On Monday, March 7th, Vince Rosales of Idea Integration and chairman of this year's GITA conference (photo at right), welcomed the crowd to the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. He jumped on stage carrying a guitar and promised to sing to anyone willing to listen.Mr.Rosales ,a member of the GITA board of Directors, introduced the theme of the conference "Crossing Boundaries" and vowed to make this the key geospatial event of the year.But is it? I think GITA has tried to improve the quality of speakers and some of the presentations that I attended were excellent.The conference organization did a good job of logistically managing the event. However, attendance increased only because the number of vendors increased from last year. Regular attendance was about the same.
The problem isn't the quality of the agenda but rather that this is a mature market.Many of the same vendors are here year after year. Moreover, many show exactly the same kind of solutions as their neighbors.Just how many times can you see a network tracing algorithm by yet another software or systems integrator and not come away in a somnambulant state?
Many of the companies on the exhibit floor were touting mobile solutions.Perhaps because both the hardware and communications infrastructure are better established, the market is more prepared to buy into mobile computing.These solutions can offer lower cost of ownership because the software and pen-based, "ruggedized" computer vendors have had enough years to work the bugs out.The market is ready to purchase, and there was more of a buzz about mobility than anything else on the show floor (see the secion on WOW Technology in the article).
GITA is taking steps to try to enhance attendance by inviting both Oracle and Ten Sails Consulting to host user conferences the day after the main event. It's a good move, but it won't change the audience dramatically. There are too many alternatives. Many conference-goers are opting instead for user conferences by ESRI, Intergraph, Bentley and Autodesk. On tight budgets and in markets that are saturated, where users have made their choice of GIS, users will spend their money to go to the vendor's user conferences.
So, that brings us back to the benefits of attending a conference of a professional organization like GITA. I prefer conferences like this because it is a neutral venue. Still, there must be a more compelling reason to draw attendees if the same types of geospatial applications will be discussed. I've commented on this before, but my strong recommendation is to have a merger between GITA and URISA.Not only are the technical challenges faced by local governments and utilities similar, but too often the politics that hinder technology adoption, can be the same as well.That's especially in the case where you have a public-owned utility that needs to get its land base from the tax assessor, or vice versa.These challenges should be addressed in the same forum.Merge the two organizations, and their conferences, and I believe the synergies will be good for the GIS community at large.
The balance of the conference report includes coverage of the keynote presentations, an overview of the plenary session, executive interviews, WOW technologies, a section on what I "saw and heard," plus news briefs and awards.