"Imagining Possibilities" Forum Generates Big Ideas By Randall Johnson, MetroGIS
While GIS technology has been around for a few decades, its utility has expanded exponentially with advances in hardware technology, including the Internet, expanded software capabilities, and expanded cooperative efforts to develop and integrate sets of data. To better understand these trends in preparation for Strategic and Business Planning initiatives, a forum entitled "Imagining Possibilities: The Next Frontier for Geographic Information Technology" was convened on June 1 at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus. It was hosted by MetroGIS in conjunction with the MnGIS/LIS Consortium, the University of Minnesota, the Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis, the Governor’s Council on Geographic Information, the Metropolitan Council, USGS, ASPRS - Western Great Lakes Region; and the Minnesota Chapter of GITA.
Speaking here is Clint Brown, director of software development for ESRI. A central theme of his talk was that the future will favor organizations that harness the power of GIS.
Nearly 250 individuals attended. Four keynote speakers, respected nationally and internationally within the geospatial community, shared their visions of capabilities that geospatial technology will enable within the next five years. The keynote speakers were:
Michael Liebhold, Senior Researcher for the Institute for the Future (IFTF)
Clint Brown, Director of New Product Release for ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute)
Mark Reichardt, President of the Open Geospatial Consortium
Professor Ian Masser, spatial data infrastructure expert and former President of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI)
They offered an amazing diversity of perspectives and "big ideas" regarding several aspects of the future of geographic information technology – the tools and applications themselves, standards needed, and organizational structures needed to fully capitalize on the technology.
An overview of some of the big ideas shared, by keynote speaker, includes:
Individuals will become a dominant segment of the GIS user base.
GeoWeb will work as increasingly more web objects will have spatial coordinates and if everyone adopts a standard way of delivering data. Special emphasis on individuals and the realization of the Star Trek Tricorder vision of knowing everything about a place.
Need to act now to prevent Balkanization of information, e.g., the Google way, the Yahoo way, the Microsoft way, etc. GeoRSS can bring resolution.
Technology is becoming imbedded in many devices and applications.
A Digital [Environmental] Nervous System for the Planet will exist when we link sensor networks from many sources [and vendors]. Need Data Fusion Centers.
Emergency response to a crisis like Hurricane Katrina is showing us the value of data sharing, but it took extraordinary efforts to pull together data from various sources.
Open standards facilitate entry of new firms with new products and solutions. They also facilitate data sharing among all users.
New standards are coming that will:
allow Computer Aided Design (CAD) users to share their as-built information
provide a registry of map symbology and style
facilitate service chaining
enable sensor locations
start work on semantic interoperability
Professor Ian Masser
Five principles from Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE)
Data should be collected once and maintained at the level where this can be done most effectively.
It should be possible to combine seamlessly spatial data from different sources and share among many users and applications.
Spatial data should be collected at one level of government and shared among all levels.
Spatial data needed for good governance should be available on conditions that do not restrict its extensive use.
It should be easy to discover which spatial data is available, to evaluate its fitness for purpose and to know which conditions apply for its use.
The GIS user base is changing, with technology-aware professionals becoming an ever-smaller fraction of this base.
For the benefit of both government and society, we need to design governance structures that facilitate networking, data sharing, and the maximum use of data assets. MetroGIS is one of many good models.
To be successful, GIS organizations need to be seen as necessary and valuable to those who control their budget. They need to actively market themselves.