Matt Travis: If you need help don’t be afraid to ask.

Bio: UK based data wrangler and QGIS enthusiast who has somehow made a career out of working with open source software. Trying to build a better world through geo! Interviewed By Randal Hale

Q. So Matt – where are you on Earth and what do you do for a living? 

I live in a town called Ivybridge in the Southwest region of England. It’s in the county of Devon and nestled between the coast and the moors. It’s a lovely place to live and a good base for exploring, cycling and hitting the beach for a surf or paddle board.  

I’m currently working for Addresscloud as a Geospatial Data Engineer. My job mainly consists of finding ways of moving data from one place to another. Plus I also spend a fair bit of time finding and evaluating new data. 

Q. What does addresscloud do? 

Addresscloud started off by providing a cloud-based API geocoding service to enable the insurance, finance, and logistics sectors to find properties. It then added intelligence data at property level to the platform and is used across the world to accurately identify and manage their exposure to geographic risks at rooftop level. If you live in the UK and have ever used Compare the Market then you’ve used our service. I work in the engineering team and it’s often said that we were forged at FOSS4G as most of us met at various events across the globe. 

Q. I see you’re treasurer for FOSS4G UK. How is the FOSS4G Community in the UK? Any Conferences coming up? 

The FOSS4G community in the UK is going from strength to strength! Last year we had a distributed event where people had the choice of nine locations spread over the UK. The event was also available online and we had a host of great keynotes and talks on a range of subjects which are available on our YouTube channel. We also just had the second event of this type and it was attended by over 250 people across eight different sites. I’m really proud of how we’ve managed to reach a whole new audience in the UK through running these events. The money we raise through ticket sales feeds back into the community by investing in crowd-funders related to open source software and supporting developers with moving projects forward via a grant system we have set up.

Q. What’s the weirdest fact about Ivybridge? 

I may live in Ivybridge but I actually originate from the famous port city of Plymouth (just ten miles away). People from Plymouth are fondly known as Janners and we’ve had some famous ones such as Dawn French, Nancy Astor (first female MP in the UK), Trevor Francis (first £1 million footballer) and Sir Francis Drake. Obviously, it’s also famous for being the last place that the Pilgrim Fathers stopped on the Mayflower on their trip to settle in North America. I work from a shared office space not far from there and often stop in to  Jacka’s Bakery, thought to be the oldest bakery in the world that is still in operation, and the biscuits that were taken on the Mayflower were made there! Plymouth also boasts England’s oldest working distillery where you can still buy Plymouth Gin

Q. There was a conference in the states that you spoke at and you covered OSMnx as a tool you were using. What does it do? 

OSMnx is a python library that lets you extract pretty much any geographic features that are mapped in OSM. I was using it as a way of getting building outlines but it can be used for anything really. You can do this in QGIS using tools like QuickOSM but that’s very much about mapping the data, whereas I wanted to ingest large amounts at scale. Even OSMnx doesn’t scale that well so we’re using something else now. With OSM it’s all about knowing what you need and then using the correct tags, see taginfo for some good examples. I love OSM, it’s such a great resource and recently I’ve been spending a lot of time researching Overture Maps and I’m amazed just how good that is. It brings together data from Meta, Microsoft and ESRI. The latest release has 1.4 billion bui

Q. How does addresscloud get the address data?

We get our data from various sources both within the UK and overseas, such as the Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail. We then take data from our network of partners that tells us more about the property (age, type, number of bedrooms) and amalgamate that into our own product. We started off focused on address data but have since expanded to include other data related to property risk and perils for the insurance market, such as flood, fire, subsidence and crime. 

Q. If you had to give advice to any up and coming Geo Person – what would it be? 

I think the best advice I could give is to just give things a go, and if you need help don’t be afraid to ask. I’m pretty much self-taught when it comes to using GIS, coding etc. but I owe an awful lot to the people who have helped me when I’ve reached out to them. I would also say to go to conferences, try some workshops, be inspired and meet like-minded people. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people directly if you think you have shared interests or could help them out on a project somehow. 

Q. Matt – the last question is yours! Anything you want to tell the readers of Geohipster? 

I’ve just started to get into using Overture Maps data and I’m really excited about it and what it could mean for our industry. As part of my research around this, I’ve been getting to play with geoparquet and DuckDB , which I love to evangelize about as it’s so easy to use (plus I love the name) 

I also recently gave a talk about Cloud Native data and how we in the geospatial world can access it using different tools – that should be online soon. If you want to take a look at the Overture data yourself in QGIS then check out the data that Chris Holmes has kindly hosted here 

One more thing, if you happen to use open source software then please try and pay back a little if you can, it doesn’t have to be in hard cash (but that would be welcome). Attend events, promote open source in your organization or community if you work for a company that uses it ask them if they can sponsor somehow. Every little helps as they say. 





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