Looking Ahead to 2006

By Directions Staff

_Film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert started a tradition on their TV show of both noting which films they'd like to see win the Oscar and those they expected to win the award.We want to do something similar as we look ahead to 2006 in the geospatial industry.First, the editors share what they'd like to see happen, and what they expect to see happen.In the final section we share what several readers hope to see in the 2006.

If any of these things do happen in the next year, you can be sure we'll report on them!


Adena Schutzberg, Executive Editor

Enhanced Understanding of GPS
Somehow coverage of GIS has the edge over GPS.Outside the odd writer who refers to "global information systems," most GIS stories do a good job highlighting what GIS is and how it works for the lay audience. Explanation of GPS, on the other hand, includes discussions of how GPS receivers send signals to GPS satellites.In 2006, I'd love to see the number of such errors drop significantly.(Help me out if you can.If you see/hear such a statement in the media, send on a respectful e-mail setting the individual straight and ask for a correction to be published/aired.)

Development of a Framework for Geospatial Data Search
I am continually astounded that we (the U.S./the world/the geospatial community, take your pick) does not have a mechanism to search for geospatial data on the Web.Oh, there are many websites that offer such searches including some commercial ones that want to sell you the data in question, which is fine, but they use their own methods and are therefore limited in what they include.For some, data stewards must register their data, and alas, there's been little incentive for them to do so.Frankly, I'm not sure if this development task is best addressed by government (Department of Interior?) or private industry (Google?) or a non-profit (Open Geospatial Consortium? Google Foundation?).We need such a tool for the sake of environmental study, international politics and national and worldwide security and response, among other things.

Clean Up USGS
I'm not really sure what's going on in there, but there are many things that just do not seem to be working - reorganizations, delivery of The National Map, leadership.(The name of the NSGIC midyear meeting sounds prophetic: "All Hands on Deck for the Nation!") Having a federal civilian mapping agency is crucial to our nation.Let's not let it get scrapped due to a few missteps.Let's get a director on board and do the job! Oh, and let's be clear what the job is, too.

Quiet Down About LBS
Can we please get the LBS vendors to be quiet until they have something to say? Pretty please? For now all we see is hype and no real solutions for our cell phones.Maybe the locating technology is not up to speed. Maybe you've not done the market research to determine what we fickle consumers want.No matter, just be quiet and let the rest of us get on with our lives until you do have something to show.

Joe Francica, Editor in Chief

Admit the Threat
I'd like to hear one CEO of a GIS company openly admit that its leadership role in geospatial technology is threatened by the likes of Oracle or Google.It is so obvious that the visualization tools of Google and the embedded functionality of Oracle Spatial threatens not necessarily the traditional target market for location technology but the much broader market for adopting location technology to mainstream enterprise business processes.In the case of Oracle, it is either partner or perish; work with them or get run over by them.In the case of Google, an export function, like that of MapInfo, may be the best way to appease an already antsy clientele that keeps wondering why the map rendering tools of the traditional GIS companies never found a way to make it as simple as Google did.

Intergraph/MapInfo Merger
What I would like to see is a merger of Intergraph with MapInfo.With the upheaval in the consumer Web mapping portal arena, a direct assault on geospatial technology is underway.The technology is no longer the purview of just a few traditional GIS companies; Oracle, Microsoft and Google have stomped right in the middle of the fun and now it's a battle.MapInfo and Intergraph are two companies that represent the middle ground in the game for mindshare.It is an untenable place to be.Why not join forces and truly compete for the potentially fertile ground of enterprise location intelligence? These are good companies with good products, each with their own strengths in both the public and private sector.Forget about any problems with integrating their technologies and product suites; that's an easier problem to solve than the thought of losing potentially big business.The battle is for selling solutions and both companies have been moving in that direction for the last several years.


