The current trends in the world economy are not conducive to a strong investment environment. This is causing caution around the world. The world economy can remain very uncertain for the next five years or even longer. However, I think this is also the most technologically dynamic period. Any company which is selling capability and not capacity would be able to do well in such a truncated economic environment. There is an inherent excitement about the possibilities and the subsequent impact the geospatial industry may have.
Geospatial technology can rightly park itself into scenarios where there is an existing fleet of machines or instruments and can sell productivity, add value to existing capabilities and a difficult market. So the excitement comes from the standpoint that we are not necessarily tied to the economic cycle because we bring value to our users, we bring substance to our world and we define our world continuously. The probability to innovate in the next five years will continue to be our source of excitement.
From sensors to computing power, data storage to connectivity to visualisation and data interaction across all the industries, there have been inventions along the way. The challenge however is to have a strong and lasting impact on the applications and solutions. Both in terms of the economic scenario and in terms of technological innovations, the industry presents lot of challenging opportunities and we have to do well and do new things that we have never considered before.
Let the market define itself
There is a sense of letting the market define its way. Just as the Internet defied all attempts to pre-define it, geospatial technology will defy all attempts to pre-define it. Look how popular Google Earth is. There is a need to see that democracy exists in terms of data storage and data access. Therefore the ability and capability to control and manage data by governments or data providers will become difficult. So I think it’s best to watch the trends as opposed to saying, ‘here’s the solution’ 5-10 years down the line.
We are either moving through an inflection point where the technology is moving into the mainstream or we intellectually understand and appreciate the potential of the market. Geospatial technology applies to a number of industries. Construction, real estate, energy, utility, environment and agriculture are a few important ones. At the core of the enterprise market, there is a strong geospatial-centric database. Eventually, every piece of data and enterprise solution for any industry is going to involve geospatial components. There’s a possibility to redefine the industries and to apply geospatial awareness in a productive way. However, it is still early for most of the industries. The core geospatial capability has the ability to transform multiple industries and our roles change from industry to industry. It’s very early and there is a lot of runway left.
Empowering field force
With connectivity, in-field computational power and the ability to access large data bases, technology is empowering field workers and integrating them into the larger work processes of the enterprise. This process is not quite democratic but there is a team of activities that we are contributors to. Through crowdsourcing, one can create a democratic GIS, but it will lack data integrity. However, the days of sourcing data only from a designated few are passé. There are going to be multiple sources of data and one of them could be crowdsourced data.
High-value engineering design companies cannot afford to have unreliable, poor quality data in their systems. Such enterprises will still require qualified datasets for their mission-critical activities and need absolute data integrity. There is however no reason why there cannot be more qualitative data augments. So, it’s the question of how do you go about using multiple standards of integrity or quality coexisting in the same universe.
Geospatial – the survivor instinct
The value proposition of geospatial technology is not necessarily the lowest price. It starts with quality and reliability. It’s about having a mutually satisfying relationship with the user which goes beyond a single transaction. The value proposition is working with customers, working with users to raise the expectations.
At the CEO level, there is limited understanding about geospatial technology in other industries. However, there is lot of appreciation for the impact the technology has had on an organisation. Geospatiallyenabled solutions are being recognised and appreciated. For instance, in construction, contractors are realising if they have to stay competitive in an industry with a severe margin pressure and heavy competition, they need geospatial technology. Whether it is articulated as geospatial or not is an open question but the appreciation for the technology in general is growing. It has become a survivor instinct now.