I was recently asked by a colleague of a respected GIS publication in Europe about what all the fuss was about with Google Maps and adding remotely sensed imagery. Well, the big deal, of course, these days on the Internet is "search". Search is a hot topic because people are looking for the next big thing on the net. That’s great, OK, now we have "search with maps." Well wait a minute, that’s the territory of all of us mapping and GIS people. These big guys like MSN and Google can’t just invade our "mapping space" without checking with us first, right?
The big deal here is that there is much more to it. The idea that people are hacking Google Maps and coming up with some very cool applications is causing a stir. So why haven’t MapInfo, or ESRI, or Intergraph capitalized on this? It’s because they are down in the weeds trying to come up with the next big environmental model or workflow or spatial interaction function.
Meanwhile Microsoft and Google have got their sights set on millions of dollars in advertising revenue. "Oh, that’s not our market," I can just hear the execs at those companies saying. I think they said the same thing when AOL bought MapQuest for $800 Million. Too bad.
Quite frankly, the GIS players have missed it. They don’t get it. The big dollars are going elsewhere and they are left holding the next big buffer zone enhancement. Fanatastic, let’s see how much that will fetch.
My point is very simple: We are seeing only the tip of the iceberg with the advent of geographical search and data display. Google Maps is a mere a drop in the ocean of an expanding network that will rely on location-based data and not just for searching. The reliance on in-vehicle navigation systems, wireless LBS applications, RFID, city-wide Wi-Fi enablement, real-time weather and traffic feeds, is going to have an enormous economic impact on society. On-demand geospatial data will be in such high demand that those investing now in the infrastructure to handle these data will be the big winners. Take a guess who that will be.