Moving into the 21st Century with Business Geographics

By Hal Reid

I have had several thoughts about the 21st Century.Some of them about how this century relates to PDAs, business in general, the changing nature of the consumer and what things should we consider and understand in order for us remain relevant.I don't think we are mentally in the 21st Century yet, but there are pressures that will put us there, soon.

Recently, I was speaking with several people who have been in Business GIS since the beginning and we were talking about previous Business GIS conferences and why people stopped going to them.The consensus was that there was nothing new to see.After you had gotten past thematic maps and address matching, there was very little to cause you to return.

If we were to create such a gathering today, what could you offer that would make people want to come? I think there are several topics that would outline the placement of Business Geographics in the 21st century, create a wider understanding of how it all relates to 21st century business, and ultimately, see your role and the role of pertinent devices like the PDA.

In my conference, there would only be one track.It would be held somewhere that the airfares and hotels are cheap, so you could afford to go.It would last only a day and a half. All vendors would have the same size booth (and the same cost-cheap, so everybody could afford to come) and the vendors would be required to participate as a series of teams in a field exercise that put their applications to work.

Here are the sections topics (in order) that I would suggest.

  1. A History of the 20th Century Consumer - 21st Century Trends: Just how did we get to the present, what events conditioned the consumer and is the current retail environment really appropriate?
  2. Organizational Structures - Dynamic vs.Static - The Mobile Workforce: Is the typical business organization today the inverse application of a dump truck delivering a postage stamp, or has the organization evolved and just doesn't know it yet?
  3. The Future is Visualization: The promise of seeing things through maps has been generally unfulfilled, except by the Military.But there is more to visualization than enterprise distribution of thematic maps or pin maps of where your stores are.We should be able to see events unfold, view imagery, graphs and the temporal effect of business activities.
  4. Simulation - "What Ifs" and Visual Modeling: The ability to see what might be the case has usually been the province of seers and guys in white robes sitting atop some remote mountain peak.There are a number of applications available today that don't require embracing a strange philosophy or an extensive field trip to the hinterlands that can help see the future, providing to don't want to see too far out.
  5. Delivery Devices - Where the PDA fits in: Current trends are integrating the cell phone, pager, email service and the PDA.It is obvious that this should have been done in the first place.But, it is also true that after working out the solution, the problem is no longer as difficult.A large part of the 21st Century will be defined by the PDA, or what it becomes.If we could really understand that now, then we would know what technologies to embrace and which ones to avoid.
So, if you are up for it, I will attempt to address each of these topics with my "Simple Stuff" column.I won't lose sight of the PDA aspect and I think we might develop a new understanding of how to best exploit these devices as well as other things that will bring us into the 21st century.Now, there is no doubt that there are people better qualified to address each of these topics.In a real conference, we would want them.I'll bet that you know some and I know some.If you tell me yours, I tell you mine.

Tune in for a short history of the 20th Century consumer, next time on Simple Stuff.

See Hal Reid's other Simple Stuff articles on PDA applications: #8, #7, #6, #5, #4, #3, #2, #1


Published Wednesday, August 7th, 2002

Written by Hal Reid



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