I keep reading the equivalent of: “GIS is dated technology”. “GIS: Out with the old in with the new”. “Long established GIS vendors are fighting a lost battle”.
What’s the deal; are we in a period where the leaders in geospatial technology are becoming less and less relevant? A time when open source represents the bright new future of geotechnology. Let’s explore in this blog post.
Why is GIS Struggling?
As Mark Twain once said “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. The same might be said of GIS. There is little doubt GIS has lost its way. It struggles in its existing public sector strong-holds. And remains a bit player in the commercial sector. So what are the challenges and how might these be overcome?
We see 3 significant challenges for GIS:
- Expensive – Many believe GIS is purely for maps. Indeed many use GIS for simply publishing maps. There are now many cheaper mapping alternatives to GIS. To justify its expense GIS needs to tell stories which are both wider and deeper than simply maps, and more understandable than ‘location analytics’. Put simply, what is the value proposition and how is this best communicated?
- Complex – GIS in its current form will always require some level of expertise. Talking about it now being simple (as I too often read) is a huge mistake and has turned many away. Be honest, or truly make it simple.
- Inflexible – Too many GIS apps remain inflexible. There are many commercial-off-the-shelf apps we have seen released in the last few years. Many are very good, but are focused, generic, GIS-centric and often lack the ability to be customized. Given every organization has different workflows, this level of inflexibility can be problematic.
Towards a brighter future
At WebMapSolutions we have thought long and hard about how to broaden the appeal and use of GIS. As a result, we have chosen to take a three-fold approach:
- Application frameworks – We have built a number of frameworks which simplify the process of building a custom GIS solution. GeoWeb is a web based framework. GeoCross is a framework for building native mobile GIS apps. Both lower the cost and time for developing applications
- Focused solutions – Each time we find a client challenge, we wonder if others have the same issue. If they do, we build a focused solution which solves the problem. These we build using our frameworks making them easy to adjust for individual clients. They are also easy to set up and use. No GIS expertise required.
- Open source – When a proprietary platform is too expensive, or does not provide the required capabilities we turn to our own onMap open source platform. This complements our other work and provides clients an alternative approach.
Tell us about your struggles with GIS, and how you have overcome these challenges.