Advanced Rails GIS Hacks

Location: Salon A-B Level: Intermediate

Despite the overwhelming success and usefulness of mapping mashups, the traditional GIS world has had some tools in its inventory that have the potential to revolutionise Where 2.0. As useful as mashups are they have a somewhat limited use in a government and enterprise context where GIS is primarily used as a tool for decision support. GIS that began life in the research labs of universities, military, and governments, have had a focus on modelling and analysis of geographic information to aid decision making. With the maturing of web standards and aggregation technologies for geographic information the GeoWeb is becoming a reality. Deploying the power of GIS on the emerging GeoWeb is the next logical step for the neogeographer.

This tutorial will start off with basic concepts on how to integrate disparate data sources into your geo-enabled Rails environment and quickly move on to analyse them and display the results to allow decision making. The decisions made often impact the environment being modelled or observed thus forming a feedback mechanism for consumers.

With the GeoWeb becoming a reality we can kick off a new class of mashups that intelligently consider location to aid decision making. The process involves aggregating and visualizing this data. At this stage the human eye can readily start observing interesting patterns in the data. The classic example being Dr. John Snow’s map of Cholera deaths and water pumps in London. Dr. Snow investigated the outbreak of Cholera by overlaying the location of disease outbreak on water pump locations. Although such visual correlation is useful in simple cases, GIS can automate complex geographic analysis.

For example, in order to assess the risk of bushfire and anticipate the required firefighting resources several pieces of Geospatial information are required. Relevant data-sets include ground temperature, wind velocity, vegetation cover, slope, and humidity. These combined with reports of spot fires from remote sensing satellites as well as users can form the basis for spatial analysis and modelling of bush fire risk assessment and prediction.

In this tutorial we are going to look at the intersection of traditional GIS analysis and Where 2.0. Our platform of choice will be Ruby on Rails with the additional functionality of a number of C/C++ GIS packages such as GRASS, R, and gstat. To help us accomplish our task we’ll be making use of a number of Ruby libraries and Rails plug-ins as well as spatially enabled databases such as PostGIS. We’ll learn to RESTfully develop and expose web services and add advance geospatial analysis on top of the existing GeoWeb. The aim is to expose the relationships, patterns, and knowledge that is embedded in the various pieces of geographic information on the GeoWeb.

Photo of Shoaib Burq

Shoaib Burq

Nomad Labs Pty Ltd

Shoaib has been working in the Geomatics industry for over 3 years. His professional interests include bringing location based decision support to the end consumer and improving the access to GeoData. He like’s developing in Rails and has been particularly active in promoting the development of mapping applications in Rails. He lives and works in Canberra, Australia where he’s involved with a number of Government Geospatial projects.

Brian Hamlin


Bio:In nearly 20 years of professional programming, Brian has been fascinated with print and publishing. From the early days of PostScript on the Apple LaserWriter and Linotype, to Macintosh applications and PDF, to Unicode, and now to Wordpress and Mapping Mashups, Brian has found more than a few interesting corners to explore. — Brian has a feeling that there is Industrial Ecology work that needs to get done sooner rather than, ever

  • Autodesk
  • Google
  • ESRI
  • Nokia
  • DigitalGlobe
  • Earthscape
  • LightPole
  • MapJack
  • MapQuest
  • MetaCarta
  • Microsoft
  • Poly9
  • Skyhook Wireless
  • TeleAtlas
  • Yahoo! Inc.
  • Zvents
  • BNet

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