I’m just back from presenting at the GeCo in the Rockies Conference. My first time in Grand Junction. A sleepy town surrounded by amazing scenery, with the beautiful Colorado River on its doorstep. For me, this felt like a conference of contrast. Traditional meets new. Its fascinating to watch how the GIS industry is changing. This was the first time I fully realised that we might be in the midst of a split. Hard core GIS professionals continue to ply their trade. Locked up in modelling, developing and using apps with the traditional GIS look, feel and workflows. New GIS is charting a new and different course.

The keynote was fascinating. Chris Sheldrick, CEO of what3words discussed his companies approach to solving the location addressing conundrum. The inefficiency of sharing location coordinates, challenges of address ambiguity (streets with the same names) and locations which lack an address. They have broken the world into 3 m squares and use a 3 word combination to address each square. My what3words address is fast.breeding.graduating. I rather like that. What I found particularly interesting here was that Chris and his team are not from the geo/GIS world. They have taken a fresh look at a problem. So no pre-conceived notions or bias. Very refreshing.

This was a conference of GIS professionals. It was a very enjoyable two days, with some super presentations. The conference emphasis was on traditional GIS. It was interesting to see where cloud and mobile – I should say platform based GIS – fit. Somewhat awkwardly was my initial thought!

We view the new world of GIS and GIS apps as being:

1) Flexible – this means more than just configurable apps.
2) Collaborative – centralised cloud hosted data accessible across the organization
3) Intuitive – no more tool filled unfocused apps. Access to GIS technology for all.
4) Extensible – every organization has unique workflows, any app need to be easily (cheaply) extended or altered. Providing the functionality staff within your organization need with your workflows.
5) Mobile apps need be both cross platform and cross device.
6) All mobile apps should have built in offline capabilities

GIS Industry is Splitting?

So are we seeing a split in the GIS world? Particularly as people from outside the industry are increasingly becoming involved. Lacking any GIS baggage, they are providing a new perspective. Traditional GIS is moving slowly. Serving the GIS community directly will always be important. But increasingly it will be a smaller part of a much bigger whole.

Though I love presenting at traditional GIS conferences, as a company we are fully focused on the new world of GIS. We see GIS as a technology which should serve a much wider population. Flexibility is key. That means more than just configurable. It means you can extend and alter a base application so it works for you. The tools you need with workflows which are familiar. We’ve moved beyond the idea of customizable apps to a GIS framework which provides maximum flexibility. It is also allowing us to bring maps and GIS to existing systems and platforms through integration.

Cloud GIS platforms with applications which run on any device and any platform, are providing answers to a new and wider set of problems. Most importantly these new GIS tools and solutions are available to GIS and non-GIS trained staff alike.

What are your thoughts? Let me know at [email protected]

See the responses to this post in our follow up: Is GIS splitting? – what the experts think

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