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FOSSGIS Conference 2024

Friday, 29 March 2024 | Volker Krause

Last week I attended this year’s FOSSGIS Konferenz in Hamburg, Germany, focusing especially on topics around indoor navigation and public transport.

Group photo of the FOSSGIS 2024 conference attendees.
Photo by FOSSGIS e.V., CC-BY-SA

Indoor Navigation

Tobias Knerr and I hosted an Indoor OSM user meeting which was mainly intended for connecting people working on various aspects of that subject. We ended up overrunning our timeslot by 40 minutes until we were kicked out of the room, I count that as a success.

For continuing this, there’s the quarterly OSM indoor online meetup on June 5th at 18:00 CEST.

Particularly interesting topics for me:

  • The multi-floor route visualization and routing profile configuration approaches from the OPENER next team. Their focus is also train stations, so there is a lot of inspiration for KDE Itinerary there.
  • Getting the latest update from indoor localization research. Besides Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, UWP, Lidar and IMU-based approaches there’s now also a project using optical SLAM (which is interesting as it doesn’t need special hardware), but much of this isn’t available as FOSS (yet) unfortunately.
  • Seeing the progress on the BIM to OSM conversion work and subsequent discussions with train station operators on what it would take to provide/publish (partial) BIM data.

And just because this is called “indoor” data doesn’t mean there is no field work involved. With Hamburg being by far not as flat as one might think, both the venue itself and the nearby city provided some nice examples for tricky to model and visualize vertical structures, which helps a lot with the otherwise often very abstract discussions on how to best represent this in OSM.

  • The TUHH campus is built into a hillside, with ground-level entrance on one side being several floors below those on the other side, which makes visualizing the surroundings tricky.
  • Hamburg Harburg station is seamlessly connected to a two-story outside pedestrian area, which challenges the current definition of OSM’s level tag.
  • The southerns concourse of Hamburg central station is a slightly inclined area starting on the ground floor on the eastern side but connecting to an underground area on the western side. Both our visualization and our router get utterly confused by this at the moment, having seen this myself in person I now at least understand why.
  • And if that wouldn’t be enough already, the Landungsbrücken subway/rapid transit station basically combines all of the above.

Public Transport

The other set of topics I was especially interested in was anything regarding public transport and routing, as that could be relevant for Transitous.

  • Contact with the openrouteservice team, as we are still missing an OSM router for Transitous to enable full intermodal routing in MOTIS.
  • Multiple talks and sessions about improving bike routing, covering OSM-based cycleway quality data analysis and ways on how such data could be used in routing. While we don’t have any (bike) routing in Transitous at all yet, this shows what future expectations for this might look like.
  • Research on public transport connectivity, needing higher quality GTFS data as well.

There were also a few opportunities to promote the Open Transport Meetup, to connect more people working in that area as well.

Public administration and Open Data

There increasing regulation requiring public administration to publish data unless there’s a valid reason against that. That’s great of course, but it’s not enough. Data needs to be available in standardized formats and automatically discoverable as well.

A city publishing the location of their street lamps as a spreadsheet is just the first step. It’s of little help as such if for example your usecase is taking lighting into account when doing nighttime pedestrian routing. City- or region-specific apps are not the solution for this, that doesn’t scale and isn’t sustainable.

Instead such information would ideally be jointly maintained in globally unified database, such as OSM or Wikidata. That would also help with the data quality issues often found in official datasets, as lacking a way to upstream fixes also limits their value.

Public administration and Free Software

One of the ideas behind the eco-certifying KDE software was that eco-certification is an established procurement criteria in the public sector for many other products already. Therefore I was happy to see KDE’s Okular mentioned in a panel discussion on public procurement as the first Blue Angel certified application (without anyone from KDE being on that panel).

Another noteworthy aspect for me here was for the first time seeing someone from the public administration questioning the Github monopoly and the risks involved with that. For organisations like KDE and GNOME who run their own infrastructure for exactly that reason this isn’t news, but outside of that bubble this is rarely something people are even aware of.


And of course I can’t attend a conference without looking for ideas to “steal” for KDE’s Akademy:

  • As part of signing up for the event attendees got two 20% discount vouchers for Deutsche Bahn for travel to/from the event (and unlike similar offers at other events those actually applied on top of all other discounts). I yet have to figure out how to obtain that as an event organizer, with Akademy in Germany this year that is of course particularly interesting.
  • Lanyards and name badge holders were collected at the end for reuse at the next event.
  • Talks were streamed and chat input was considered during the Q&A part as it’s common at many events by now. For BoFs/meetings there was new equipment though which seemed to fare much better in the typical university seminar rooms, “Meeting Owl”. Those seem significantly more expensive than the Jabra conference microphones we used previously though.

Cross-community collaboration

In a session about marketing/promotion of OSM Maik said something along the lines of “we are seen every day in Germany’s prime time news broadcast, yet hardly anyone knows who we are”, which is not much different from the situation for KDE. Our code is in the majority of web browsers, yet hardly anyone using those knows about us. Similarly, the discussion about sustainable funding and moving towards hiring people seemed very familiar.

And there’s likely even more subjects that affect OSM, KDE and any other FOSS/Open Data organisation of that scale, where all of us might benefit from more knowledge exchange and collaboration. Probably also something to discuss after congratulating our friends at GNOME for their new release at next week’s release event in Berlin :)