Versio: Moving the Spatial IT Industry Forward

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Paul Ramsey, the Senior Strategist / Evangelist at Boundless, explains Versio, the company’s newly released spatial data management and collaboration platform.  

Do you know where the border between India and China is? Are you sure? Folks on different sides of that border have very different ideas about where the “true border” is. Now, what if it was your job to maintain an “authoritative” set of international boundaries? You would probably have many “versions” of the border, depending on who your audience was, or what historical period you were expected to illustrate.

Or, if you work in a county planning office, you probably have multiple versions of a roads layer. The current built state, sure, but also various future possible states: What if the commissioners choose this zoning plan? Or this other one? What if the new highway goes through next year, or five years from now?

Or, if you are an emergency manager (or a company commander) and your field staff are returning data to you on the state of operations in real time, you’ll have a view of multiple views of reality. Sometimes they’ll be consistent, sometimes they won’t.

All these problems share a common information management challenge: they are about maintaining simultaneous, separate versions of present (or future) versions, being able to independently update those versions, while retaining the capability to merge them together into a unified version at any point.

This month, Boundless announced a new solution for organizations to manage their spatial data stream called Versio, a platform that will advance Spatial IT significantly. Versio is a distributed version control system designed specifically for spatial data. It provides fast and efficient ways for data authors to collaborate on spatial data while streamlining the creation, maintenance, and distribution of spatial data. No other solution has these capabilities.

Software developers have long had extremely versatile tools for managing their software, retaining a detailed log of all changes made, and who made them through time on multiple versions. We looked at these tools, which allow different authors to maintain their own versions of the software, while collaborating and merging changes between their versions, and ask ourselves: Why don’t we have this capability for spatial data management?

The answer was, because the size and complexity of spatial data, solving the problem is quite difficult. So we took the time and we solved it by taking the core computer science concepts used in distributed version control and applying them to managing versioned spatial data.

With Versio, developers can create and edit data with colleagues, the crowd, or anyone using a variety of workflows. Scenarios can be as simple as a pair of friends editing a shared online copy of data, or as complex as a company with multiple independent disconnected versions being synchronized on an as-available basis.

Every edit, addition and deletion is tracked in Versio, so data provenance is maintained at the finest possible granularity. Developers can track and visualize every change that is made to data for quality control, and each change is saved and previous versions can be restored at any time. The best part is that it’s easily shareable. Developers can publish any version of their data with their team or their website, blog, or anywhere else it is desired.

Collaboratively organizing and publishing spatial data used to be a daunting task, but now, if executed in the right way, it can be the most effective way to accomplish business processes. And with a never-ending flow of ubiquitous location data, companies now have a system to effectively harness spatial data and give meaningful structure to the avalanche.

Versio website screenshot

About the Author:

Paul Ramsey, Senior Strategist / Evangelist
Paul has been working with geospatial software for over ten years, as programmer and consultant. He founded the PostGIS spatial database project in 2001 and is currently an active developer and member of the project steering committee. Paul evangelizes for the OpenGeo Suite product, works with the Boundless business development team to improve communication about our offerings, and speaks and teaches regularly at conferences around the world.


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