SDI 4 Apps - Uptake of open geographic information through innovative services based on linked data

This week I’ve spent in the company of a group of gifted colleagues who are on an upward trajectory in the world of science – and, if SDI4apps goes as planned, in the world of business.

We’ve been gathering in the West Bohemian capital of Plzen, a city rich in beauty but poor in vowels, to start the development of a cloud based server-API-client solution for building geospatial applications. Our aim is to take on big players like ESRI’s ArcGIS Online by offering a competitive solution based on best of breed Open Source software and an open standards based API.

For those who chose a career in IT after seeing the Hollywood movie Swordfish, the initial steps of a software project are bound to feel like both an allegorical and literal anti-climax. I fear my introductory talk shall have made three promising PhD students re-evaluate their choice of academic specialization. At any rate, they evaporated 15 minutes in, never to resurface again during the entire week. The emotion they must have struggled with for the minutes leading up to their decision to leave must have been, I believe, disappointment.

Disappointment is the product of subtracting reality from expectations and can, with accumulated experience, be eliminated entirely through lowering expectations by decrements until negative infinity is reached. At that point even the ‘smallest step for mankind’ will feel like a great and monumental achievement.

That aside, the task ahead of us must be assessed from three view points:

  1. Looking at state of the art, SDI4Apps has a promising premise. The technologies that form the building blocks of our solution are faster, more robust and cheaper than the contenders we take on.
  2. Looking at the team, things equally bode well: Our ‘thinkers’ are visionary and forward looking; our ‘tinkerers’ are razor sharp, unafraid and enthusiastic.
  3. Looking at the market however, our battle is bound to be an uphill one, but that’s all right, as long as we’re not ignoring that fact.

What is great and what is perceived to be great is not always the same. Greatness is usually determined by emotions and those emotions rely on companies’ ability to make the market feel comfortable about its offerings.

Premek, Raitis and Simon at work

Premek and Raitis anticipates the successful outcome of SDI4Apps and don their million-dollar smiles. Meanwhile Simon chooses to play it safe and build the solution first…

Factors such as staff size, number of existing customers, global presence and brand equity, none of which have any bearing on the technical quality of the solutions offered, have a similar or greater impact on how a solution is perceived than its technical particulars. They are easier to relate to without learning what’s ‘under the hood’.

It is perhaps apt, then, that we’re gathering a stones-throw from the factory of the Skoda company, a once reviled ‘Communist’ car manufacturer who steadily and silently has come to be an attractive contender in all car classes from economic compact cars to large luxury sedans.

SDI4Apps propose an affordable Cloud platform for building powerful GIS applications. However, such a platform doesn’t make itself. In the next post, I will elaborate on how we will work in order to ensure that at the end of the project, we are left with a workable solution that can serve as the basis for a state-of-the-art Cloud service offering.

Until then…

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