We put up a blog post linking to a recently released UN paper entitled:

Future Trends in Geospatial Information Management: The Five to Ten Year Vision

We noted in the original post that without knowing who the list of experts who contributed to the paper were, we were a little hesitant. We do know that Peter Batty added his thoughts. A good guy, but somebody who still talks about, the rather controversial, neoGeography or “new geography”.

Anyway, we digress. After reading the paper a number of times, we felt a little. Well. Deflated. We regard the new world of location technology as very exciting. The paper made for some dry reading; ok it was for the UN and not meant to have us all jumping for joy. But we hoped for a realistic, useful reflection on where the geospatial world is moving. Too much felt like wild guesses, repetition of the obvious, and the unimportant. Ok, we are being harsh, but we did hope for some expert insight.

Some elements from the report we list below. Nothing particularly new, but worth repeating:

1) Geographic information will become ubiquitous

2) Niche geospatial information technologies will become mainstream. enable rapid distribution and absorption of information, and also accelerate responses to that data to the extent that location devices will be pervasive – everything and everyone will be locatable.

3) A myriad of legal and policy issues will emerge

4) Greater demand means increasing demand for those geospatially trained

5) National mapping agencies will be impacted. As private sector steps in, how will these relationship evolve. Private sector begin to challenge the National Mapping Agencies in data collection and maintenance, especially for cross-border solutions.

6) More sensors

7) More mash ups combining accurate geospatial data using real-time user information available through social media and other web uses

8) More UAV use

9) More people will start using location technology (consumers and business adoption is what they need to expand on)

10) Content from crowdsourcing will be of increasing importance.

The Future of Location Technology – WebMapSolutions Thoughts

Ok, lets get some things off our chest:

1) 3D, 4D & augmented reality – mentioned a number of times in the report. Though these are worth mention; too many people are fixated on them. True one day they will be properly realised. At the minute they are (too) much spoken about eye candy. Cool yes. But plenty more will come before these are ubiquitous. Whenever I have a geo-conversation which turns to this area, I often wonder if i am talking to a fad follower, rather than somebody who really understands the realities (and opportunities) of today and tomorrows geospatial world.

2) Mash ups – We’ve never liked this term, but like GIS we think the term itself will fade. Everything will become a mash up. Its what Google has been enabling for years, and what is at the heart of ArcGIS Online. GIS, LBS, mash ups and the rest will all fall under the blanket term location technology.

3) Private sector – True consumers will increasingly use location technology. But the private sector will finally come on board. Location analytics will become important; as platforms like ArcGIS Online are integrated with the likes of SAP. It is the adoption of location technology by the private sector which will move the technology from the periphery to the centre. The private sector will enter both the consuming and providing side of the geospatial business.

4) Role of National mapping agencies – this is mentioned many times in the report. Let’s stray from the standard script here. The report suggests there is some tension between the private and public sectors. That is mostly a myth, particularly in the US. The public sector is (often) used by the private sector to offset their costs to taxpayers. So rather than national mapping agencies shrinking, demands on them will grow. They may be broken up, possibly into public-private organizations. But more, not less, public money will be moving to the geospatial sector over the coming years. National mapping agencies will remain important.

5) Mobile, mobile, mobile – it cannot be emphasized enough the role mobile computing will play in the growth and popularity of location technology. This report should have had a section with this in bold letters. Mobile devices bring us geolocation and context. Now we can see who or what is near us. Do searches based on current location. Collect data on site accurately and timely. The opportunities to change how we work, and how we live are endless using location technology. To us the lack of emphasis here was the biggest failure of the report. The new mobile platforms will have as big an impact on the world, and in particular location technology, as the Internet.

So in closing. Let’s get excited about the future of our industry. Very excited!

As ever we are interested in your opinions. Let us know.

8/31/2012 – Additional info.

We wanted to add a note to this article, based on feedback;

“The report you reference is actually a synopsis of a much more detailed future trends report based on input from dozens of individuals from the geospatial industry. The initial (and long) future trends document provided much greater detail, context, and recommendations. The original document also touched on policy and governance issues to a much greater degree than the summary document. The detailed document also discussed requirements for international (global) collaboration, the role of science and research, the role of statistical data, the need for consensus based domain information models (and semantics), the requirement for standards, information fusion, visualization, quite a bit on sensors, the role of full motion video and much more. AR was mentioned but only in brief. I believe that the detailed trends document is also publicly available. Finally, at the recent UN GGIM the role of national mapping agencies was discussed at length and due to the importance of that topic is dealt with as a separate set of agenda items.”

We will look forward to reading the full report. But most people will read this synopsis only. If it poorly represents the full report (as it would seem), we still feel justified in our criticism.

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