Nora Parker, Senior Managing Editor

Web Services Will Snip Away at Traditional GIS
2005 was the year of the "freely available consumer-oriented mapping API." Some of these APIs include functionality that could easily be used to handle less analytically complex geospatial processing needs. The 'crux of the biscuit' for our industry, is how much of the geoprocessing going on out there falls into this "less analytically complex" category? What effect could these APIs have in the commercial space (vs.the consumer space)? Will they displace software revenues? (E.g.will companies adopt them and use them in place of paid-for software?) Or will they heighten awareness of geoprocessing's potential, causing users to quickly outgrow them and move to acquiring more complex software, and thus increase software revenues? The bottom line? The new APIs will draw "less analytical users" from their traditional complex GIS software and displace some revenue.Awareness will be heightened, but it seems clear revenue will move from boxes of software sold to the number of geospatial transactions made.

Hal Reid, Editor, Location Intelligence Magazine

Data Access and Integration
The grand scheme for this year is access to data.Internet access becomes more ubiquitous and we will see access continue to be enhanced to include more and more adjacent information.To help use this new data availability there will be an integrated suite of products like Writely.com, Google maps/imagery and traditional searches all sourced from your browser.So from your browser, you can mix and match and integrate into a single document which can reside either on your local device, remain securely on the Web, or both, and editable on either.As four dimensional data becomes mainstream viewing the past, present and predictive future will be an expected part of business analysis.2006 will be a landmark year in terms of technology adaptation.

Adena Schutzberg

ArcGIS Explorer will not be a Google Killer
ESRI has already stated that it's not supposed to be one, so it won't be.If ESRI plays its cards correctly and "sticks to the knitting" it may well have a viewer that its own community ï¿1⁄2" and hopefully the education community - will use daily.Recall that this did not happen with ArcExplorer nor ArcReader, so perhaps this third free viewer (with 3D support and OGC support) will be an answer.

Microsoft will not catch Google in mapping this year
Recall that Microsoft is renowned for offering a 1.0 iteration that's not so great, but over time hones it to be a market leader.So it was with the Virtual Earth technology now part of Live Local.The data was old, the interface challenging and the API not as thrilling as Google Maps'.But, Microsoft did sign on the dotted line with Pictometry, something that's given it some clout.And, the company did clearly state its business model for mashups.And, in the days before the holidays, it acquired tiny but tech savvy GeoTango.Still, I'll give Microsoft until 2007 to get close to Google on the mapping front.

Mashups will get down to business
2005 was the dipping the toe in the water for map mashups.People made maps because they could.In 2006 reality will take hold and these Web 2.0 goodies will need to have some return.I expect I'll be asked to subscribe to a free running newsletter with ads about using a mashup for setting up my training runs.And, I likely will do so.That will mean that Yahoo and Google will need to outline further plans for how developers can work with the APIs for commercial or internal use.

Open Source will thrive
The open source geospatial community, with Autodesk in attendance, will educate a whole new set of potential users about how that development methodology works and what it can deliver.As this happens, commercial vendors will need to research the term "commodity" and act accordingly, especially with regard to Web mapping offerings.I expect at least one commercial vendor will offer a free, if not open source, lightweight Web mapping offering.I expect at least one other to sign on with the MapServer Foundation (or whatever its name finally is).

Blurring and mixing will continue
The use of exclusively one technology type in geospatial (think open source vs.proprietary, professional vs.consumer, etc.) will diminish in the enterprise and home.The need to get to the best solution most efficiently will drive the hard core "to the other side" to use what was once perhaps forbidden technology.

Joe Francica

Google's influence will be felt in the enterprise
The influence of Google Earth and Google Maps on enterprise geospatial computing will become even more evident.There is already enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that executives are seeking solutions that take advantage of the Google Earth interface.They are asking their senior technical staff, and some high profile companies have contacted Google directly, to determine how to integrate the visualization toolkit with their enterprise data.Almost by accident, Google has perhaps made the single greatest impact on geospatial technology adoption since the introduction of Windows in the early 90's.So, what's next? Will we begin to see that traditional GIS solutions are bypassed altogether in favor of a connection between a map display engine and enterprise databases? Can we expect to see Oracle and Google partner to elevate the awareness of geospatial information to corporations? I think we will.

