Geospatial World talks to Frank Suykens, CTO of international high-tech software company, Luciad, about the rise of mobile apps and its impact on geospatial industry.
The world is talking about apps, specifically for mobile and tablets – what progress has our industry made in this front?
People like ‘apps’ because they are available anywhere and because they provide ease of use for specific tasks. In our industry the days of generic one-size-fits-all GIS applications are over. Industry players that can offer flexible deployment options and a high usability on focused tasks will thrive. Our approach to this is flexible software components for quickly building dedicated apps, an agile approach in line with Gartner’s “API economy” philosophy.
For instance, we see a strong movement towards cross-platform web apps, exploiting HTML5 and WebGL technologies. Our web development API LuciadRIA offer exactly that and sees high growth in the mobile and tablet apps space.
But web is not the only deployment option. Microsoft has invested in getting Windows 10 on mobile devices such as the Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. This brings desktop applications to the mobile market, for example for use in Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs). We believe this will be a big game changer for our industry.
For very high end applications, virtualization and GPU in the cloud offer interesting deployment options. Luciad partners with NVIDIA, Cloudalize and others to bring such high-powered app to any device.
We have been using mobile apps for data collection for so long. How are the new generation apps different from traditional ones?
It is all about usability and focus. We are all accustomed to extremely smooth and interactive user interfaces. This is what the new generation of apps should focus on.
How is the new app trend changing the traditional software licensing setup?
The expectation of ubiquitous availability on any device challenges the traditional licensing. New business models pop up every day. The only possible answer by our industry is flexibility to adapt to those business models.
For instance, users increasingly expect free apps and are only willing to pay for premium services that offer more capabilities, or better data sources. We see a change in industry to cloud-hosted apps with free and subscription-based licensing schemes.
Are we there yet, to replace traditional GIS/Geospatial products for lighter apps for certain applications?
The industry is not there yet. The landscape is scattered and apps should really be interoperable. That is why we invest so much in standardization via participation in OGC and other organizations.
How is the app ecosystem helping to bring in more efficiency and collaboration in the industry?
Before, users had to move to their desk to do their work. Now they take their information on-the-road on tablets and phones. We see our apps being used by firefighters, soldiers in the field, fighter pilots, and more. The move to web and cloud-hosted apps also seems to increase availability of (free) geospatial data sources.