Reflections on FOSS4G UK Edinburgh 2019

Six members of the Astun team recently headed en mass to the Free and Open Source Software for Geo (FOSS4G) UK conference in Edinburgh – and we came back with a 7th!

FOSS4G is a great forum to find out all the latest on what is going on in the OSGeo community and to spread the word via talks and workshops about some of the exciting work we’ve been involved in. Check out the post to find out about our own personal reflections of the event … and find out who our latest recruit is in the final post!

Spot the 7th member of our team


The FOSS4G UK conference just seems to get better and better each year, and this year was no exception. As the baton gets passed annually to a new organising team, the advice and guidance on running a great event goes with it. This year’s team led by co-chairs Tom Armitage and Ross McDonald did an amazing job. The venue was breathtaking, the agenda was packed with outstanding talks and workshops and the atmosphere both during the day and in the evening social just had a great buzz to it. As a sponsor we got great value from the event in terms of raising awareness of what we do. I’d really encourage other organisations to sponsor in future as it supports the event and is great for your profile.

In terms of talks, the daily keynotes from Shona Nichol on Scotland’s Geospatial Strategy and Alistair Rae’s journey with open source geo were fascinating. Other highlights for me were the talks where innovative combinations of OS Geo technology and Cloud computing delivered a fresh approach – such as the serverless talks from the folk at AddressCloud and the ScySys session on GeoServer in AWS and Azure. Chris Fleet from National Library of Scotland also did a great presentation on historic mapping, which was of particular interest due to some related client work that Astun are involved with!
2019 was also the first year I presented at a FOSS4G event – a bit nerve-wracking! I had some good feedback both in person and online, so I think it went well. Thanks to Astun’s sponsorship, all the talks are on YouTube, which is great for catching up on those I missed. I suppose it also offers presenters an ‘opportunity’ to watch their own talks back as a learning exercise. Right now, that’s an opportunity I am avoiding like the plague!

Spectacular views from the venue! – Dan


Wow, what a great event! I go to these events with many “hats”- as the Chair of OSGeo:UK, often as a speaker, and as an Astun Representative, so they can be extremely busy for me. As usual, the first morning went by like a blur, but it was lovely to see so many new faces, and some that I haven’t seen for over a decade, including at least one other person who was at the very first OSGeo:UK meetup in 2016, before we were even officially a local chapter.

In the afternoon I took the opportunity to catch up with clients from the Scottish Government and explore some ideas about work we might do with their Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure metadata portal. I also gave them a sneak preview of the new Gemini 2.3 metadata standard and the new Geonetwork 3.8 interface, which has some great new features.
On day two, I went to a great workshop on doing things with PostgreSQL that are not geospatial, which was run by Steve Citron-Pousty from Crunchy Data. We explored working with full-text search and json, and I came away with some ideas brewing about how we might make use of these in work at Astun. In the afternoon I presented a talk entitled “Don’t Let Metadata Get You Down” on some of the more esoteric features in Geonetwork that can be utilised to make it much easier to create good metadata (as opposed to a box-ticking exercise), enhancements that have been incorporated into Gemini 2.3, and bolting on some additional software alongside Geonetwork to get more business value from the metadata. I think it was well enough received, though you’ll have to ask my audience!

Don’t let Metadata get you Down! – Jo Cook
Overall it was a great event, and I came away feeling both exhausted and energised at the same time, which is exactly how it should be!

Matt W

OpenLayers Workshop

I ran the OpenLayers Workshop on day one. We had a full house and took everyone through the official OpenLayers Workshop material using OpenLayers v6. The workshop is available for independent study for delegates wanting to follow up on what they learned, or for those who were unable to attend.

Matt Walker

National Library of Scotland Historical Maps

It was great to hear from Chris Fleet at NLS about the work he’s been doing making historical maps available online using OpenLayers. We’re currently working with the Ramblers on the Don’t Lose Your Way project which involves users identifying potential unregistered rights of way from various sources including the historic maps geo-referenced by NLS.


