Say hello to Rick Berry! Last week, Rick joined our Professional Services team, where he’ll develop solutions for our enterprise customers. He’s been an avid user and advocate of open source geospatial software for some time and has recently used some of those components to develop web clients for the federal government.
Welcome to the team, Rick. We’re excited for you to join.
Thanks! I’m excited to be here. I’ve been interested in coming to work for Boundless for a while. I’ve noticed that there’s been a steady stream of great talent from the geospatial community coming to work at Boundless and I’m happy to be the next in line.
What are you most excited to be doing at Boundless?
For one, I feel like I’ll be doing what I’ve always been doing — solving complex problems for clients — which is something I’ve always loved doing. My job hasn’t changed that much from any of my previous ones, only now I’m using OpenGeo Suite to solve those problems and deliver professional services. Now that I’m in the inner circle at Boundless, I want to help drive the development of all of our tools.
Have you ever used OpenGeo Suite in a project?
Yes, actually just days after it became available in 2010. OpenGeo Suite had just been released for the first time two days prior. I downloaded and deployed it on my desktop machine and, for dramatics, lets say I blurted out loud: “Hey, this stuff just works!” <laughs> It was just fun to play around with and satisfying in that you could accomplish serving data and maps quickly. In minutes, I had a local app server running and was playing around with client examples and client interfaces in no time. Developing using OpenGeo Suite was incredibly clean and easy to configure — all the different modules just plug and play into the client.
Where did you first become exposed to open source geospatial tools?
At my last job we were a full Esri shop but we kept running into issues with the bloat and cumbersomeness of ArcGIS. Esri’s product had become so complex that in order to just deploy a server we’d actually need to have an Esri engineer on-site and looking over our shoulders and directing us. We weren’t able to just launch a WMS or WFS service without someone flying in to oversee it happening.
In the course of one of these installs, I did a search to see if there were any alternatives, if there were any other way to just quickly put up a geospatial server… and I stumbled upon GeoServer. This was back in 2010 but over the last four years there’ve been so many features added that it really started to give Esri a run for its money. Plus, it was easy to use out-of-the-box, as they say. It was just really helpful to be able to quickly get a server up and running.
Were you the only one in your shop who felt that way?
There became an enthusiastic groundswell from fellow engineers that wanted to deploy open source solutions. It was a real natural push from engineers to get those in charge to adapt. There was also excitement from the government employees for something new — whether it be geospatial information systems, ‘geoweb’ services, or the like. I’d say our government clients were generally about ten years behind what was new in the industry, partially due to inertia, partially to due ignorance of what else was available, partially due to being locked into Esri contracts.
Where do you see the geospatial web world moving in the future?
With Esri plateauing in terms of features and ease-of-use but forever rising in terms of cost and complexity, I believe that now is the time now for the more affordable and easier folks — us! — to move in. I’ve seen a lot of desire for geospatial web enterprise infrastructure. Many of my government clients have been anticipating that the future is web geospatial information services.
What job or project did you find most interesting to work on?
I once worked at a sensor fusion company to develop the hardware and software used by infrared cameras to track movements and keep inventory. One was for an animal research lab that used the sensors to keep track of the whereabouts of lab monkeys within their habitats. Another was for an automotive parts supplier and it kept track of whether the proper amount of fluids were being added to the transmissions and differentials of cars as they were coming off the assembly line to ensure cars didn’t end up on the dealer lots without the proper fluid levels.
What do you do away from the keyboard?
If I have time off, I’ll be in my shop — I’m a big tinkerer. I guess I’ve been inadvertently co-opted into what is now called the maker movement. <laughs> I’m really interested in 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC machines. I even built my own CNC machine at one point. Most recently, I’ve been playing around with developing an open source watch that links to a smartphone. I’ve playing around with all the attendant hardware needed to do that — circuit boards, OLED displays, and the sensors needed to make that all work.