendez-Costabel, Geospatial Big Data Engineering and Strategy Lead, Monsanto. “We are proud to be able to give back to the community, allowing for other organizations to realize the power of the open source geospatial platform.”
This code has allowed the company to have a smoother authentication system and allows employees easier access to the data they need while in the field.
However, even though Monsanto is primarily an agriculture-based company, the question arises is what made Boundless collaborate with Monsanto.
The greatest opportunity for adoption of open source GIS is among government organizations, who have been strapped with reduced budgets. Leveraging commercially-supported open source software is a way to reduce costs without sacrificing capability. Almost two-thirds of Boundless customer base are in the public sector. Outside of government, the industries the company see with high potential for adoption include agriculture, insurance, public safety, transportation, and energy, all of which are very competitive and require innovative solutions. The speed at which open source can adapt is critical to the success of companies in these sectors.
Mapping and geospatial analysis have long been associated with agriculture. From predicting drought, to estimating crop yield, to precision seed placement, location is a critical component of agriculture. When Monsanto realized it needed to leverage open source software as part of its overall geospatial architecture, Boundless was a natural fit. As the leader in open geospatial software, Boundless was uniquely positioned to support building out a capability that helps Monsanto maximize value, reduce costs, and scale out to meet their mission needs.
Calamito further explains, “The open source geospatial code that Monsanto is contributing back to the FOSS4G community has allowed the company to have a smoother authentication system and allows employees easier access to the data they need while in the field. Open source is helping Monsanto to scale their enterprise to support and handle more geospatial information than they ever could with proprietary GIS technologies. Monsanto worked with the open source experts at Boundless to shepherd the code contributions back to the QGIS community, enabling a global user base to benefit from it.”
How is the collaboration beneficial to the geospatial community?
The code contribution will help other organizations realize the same power and benefits that Monsanto has gained. Modern open source technologies, like those stewarded by Boundless, have enabled Monsanto to scale its enterprise to support and handle more geospatial information than they would have ever been able to support with proprietary GIS technologies.
“At Boundless, we continue to see companies migrate over to open source as they realize all of the benefits it can provide. And as commercial organizations make the transition to open source for the first time, we expect more collaborations like this where open source experts aid in those transitions,” says Calamito.
Boundless strives to continuously evolve the capabilities of the technology platform – from building connectors that work with new data types, to adding capabilities for streaming data from sensors in the field. The company is also looking into offering content and analytical services to support decision making in the agriculture domain. These include hosted soils data, imagery analysis tools, and packaged web application templates that support common agriculture workflows.
As an open geospatial software company, Boundless can benefit from a global community of contributors to add innovative features and functions to the core projects. “We supplement those core projects with specific capabilities that enable mission specific workflows. The Boundless roadmaps features increased ability to work with sensors and streaming data, sensors and connected devices from the Internet of Things, and an increased presence in smart cities,” adds Calamito.