The New Nature of Data

By Hal Reid

_The storage of spatial data has always been an issue for GIS.The problem has always been that when you move from the desktop and into the enterprise, the corporation's ability to allow more users access to data while maintaining different software for mapping, CAD and even imagery is difficult at best? Local governments are among the most common group of users with this need.They have the need to share, overlay, add data to and store GIS and CAD files in the same place. They have both the CAD and GIS departments' work against the common data store.Businesses want to do the same for their data, whether it is business intelligence (BI) related, location intelligence related, tabular, graphic or a combination of both.

This concept of common enterprise spatial data has been the focus of product offerings by ESRI, IBM and Oracle as well as several other companies.However, a new wrinkle for BI is the inclusion of location-based information, in addition to the element of "time" as a data type.IBM has defined a new term, STC - spatial temporal computing - in order to frame this concept as a key part of stored data (see GIS Across America).There are even other diversions such as ESRI's OLAP (On-Line Analytical Processing) data analysis plus mapping.

The concept of seamless access and storage and the need to glean, reconcile, analyze data and store it in four dimensions is something already in use by the intelligence community.The challenge is to develop something actionable from disparate data sources that are tabular, graphic, GIS, voice and even text.This sort of data processing and evaluation are what happens in products like Starlight (see Detectives track terrorists by Starlight, by Tom Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter and Starlight Overview).

The bottom line is that the storage and even definition of data is becoming much different than days past when the spatial dimension of data was not considered.Where before only tables or graphs were the extents of data visualization, now spatial databases are making it easier to integrate a variety of data types.BI dashboards include maps as well as other graphic elements.Location-based data is now an essential component for decision-makers because the solutions by spatial database providers has made it easier to retrieve and analyze in conjunction with other enterprise applications for supply chain management, logistics or marketing.

The December 2005 of LI Magazine explores some of these new ways of seeing and using data.I hope you will find this issue enlightening.

Published Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Written by Hal Reid

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