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The long established providers of GIS technology must have been shaking in their boots with the recent Mapbox-Carto partnership announcement.

Carto’s CEO Javier de la Torre writes:

Over the last 15 years the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Industry has been defined (and confined) because of a partnership between traditional LBS vendors and specialized software companies catering to an exclusive community of GIS developers and analysts. The industry is long overdue for a change.

 

Instead, the industry’s future needs to embrace innovation at each level. From working with new data streams and sources, to developing new methods and analyses customized to these new data types, to a new community of developers, analysts, and scientists looking for better solutions to today’s problems, we need to replace business as usual, what is called the old GIS stack, with a more modern approach we call the New Location Intelligence Stack.

Will GIS ever be a Mainstream Commercial Technology?

Both Mapbox and Carto are built on open source technology. They are well funded, relatively new geospatial companies who bring much innovation to the geotech arena. The open platform conversations I regularly see from established GIS vendors reinforce their concerns around open source. These appear reactive more than proactive initiatives. Many have scoffed at established GIS vendors use of the term open.

There is little doubt that established GIS vendors no longer own the mapping and location intelligence space. Cost and complexity are hugely problematic. GIS continues to be focused in the public sector, where many of those trained in GIS are employed.  But, even here, established GIS vendors are coming under pressure: the adoption of new GIS technology has been slow (as an example see Keith Cooke‘s mini-rants), there is much resistance to new licensing models, and increased competition from Boundless, Mapbox, Carto and others is beginning to take its toll.

Commercial use of GIS is limited. There are many challenges to wider adoption of GIS by large commercial entities. Lack of GIS trained staff, and inability to see the value GIS potentially brings to an organization are two key factors behind its limited use.

Major changes are needed if GIS is ever to become a mainstream commercial technology. Too many GIS vendors are stuck in a mental time-warp: a cannot change/won’t change state of mind. Instead of listening, they continue to forge blindly forward with a ‘we know best’ mentality. Guess what .. you don’t and you are falling behind.

Maybe we are moving towards the Location Intelligence Stack (LIS) and away from old school GIS. Note to self, more investigation needed here. But change is in the air. Applying geotech in the commercial sector to solve problems is a huge opportunity. But to date nobody has fully cracked this nut. There is little doubt, that those who are listening to customers and the market, and take a proactive, innovative approach will be the ultimate winners.

 

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