20% of the Netherlands is below sea level. 3 major rivers flow through the Netherlands. Standing between the Netherlands and the water is a massive and complex infrastructure of canals, dams and dikes that have been built and improved upon for centuries by Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands Ministry of Transport, Waterways and Public Works.
Rijkswaterstaat publishes an internal map of its infrastructure database via the MapViewer application, which provides access to over more than 250 layers of spatial information to the 12000 employees of Rijkswaterstaat. The 1.0 version of MapViewer was built with open source components (MapServer and Chameleon), and provided web access to capabilities that were previously only available via desktop GIS applications.
MapViewer uses open standards such as WMS and WFS to communicate between the front- and back-end. This allows different clients to view information from the MapViewer backends, and different servers to provide layers to the MapViewer front-end.
Throughout their history of working with open source, Rijkswaterstaat has taken care to maintain an understanding of the community that undergirds the software they use. They have done so by retaining local contractors with open source and OGC experience, and by attending conferences such as the international FOSS4G event, to make and maintain contacts with the development community.
In 2007, Rijkswaterstaat had begun modernizing MapViewer, using OpenLayers as the mapping component and ExtJS as the user interface framework. The new interface was going to be slicker than the original, but it still needed all the old tools and some new ones. OpenLayers had a strong core, but was missing some features MapViewer needed:
- Continuous resolutions
- Scale bar component
- Navigation history
- Measurement tool
- Overview map customization
- Web map context support
Rijkswaterstaat came to OpenGeo because of our expertise in OpenLayers and our active involvement in the development community. OpenGeo team member Tim Schaub is an OpenLayers steering committee member and major developer.
“Some of the enhancements we needed (like the scalebar) were already available as prototypes, done by him. Tim has really made an impression with all his OpenLayers developments/contributions,” said Bart van den Eijnden, the Netherlands-based contractor who does much of the MapViewer development.
Because of their past experience with open source, Rijkswaterstaat knew from the start that they would want the enhancements delivered directly into the OpenLayers source tree. In this way, the new features would be available to other OpenLayers users, who would have an incentive to maintain and enhancement over the long term.
Thijs van Menen manages the MapViewer project at Rijkswaterstaat. “Another thing that I liked about this contract was the direct possibility to give the work done by Tim back to the community by Tim. In the past we have not always had the time to return our code enhancements to the projects. So this time we put it in the contract and it became part of Tim's work”
The code for all the new features was delivered into the OpenLayers trunk, with test cases and documentation. From there, Bart van den Eijnden accessed it and rolled the new functionality into the next releases of the MapViewer application. The current spatial data infrastructure at Rijkswaterstaat is a hybrid of proprietary and open source components: features are stored in an ArcSDE database, rendered with MapServer, edited with Geoserver WFS-T, and displayed in an OpenLayers/ExtJS web application (MapViewer 2.0).
MapViewer 2.0 became operational in 2008 and is still serving the internal users at Rijkswaterstaat.
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