Interview: Izzat Sabbagh, leader of the Capaware 3D virtual world framework project

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This week we interviewed Izzat Sabbagh Rodríguez, leader of the Capaware project, a multipurpose 3D virtual world development framework, sponsored and used by the government of the Canary Islands (Spain) and local companies. An application of this project was already mentioned in a previous post: GPL software helps manage forest fires. Enjoy the interview and leave your comments!

F4S: Please, give us a brief introduction about yourself.

Izzat: Hi, my name is Izzat Sabbagh Rodríguez, and I am the leader of the Capaware project in the Technological Institute of the Canary Islands team. I am a computer science engineer which works in the already mentioned Technological Institute of the Canary Islands (ITC), a public company of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands (Spain). I belong to the Scientific and Technological Computation Department staff of this company, located in the south of the Gran Canaria island (Pozo Izquierdo), and here we work with computing research projects oriented to the canarian society needs. We have projects in several fields of knowledge: meteorological prediction computation oriented to renewable energy production needs, complex data visualization, medical virtual surgery, bioinformatic development, all projects in collaboration with other partners, primary canarian institutions.

F4S: What is Capaware?

Izzat: Capaware is a multipurpose 3D virtual world development framework, so is a flexible and generic tool for building quickly a software application where your main data objects are georeferenced with a particular world area. This way, Capaware allows you to focus your development in the main functionality of your software, through a plugin interface, and leave the 3D virtual world creation and interaction as a secondary matter in the project.

Capaware was born with a free spirit, as we believe in open source software as an effective way to help small economies to become more dynamic and with the conviction that it would be a useful development tool for our local software development companies. As a public company we must work to provide them with efficient tools and transfer to them our research work. We knew that, when we released the first version, it would have a global effect, but our local companies have the advantage of having us near them for project collaborations.


Capaware showing solar irradiation WFS layer over the island of Gran Canaria

F4S: Why and when did Capaware came to be?

Izzat: Well, Capaware was born as a collateral effect of other project. In 2003, the ITC needed to virtually represent the El Hierro Wind-Pumped Hydro Power Station, a renewable ITC collaborative project where the Canarian island of El Hierro will be the first island of the world self-maintained by renewable energy. At that time, in the Canary islands there were no professionals with 3D graphical development skills, not in the regional universities neither in the ITC, so… we challenge ourselves to constitute the first 3D graphical development regional group with staff from ITC and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC).

We decided also that all the software used should be GPL in order to enable others to reuse our results. That was a very successful project using an open-source graphical game engine (CrystalSpace). Then, after that it was needed to modify the application as the engineering project was modified. That was very difficult, all the original application was developed only thinking in that specific project and the code was not ready to be refactored so easily. So, that was the trigger!!! We needed a way to easily modify that kind of virtual world applications, a way to invert all the efforts in the main functionality. So that was the beginning of the Capaware project in 2004. All the conception and analysis of the Capaware platform and its first example application use case (Emergencies Virtual Manager) was an ITC effort, although its programming was heavily carried out mainly by the ULPGC team.

F4S: In which language and platform is Capaware developed?

Izzat: One of the more remarkable features of Capaware is that it is programmed in C++. That makes it a very swift and smooth application. Although its first version was developed only for Windows, the RC2 version will include also the Linux version.

Capaware showing windfarm model

Capaware showing windfarm model

F4S: How maps, terrain data an photography are integrated in Capaware applications?

Izzat: Right now, Capaware, through its Capabuilder tool, allows access to geographical servers using OGC protocols. Here in the Canaries we have a public corporation (GRAFCAN) that provides this data by means of the INSPIRE law of the European Union (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community ).

F4S: Does Capaware have sponsors?

Izzat: Well, as I have said before, this has been fully an ITC sponsored project, in both versions. There was no other kind of financial help by any other institution. After the first version, almost the whole ULPGC team was employed by a local software development company (InventiaPlus), which saw a business opportunity in the example use case ( the emergencies virtual manager). Since that moment, InventiaPlus has improved their Capaware based product (SADEMER3D) in order to focus it in this field.

F4S: How are the sponsors supporting the project?

Izzat: Until now the only sponsor of the project, the Government of the Canary Islands through its public company ITC has been funding it directly as a valuable technological regional project.

F4S: How many users you estimate Capaware have?

Izzat: Well this is very difficult issue to know. We can only know the number of downloads for the code and the application. Of the RC1 version we had almost 850 worldwide downloads of the source code, and near to 3500 downloads of the executable setup. That was really an unexpected number for us as we had almost no marketing activities for it. Regarding the RC2 version, with only 2 months since the release, we have already 379 downloads of the source code and 383 downloads of the executable setup.

F4S: How many team members does the project have?

Izzat: The Capaware team has 2 historical phases. The first version release phase was carried out by the ITC-ULPGC team, which included:

Izzat Sabbagh Rodríguez (ITC)
Agustin Trujillo Pino (ULPGC)
Javier Sánchez Pérez (ULPGC)
Rafael J. Nebot Medina (ITC)
Modesto Castrillón Santana (ULPGC)
Jose Pablo Suárez Rivero (ULPGC)
José Ignacio López Rodríguez (ITC)
Francisco Manuel Quintana Trujillo (ITC)
David Martin Zerpa (Collaborator)
Pedro Jorge González (Collaborator)
José Antonio Sánchez López (Collaborator)

The Capaware project has been continued guided by the ITC. As a result of this second phase, the new version Release Candidate 2 has been finished , which has been developed in collaboration with the InventiaPlus company, which incorporated several of the original team members on staff:

Izzat Sabbagh Rodríguez (ITC)
Gustavo Medina del Rosario (InventiaPlus)
David Martin Zerpa (InventiaPlus)
Pedro Jorge González (InventiaPlus)
José Antonio Sánchez López (InventiaPlus)
Manuel Padrón Martín (InventiaPlus)
Francisco Quintana Trujillo (ITC)
José Ignacio López Rodríguez (ITC)

F4S: In what areas of Capaware development do you currently need help?

Izzat: We currently are designing a third iteration of the product thinking about mobile devices. Maybe that coud be a good chance of helping.

Capaware Interface

Capaware Interface

F4S: What features are in the roadmap?

Izzat: The usability in mobile devices and improving the OGC standard capabilities with more layers types like KML or others, like OpenStreetmap, are main target features.

F4S: Which projects, blogs or sites related to open source software for science can you recommend?

Izzat: Well, Fossee ( is a site I usually give a round about.

F4S: Is there any other topic you would like our readers to know about?

Izzat: We would like to hear from those who had used Capaware for some initiatives, see how Capaware has been applied to certain applications. We would like to discover new application fields for Capaware.

F4S: What is the URL for the project homepage?

Izzat: All the information of the project is hosted in the homepage,

F4S: Where people can contact you?

Izzat: You can contact me by email, or through my Facebook account.

F4S: Thank you Izzat for sharing with us more about you and Capaware.

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