I did a lightning talk on pygeoapi a relatively new project which implements the recent OGC APIs including OGC API – Features. The recent OGC APIs are a significant improvement over WMS/ WFS in that they are RESTFUL, searchable and generally look to work with the web, hopefully making them easier to integrate into mainstream web projects.

Cloud stuff

There were lots of talks regarding doing geospatial work in the cloud. Of note were the talks by addresscloud on using AWS to provide serverless geospatial services and hosting OS Zoomstack as Vector Tiles on S3/ Cloudfront as well as Pascal Coulon’s talk on behalf of SCISYS / Defra on Cloud Optimised GeoTIFFs.


Coming so soon after the international FOSS4G in Bucharest this year I was already a little tired when I set out for Edinburgh but, the thrill of meeting so many old friends and new potential friends was quite energising. At times the size of the event was somewhat overwhelming so if I didn’t catch up to you to say hi, I’m sorry.

As an open source developer I don’t often get to see what people are doing with the programs I help write so it was great to see so many use cases and user stories, with several Scottish government departments reporting on novel uses of GeoServer. All the presentations I saw were of great quality and full of interesting (and often new) information – compared to the academic conferences I used to attend this makes it a joy to attend.

On Friday, I presented some Astun work I’ve recently completed for The Planning Inspectorate and our PSMA clients, where we added some GIS smarts to the simple web mapping engines to carry out complex business login using the Web Processing Standard (WPS) plugin in GeoServer.


Ant went straight from FOSS4G to a cycling holiday around northern Spain (lucky chap)! He will update this blog post when he returns!

Here is Ant speaking on behalf of MapAction


This was my first FOSS4GUK event, but not the first time I’d been to Dynamic Earth. AGI Scotland and ESRI (UK) had held many events there when I lived in Edinburgh and worked for ESRI. It was great to see so many old faces, including former clients from my ESRI days who have adopted Open Source alongside their existing platforms as a ‘hybrid’ solution – or who have moved over entirely!

‘The tent’ at Dynamic Earth – Photo by Ant

I felt really welcomed by the new faces, the organising committee were amazing and I learned so much about the Open Source technologies through the talks. Ant’s on MapAction using both ArcGIS and QGIS bilingually was an excellent example of how both can and do work together.

It was great to see our metadata catalogue for showcased in the keynote from Shona alongside Scotland’s other portals. I love how Scotland is in the space-race!

I came away from the conference buzzing with ideas on how we can help our existing and potential customers and love how working for an SME gives us the flexibility to meet our clients needs quickly and (most of the time) easily!

Matt T

This was a very different FOSS4GUK for me as not only was I on the local organising committee but it was also my very first outing as an Astun employee. The Astun team were there in force as usual, the sun was shining, there was a host of great talks and workshops and the venue was just fantastic. What more could you ask for!

Being part of the LOC meant I had to help out a little with the overall running of the event but I managed to squeeze in time to help Matt and Jo run the Open Layers (OL) workshop on day one. I’ve been to workshops at FOSS4G events before and I know how they can quickly descend into chaos but Matt ran this one really well at a good pace. It was not only great to see people being able to get up and running with OL so quickly but also help out in a workshop, having benefited so much from them in the past.

I didn’t get to see many talks due to my duties but I did catch much of the cloud and serverless stream. This included a talk from our very own Dan on QGIS in the cloud. This was interesting for me as I had not seen it and Dan was brave enough to do a live demo. The other two talks were from the serverless functions on AWS to cut down the overheads. This is something I knew Astun are already using and I’m keen to find out more about.

This was a great FOSS4GUK conference, the feedback online has been incredible, and it’s always good to meet up with faces old and new. I hope it inspires others to have a go at future events.

Lunch with a view – Matt Travis

Talks mentioned in this blog post

Main Room / Biosphere Green – DAY 1

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