Associate Editor, GIS Development
“Father and outspoken proponent of GIS technology, Jack Dangermond, ESRI President, is a visionary par excellence. With his heart over his GIS sleeve, Dangermond vouches for the technology saying, “Our world needs a new approach on how we see things and do things; to apply what we know to all the little decisions we make.”
For him, ‘Geographic Approach’ is an emerging framework to help solve the big problems around the world. He visualises the pervasiveness of GIS as the evolutionary trend. Elaborating on this vision, Dangermond says, “This will happen as a steady evolution and will also bring jobs. It will continue to be largely the domain of GIS professionals to create and serve geographic knowledge on the Web and we will be doing it by taking high quality maps, models and analysis to create and service data, being able to manage workflows, spatial analysis, predictive models and they will be serving using GIS servers into all platforms, starting with browser server so that people will build on the server side, smart applications in Flash, Silver Light or Flex environments. They are browser based and easy to use.”
“Secondly,” Dangermond adds, “people will use mobile phones to access this data and applications with mapping, field data collection, back end to server side data. The third one is enterprise systems with open services that plug into enterprise environments and specialise them with geospatial services. GIS people create spatial data infrastructures, where one organisation creates and serves the imagery and other organisation uses it and tries to add value. GIS people, this way, will serve
GIS people but they will also serve everyone else.”
The other big area to create pervasiveness is the model environment. Dangermond vouches that ArcGIS 9.3 has a novel application on the computer server that allows users to both view and navigate data. It also allows them to capture, create and put that into the server as data. That means simultaneous measurement and use through GIS server integration with all the analysis capability on the server is possible which in turn means real time measurements can come in, be analysed dynamically and thrown onto the screen. These can be situations of emergency response. What is not obvious at this point is to run it on a mobile phone. And mobile phones in developing world are pervasive. So, Dangermond believes that small, national regional agencies will capture that concept and not only mobilise their work force through pervasive GIS data but also integrate GIS into their action. They will also be able to use the workforce to capture data back into separate headquarters for future use and cooperation. That is really a great reason and will continue. This is only 2008. Imagine what happens in five years. Computers
will be 50 times faster and smarter. So the concept of working on a sort of piggy back GIS onto pervasive computing and ubiquitous computing environment on the Web will catch up by bringing the rich knowledge for users into these environments so that everybody can use it. Web users access this rich geospatial services and can also integrate mashups. The reverse is also true. We still have long way to go to structure and leverage the data that was.
Talking about the technology strategies of GIS community, Dangermond says, “The three predominant patterns for GIS implementation in the past were – the desktop, the server or the user environment and the federated systems where multiple servers were brought together. Another pattern is now evolving, which incorporates building on top of the other three patterns and creating a fourth pattern called Web GIS. The vision of Web GIS is to harness all the power and capabilities of the Web – its extensiveness, its connectiveness and its collaborativeness – with the rich knowledge, authoritative source and analytical capacity of GIS and bring these two environments together. With this, we can bring in ubiquity of the Web with the analytical powers of GIS that has predominantly been the domain of GIS specialists. By putting out all the appropriate data and services, you get a richer utilisation of tools. And there has been this idea that consumer mapping and visualisation tools will do it. Someone with scientific foundation and professional credentials need to be in the background, managing data, doing transactions and also
“The vision of Web GIS is to harness all the power and capabilities of the Web – its extensiveness, its connectiveness and its collaborativeness – with the rich knowledge, authoritative source and analytical capacity of GIS and bring these two environments together.”
openly serving it for mashing up and integrating with the rest of the content on the Web – that’s the basic vision I have for the users. And not all the users will make that data available because it is not appropriate but once we should, we will and this will provide for a very broad based pervasive use. This will be commercialised, companies will take authoritative bases and help first applications that are within particular industries. These will be built on GIS servers and services. That’s the second strategy. Users need to realise that they are living in the context of the Web, which is a new way to disseminate knowledge. We have to evolve and build right policies for data sharing and craft applications. GIS professionals should learn about the Web and GIS on the Web – not just mapping and visualisation.
“Every country has imagery and strong base maps. But the same is not accessible, sometimes because of government policies and sometimes because of the inability to get the data in a format where end users can actually use it. The use of Web services and Web GIS changes the technical barriers. “
We are talking about the delivery of high quality authoritative source knowledge on the Internet. With respect to technology genres, they will be increasingly building tools for interoperability on the Web. That’s the forecast. I think at this point, ESRI has taken a strong leadership position by creating a firm end-to-end GIS server technology and I think that will be copied by other organisations as well.
DATA AND DEVELOPING WORLD
While data is the key, geographic data has for long been in the purview of the government control. To tide over the situation, ESRI used to make content an essential part of the product. Historically, ESRI did it by delivering a couple of million dollars of DVDs of data with basemaps inside the product box and that represented a large value of data. The situation is slowly changing now worldwide and data is finding its way into the public domain as agencies and vendors started taking advantage of the Internet CD-ROMs and other pervasive technologies. Yet, majority of the developing world is still facing the problem of availability of digital data. To address this problem, ESRI has moved all that data online and started providing online services to the users across the world. Bringing out the rationale behind this move, Dangermond says, “You buy a desktop product and have Internet access, I can give you high quality imagery and basemaps over the Web. Most of the information in our services is free to the users of ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Server.
They can use the fundamental base information, add overlays with thematic data and operational data, get started and move rapidly. This is particularly useful in the developing world. Over time, countries having geographic data will take those assets and increasingly put it online. Every country has imagery and strong base maps. But the same is not accessible, sometimes because of government policies and sometimes because of the inability to get the data in a format where end users can actually use it. The use of Web services and Web GIS changes the technical barriers. ESRI is increasing the flow of money into Web services. We are partnering with companies like Google and Microsoft, particularly to deliver these services to end users all over the world, most of them for free and some of them for a price. Our strategy technically is to build technology with national mapping agencies and others to serve their information needs openly on the Web in various ways.