Dr Robert F Austin
Director of GIT Business Development
Michael Baker Jr, Florida, USA
Anthony J Quartararo III
President, Spatial NetWorks Inc., USA
This paper discusses mobile mapping technologies and introduces a delivery model, the Application Service Provider (ASP). This strategy allows organisations to use spatial technology without costly investment. The ASP model provides a cost-effective and efficient strategy to deliver mobile mapping solutions to an organisation
When he created the television series ‘Star Trek’, Gene Roddenberry forbade the use of pencil and paper on board the USS Enterprise. This decision led directly to the ‘invention’ of the tricorder and indirectly to the invention of voice-activated, ubiquitous computer access on board the ship. In the 1970s, the notion of a portable computing received another boost with the conceptualisation of the Dynabook at Xerox PARC by Alan Kay (a man well known for his statement that ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it’).
By the late 1990s, a combination of technological advances in microchip capacity and speed, power management tools and screen quality produced an avalanche of newer and increasingly sophisticated information and communication gadgets. In April 1996, Palm Computing took the idea of the Newton, reduced its size, added functionality, improved the handwriting recognition ability and cut the Newton’s price in half, to produce the first modern PDA – the Palm Pilot. The release of the Windows CE operating system introduced competition and a parallel development trail, resulting in products with brighter, higher-resolution screens and greater interoperability with desktop computers. The simultaneous development of the Application Service Provider (ASP) business model dovetails neatly with this technological evolution. Ideally suited to a thin-client computing environment, the ASP provides great application richness for the PDA world. Driven initially by the usefulness of traditional Personal Information Management (PIM) products, the diffusion of PDAs is now being driven by the availability of a new generation of mission-critical applications.
Application Service Provision
The ASP Industry Consortium, the leading international organisation on the Application Service Provision model, defines an ASP in this manner: ‘An ASP deploys, hosts and manages access to a packaged application to multiple parties from a centrally managed facility. The applications are delivered over networks on a subscription basis.’ The ASP model can assume many different forms, ranging from simple to complex. One well-known example of an ASP is MSN Hotmail, an application that is fast, effective, easy to learn and operate and free of charge.
The concept of remote access to applications and information is not new. Many senior professionals remember using the industry’s origins in mainframe corporate networks and ‘time-sharing’ systems that allowed optimal use of scarce, expensive, shared computing resources. The primary difference between these business models is that an ASP can deliver solutions to a wider range of consumers over a much more cost-effective, public ‘network’ – the Internet.
The ASP model can be applied to the GIS industry quite effectively. The development of web-based technologies from leading GIS vendors as well as the maturation of third-party, thin-client computing platforms such as MetaFrameXP & NFuse from Citrix and Tarantella Enterprise 3: ASP Edition make the spatial ASP a feasible solution.
These technologies, combined with growing broadband communications capacity, enable delivery of robust solutions to a variety of industries.
There already are examples of successfully deployed spatial ASP solutions in the consumer market, notably MapQuest.com, National Geographic’s MapMachine and Expedia.com. While these applications are not be true GIS platforms, they do provide spatial information and are delivered via the public domain Internet. Equally important, they point the way to successful adoption of the ASP business model for GIS users.
Several firms in the US are using traditional GIS client/server and desktop applications in a thin-client computing configuration to deploy customised solutions to geographically dispersed offices and field engineers. This enables delivery to a distributed workforce with centrally controlled software maintenance