San Antonio was the location for the 7th Annual MapWorld Conference.If you couldn't make it, you not only missed out on the Alamo, the Riverwalk and Fiesta but on the innovative GIS applications that was showcased by users and exhibitors.It was truly an interdisciplinary affair, with attendees from all business segments coming together to share their experiences.
In addition, many MapInfo and partner staff personnel were on call throughout the conference to answer questions and offer important insights.It is this type of interaction between the various GIS stakeholders that influences the future direction of spatial software.Participation is paramount and with estimated 600+ attendees, the feedback collected will serve as a useful mechanism to prioritize user requests.It was evident that attendees thoroughly enjoyed being at the conference
The major themes that were emphasized by the keynote speakers revolved around the way that GIS will be affected by the evolution of the Internet.On hearing the phrases location-based services, customer relationship management, wireless and broadband, one could have been mistaken for thinking at times that they were sitting in the wrong conference.But such is the influence that telecommunications is having upon GIS, and GIS upon telecommunications.The growth of the former is helping to spread the advantages of using GIS and the continual development of the latter is enabling emerging telecommunication services to be implemented.Thus the presence of the following telecoms giants at the conference: AT&T, GTE, Sprint, MCI WorldCom, Nortel Networks and Motorola.
With four parallel tracks, there was something for everyone.Sessions catered to different skill levels from beginners to experts.While some learned how to create simple thematic maps, others worked through challenging development exercises.The latter mostly revolved around the Internet-enabling software such as MapXtreme for JAVA, Oracle8i/JAVA, MapX and MapBasic for building custom tools.
MapInfo representatives were also able to fill a number of sessions with demonstrations of their spatial data offerings.Among these were MapMarker, MapInfo TargetPro Demographic and Cluster Analyzer, the plethora of Telecom-specific data sets from CallingAreaInfo to CableInfo to POPInfo and Coverage Locator.
Partners such as NorthWood were also able to present their leading products: deciBel Planner, Vertical Mapper and Virtual Frontier.Most users would agree that knowing what data and applications are available is crucial when incorporating GIS into work tasks.In many cases throughout the world, the limiting factor to how far GIS can be taken by users, is often the availability of data.
Exhibits by companies from all over North America were also attracting a lot of attention.Among these were CompuSearch, Geographic Data Technology Incorporated, CDS Business Mapping, ASI, Sage Software, POLK, Conclusive Strategies, Trimble, Integrated GPS Technologies, DataMetrix, TerrAlign, MapText Inc, Oracle, Idea Integration, VMS, Datria Systems, Spatial Insights, DeskMapSystems.People wandered from stall to stall for hours trying to establish whether this or that capability was relevant to their specific work.The boundaries of GIS are continually being expanded to incorporate the newest technology.
GIS today is slowly shifting from something that has been relatively important to a mission-critical application relied upon by growing numbers of employees.While the trend is still to have only a small number of GIS developers supporting whole organizations, this is likely to change in the next 1-2 years as the users start to demand greater capabilities when querying the in-house spatial database.Zooming in and out of maps using the company's intranet is "neat" but that is all.The significant value-add will come from using the in-house information in ways that was never thought possible.That means linking geographic objects to pieces of information that were traditionally considered completely unrelated.It also means giving employees access to making real-time updates to the company database during data collection whether from a web browser, laptop, PDA or cell phone.
In the interim, efforts in larger corporations will be focused towards the centralization of information resources, connecting different facets of the business together.What is being envisioned is an intelligent decision-making system driven by clearly defined processes.Each piece of data being an input for one or more processes, the output of which is yet another input to some other process and so forth.Thus the systems can be considered 'alive' in terms of their dynamism and interactive nature.Consider marketing executives in a telcom being able to define strategies for the business, which automatically generate specific customer leads for the sales force team.Once new customers enter the network or old ones churn then engineering could handle the changes in capacity knowing where additional equipment is required.Operations could also act accordingly for the installation of new customer premise devices, making sure at all times that customer care is running smoothly.This is truly an end-to-end network solution.
While the idea 'sounds good' it is a highly complex initiative to undertake.It requires upper management support, funding, skilled resources and a positive buy-in by all divisions of the business.First, each division needs to get their own house in order (i.e.an automated approach) and only then can all the pieces of information be meshed together.A weak link in the chain will almost definitely cause the system to collapse, similar to that of a living organism in any environment.For those that succeed in building such an integrated database management solution, incorporating spatial data can be the differentiating factor because it places a context and relativity to everything.Those who succeed will enjoy a heretofore-unseen level of efficiency and effectiveness.