Monday, March 3, 2014

Teaming up with Gaia GPS

Here's the short version.  I'm taking on bigger contracting projects with these guys.  Read on for the details.

The Background

I'm a consultant.  That's like a contractor, only more expensive.  I make a living on WhirlyGlobe-Maply projects.

Used to be I'd write the whole app.  That got unwieldy, so then I just wrote the map or globe part.  Now I usually just add features to the toolkit and show people how to use them.

That's working great, but I miss seeing the whole app, developing something from start to finish.  There's no practical way I can ever do that again, especially with Android support coming up, but I'd like to get my hand back in.

And on a purely practical level, I pass up a lot of business.  Clients approach me about doing whole apps, but I don't have the time to do a proper bid or the people to call on for the rest of it.

So I'm teaming up with someone who does.  But first, why do I really care?

The Motivation: Aviation & Vector Maps

Aviation companies are pretty big users of WhirlyGlobe-Maply.  It's not hard to see why.  Pilots like their iDevices and they have money.  And boy do they need to display maps.

A few years ago I made a deal in aviation that locked me out of the market.  I have no regrets, it worked out great.  Now the exclusion is expiring and I'm free to do aviation work.

The globe thing has been nice, but I've been pushing the 2D version, Maply, more lately.  That's borne fruit and 2D vector maps are coming on line soon.  WhirlyGlobe-Maply has always been able to do vectors, but now we can style them respectably.

There'll be more about this leading up to State Of the Map US.  We'll be showing the vector maps at a booth there under the Maply banner.  That is, myself and...

The Partner: Gaia GPS

The company I'm working with makes the hit outdoor app, Gaia GPS, and similar apps for activities like boating and 4x4 navigation. They're experienced in geospatial data display, mobile app development, and they're local, based in Berkeley.  It's a good combination.

A couple months ago, they started moving their apps to use Maply, and they quickly started to send me valuable feedback and pull requests to update the Maply core.  They very much get geospatial, from the display side as well as the sort of adhoc data processing you always find yourself doing.  Between that and the OEM work, they're a good contracting partner.  They also have more people than I do (4 full-time developers and some part-time people), which is a big plus.

The Conclusion

For the toolkit nothing is going to change.  It's still open source, still available under the Apache 2.0 license.  Same for Android when that comes out of beta.

On the business side we'll be pursuing larger deals.  WhirlyGlobe might play a part, but Maply and vector maps will be our big focus.  If you're a client, don't worry, mousebird will still be taking on smaller technology contracts like we do now.

If you've got a mapping app in the works and you need a bigger team, drop me a line.  We'd love to talk about it.


  1. They really need to support image files with world files. The warper is awful.

    1. Allow me!

      I chatted with Lorri in support, about trying to use to import a geo-TIFF.

      She thinks it would be nice if Gaia GPS had a native capability to import a geo-TIFF along with geo-referencing info (such as a worldfile).

      I actually think we'll do this at some point, along with some other GIS related capabilities, but don't have any particular schedule for it. A lot of GIS types end up using Gaia GPS, and it would probably be more if we dealt with shapefiles and did better data import/export in general.

      Using Maply will also help us do some of this I think, given the better rendering capabilities.

    2. After looking at the maply site and the githib for maply-whilybird, I notice that it uses the gdal framework for building. will you expand beyond geotiff support to all of the non-proprietary raster/vector formats that gdal/ogr support? Are you looking at geopackage support?

    3. I used GDAL for some data manipulation. In particular, you can use one of the GDAL tools to make base maps and another to build vector tiled maps (more on that soon).

      However, most of my users don't use GDAL at all, they use existing data sources, such as MapBox, or make their own MBTiles files via TileMill.

      WhirlyGlobe-Maply is focused on very fast data display. So I wouldn't recommend reading larger data sources, such as big GeoTiffs directly into the tool. Better to run those through a processing step and hand off the processed data.

      That isn't to say that every has to be homogenized to spherical mercator covering the whole earth. You can keep data in its native coordinate system and let the display system reproject as it goes.

      Most of my users would have no idea what any of that meant, so I tend to keep things simple for them. But there is some rigor buried underneath the surface and it can be exposed when a client needs it.

      As for geopackage, I haven't implemented that. It's similar enough to other things (e.g. my new vector maps) that it wouldn't present a problem. But no one's asked for it yet.