Real-time data in navigation offerings
The next big thing in location based services is real-time data integrated with in-vehicle navigation systems.Getting driving directions is extremely useful "¦what's next? I think the obvious choice is real-time weather.Looks like this fall, XM Satellite Radio will launch a service in conjunction with Baron Services.However, just shortly after that, I think the absolute must real-time data has to be price updates from the nearest gas station that is directly integrated with the fuel gauge. "Getting low on gas? Fuel up just one mile ahead for $2.39 per gallon." It will be a "must have" in-vehicle tool and more suitable for the vehicle than for the cell phone, i.e.get the data where you need it most.

Reader Hopes

Back in December, we asked readers to share what they hoped would happen and what they expected might happen in the new year.Several readers responded, with a wide range of ideas.

Chris Maltese, Cingular, United States
Mainstream madness
I'm of the mindset that GIS will enter the mainstream at a faster pace than expected.There was a time when everyone went to the "Word Processing Department" to have text entered into electronic form for manipulation, dissemination, etc.Now, everyone has a word processor on their PC.I feel that GIS will be no different, as individuals from all disciplines are now using mapping in their day-to-day lives.

Bob Gaspirc, OLS, CLS, OLIP, WES-Tech Services, Ontario, Canada
Notes from underground
I would like:
  • Firm and clear data standards that describe the objects to be collected and why they need to be collected.
  • Harmonization of best business practices focused on underground infrastructure damage prevention
  • More frequent "one-call" services to locate and designate the existence of utilities during all phases, (from permitting , design, construction and as-built)
  • Technologies and tools that enable all underground facilities to be locatable.New cheaper technologies and methodologies are required to ensure that the presence and type of underground facilities are readily locatable, and may be identified through such devices such as tonable pipes, cables, tracer wire, locator balls etc...AND perhaps legislation, or city by-laws that may include permanent above and or below ground markers.
  • Technologies that would be used by contractors to mark out the as-laid, as-construct, and as-found utilities.
I would like to see the further development of technologies such as hand-held units that measure, G.P.S.xyz at the station, laser distance range to "reflector less" points on an exposed utility, built in compass, built in inclinometer, and oh yeah, at least a 3 megapixel embedded camera with a display screen on which standard pull-down menus can be easily used by backhoe operators, inspectors, or construction supervisors to identify the object, type, and location under the ground "¦ all for under "¦ $5,000.

Alistair Hart, Tropical Public Health Unit Network, Queensland, Australia
Moving GPS data via wireless
I think (hope) that we will see the emergence of wireless (802.11) GPS (as opposed to Bluetooth [BT]) to combat the issue of Bluetooth GPS's problem with data transmission rates.Current BT GPS sentence outputs have to be very carefully constructed to meet business needs whilst still being small enough to send every second to the receiving device.

Similarly, I'd like to see lower-end GPS devices (ie: Garmin GPS76 series) come with a wireless communication option.How frustrating is it to have to have two GPS's - one for hooking up to your PocketPC/whatever for GIS data capture and one for your 4WD weekend bush camping/hiking trip (something as robust and weatherproof as the GPS 76's).Wouldn't it be nice just to have one GPS that does both functions?

I also hope to see a Global WAAS for GPSs emerge, or at least some kind of WAAS over the Western Pacific...

Jennifer Selfridge, CTL Engineering of West Virginia, Inc., West Virginia, United States
Grave data needs
  • Coordinates / data layer for Cemeteries: active, historical, gone/moved/destroyed
  • Coordinates given to gravestones (all or just famous/ significant/beautiful) - Could be entered as a "geocache" type-activity
  • Cemeteries with linked photographs of site and gravestones, coordinates, transcriptions.
With increasing development and the popularity of genealogy, these resources would be invaluable.GNIS has many cemeteries listed.Some of these do not exist anymore.There are many that exist but are not on their list.There are ones listed on topo maps, but not one their list.

Jason Birch, City of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
Go open source!
I'd love to see users embrace Tux (formerly known as MapsServer
Enterprise) and use it in ways that Autodesk never expected.Think mash-ups are cool? Wait 'til you see what happens when you've got a full geoprocessing platform to play with.I'd like to see Autodesk rewarded for their bold move in all of the ways they have hoped for, validating open source as a business model for traditional GIS software companies.I'd like to see other GIS companies (better late than never) come to the party too, though I'm not holding my breath.

Published Friday, January 6th, 2006

Written by Directions Staff

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